The auditorium of the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN) of Ikotun in Lagos has no valid building permit, former Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Oluwatoyin Ayinde said yesterday.
Ayinde, told Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of the Ikeja High Court that the church contravened town planning rule by converting its permit for a five-story auditorium to the one of eight-story. This conversion, he said while testifying in the trial of the SCOAN trustees and four others over the collapse of the church’s guest house on September 12, 2014, invalidated the permit. 116 persons died in the incident .
The trustees, two engineers, OladeleOgundeji and AkinbelaFatiregun and their companies, Hardock construction and Engineering company and Jandy Trust ltd, are facing trial for alleged criminal negligence, manslaughter and failure to obtain building permit.
Led the evidence by the director of public prosecution (DPP) Mrs IdowuAlakija, Ayinde, a consultant urban planner and a fellow of the Institute of Town Planners Registration Council of Nigeriaý, said his preliminary investigation showed that the permit did not cover the site of the collapsed building.
He said:”The building collapse occurred on a Friday, I got in touch with the District Officer of the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA) to confirm if the Synagogue Church had any building approval in the system.The Electronic Document Management System was searched and the approval for the church did not cover the site of the collapsed buildings.”
The former commissioner said an approval is normally issued to enable owners of buildings get adequate compensation in the event of road construction or compulsory acquisition by the government.
He said: “The document, a five– storey building approval was meant for the church auditorium but as at the time of the collapse, the church auditorium had gone from five floors to eight floors.
“By the Ministry’s definition, the approval the church had for the auditorium is no longer valid and there was no application for approval registered for the collapsed building”.
The Building Control Agency, he said pasted its sticker on the auditorium because it had surpassed the approved five–storey building, adding that no sanction was placed on the other building of the church because it had already collapsed.
Of his duties as a commissioner under former Governor Babatunde Fashola, Ayinde said: “As a commissioner, I occupied a supervisory role over the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development and its three agencies.
“The agencies are Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA), Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) and Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA), he noted.”
The writers said there were too many first responders at the site of the collapse building on his first visit, stating:”I visited the site two days after the collapse as I was attending a retreat outside Lagos when the incident occurred.With me were the General Managers of LASPPPA and LASBCA as well as the Commander of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) as an advanced team to receive Governor Fashola.
“The first thing we noticed were there were too many first responders, many of whom were church members whom we ordered out of the site because they were clogging the responsibilities of the rescuers, I gave a directive that the rescue work should stop at ground zero to enable the material testing laboratory to conduct tests on the foundation and columns on the debris.”
Hearing continues today.
By Adebisi Onanuga.