By Lukman Olabiyi
Justice Sybil Nwaka, of the Lagos High Court, Igbosere yesterday issued a bench warrant for the arrest of a suspect over the March 8, 2016 Lekki building collapse in which five persons were killed.
The court ordered the arrest of Shola Olumofe, who is the second of the 10 suspects indicted for the incident, after dismissing his motion on notice challenging the court’s jurisdiction, among others, to try him.
The other defendants are Richard Nyong, Henry Odofin, Molabake Mortune, Omotilewa Joseph, Marius Agwu, Lekki Gardens Estate Ltd, Get Too Rich Investment Ltd, HC Insight Solutions Ltd and Artech Insignia Ltd.
The judge also adjourned till June 14 for their arraignment.
The defendants excluding Olumofe, were brought to court on May 24, 2017, but could not be arraigned because Olumofe challenged the court’s jurisdiction, among others, to try him.
Olumofe, through his counsel, Chief Richard Oma Ahonaruogho, challenged his inclusion in a six-count multiple charge of failure to obtain building approval and involuntary manslaughter.
He raised five issues, including that there was a pending notice of preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to try him and that his presence was not crucial to the determination of the motion, particularly because he was already represented by counsel.
But Nwaka, resolved all the issues in favour of prosecution counsel, Lagos State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General Adeniji Kazeem, who argued that Olumofe’s presence to stand trial was indispensable.
The judge held: “The dispensation of the defendant’s presence to stand trial or trial in absentia is a negation of fair hearing.
“The second defendant is jointly charged with nine others. Counsel has not provided cogent and compelling reasons why the defendant/applicant’s presence must be dispensed with.
“I see this style, this attitude, of second defendant, as a ploy to ambush the court and put a clog in the wheel of justice. It must be condemned in its entirety.
“An accused person must be present in court when his matter is being tried. However he has a right to remain silent.
“The application is hereby dismissed. A bench warrant is hereby ordered against the second defendant and the surety is to show cause.”
There was mild drama when Chief Gboyega Okenla, counsel to Odofin and HC Insight Solutions Ltd, asked that the state government ought to prosecute itself and the Lagos State Building Agency alongside the defendants.