LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian televangelist’s church on Thursday rejected a coroner’s report recommending prosecution of the church and two structural engineers in last year’s collapse of a building that killed 116 people, most of them visitors from South Africa.
In a statement, the Synagogue Church of All Nations of televangelist T. B. Joshua called the report “unreasonable, one-sided and biased.”
In a verdict Wednesday, Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe said the Sept. 12 church building collapse was caused by “structural failure due to the combination of designs and detailing errors.”
Komolafe said the victims were 85 South Africans, 22 Nigerians, two citizens of Benin and one from Togo. Another six bodies were unidentified, he said.
The remains of only 74 South Africans made it home, and then only two months later. There was no explanation for the discrepancy, one of many that dogged the tragedy that soured relations between Nigeria and South Africa.
The church said Thursday that it maintains the collapse at its sprawling campus on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria’s ocean-side megacity, was caused by the overflight of a mysterious plane possibly connected to Islamic extremists.
“The church maintains its stand that the incident was as a result of sabotage,” its statement said.
The coroner recommended prosecution for “criminal negligence” of structural engineers Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun of HardRock Construction Co. Ltd.
He said the church should be investigated and prosecuted for its failure to obtain building permits. The church said it had begun that process.
Fatal building collapses occur frequently in Nigeria because corruption and bureaucratic delays lead to shoddy infrastructure.