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Synagogue trial: Witness says regularization provision allows for building construction without immediate permit

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Pastor TB Joshua

A fellow of Nigeria Institute of Town Planning and housing expert, Mr Adebisi Adedire has said that it is legal to build a house in Lagos state without planning or development permit because all a builder has to do is to regularise with the state once the structure is erected.

The witness, who was being cross-examined by the prosecution, Mr Jonathan Ogunsanya, director in the state Ministry of Justice in the state said ‘the provision for regularization  makes it possible  for you to embark on  your property development and  regularise your papers with the Ministry’.

Adedire, who was subpoenaed by the court, said the Lagos state government made a publication recently those who did not have planning permit before erecting their structures to come and regularize such their papers.

The witness, who is a consultant to Lagos State government on Town planning matters, further supported his position with an advertisement of Lagos State government in March this year on: ‘Enforcement of planning laws and regulations in government schemes and other areas in Lagos state,’ adding that such regulations provision had been in practice for years even before he began to practise.

But the prosecution objected to the tendering of the certified true copy of the publication on the ground that the publication was after the collapse of Synagogue church’s guest house.

Defense counsels, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN; Chief Akpofure, SAN; Mrs Titi Okanlawon, SAN and Mr Olalekan Ojo, SAN all argued for the relevance of the publication as a tenderable exhibit. The judge ruled that the exhibit is acceptable to the court.

Mr. Adedire testified before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo as a defence witness in the trial of the Registered Trustees of SCOAN and four others.

The church – with Adedire’s testimony and cross examination – had concluded with its second defense witness to a one-count charge of building without approval brought against it by the Lagos State Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), following the dismissal of its no-case submission on March 8, 2016.

The other defendants are the two engineers: Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited.

Aside SCOAN’s one-count charge, the other defendants are facing 110 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Fagbemi  said planning permit is a process whereby a proponent who seek to develop a land brings developmental proposal to the planning office adding ‘the essence of obtaining planning it development permit is to ensure legitimate erection of buildings in accordance to government regulation and to generate revenues for the state among others.

He listed those documents required before permit can be issued to include a survey plan duly signed and registered by a license surveyor; a tax clearance certificate; various architectural drawings among others.

The witness who told the court that he is an external examiner at the Lagos State Polytechnic continued that after acquiring these documents the proponent take these to the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA) to face screening exercise.

After the screening exercise, the proponent proceeds to make assessment fee which does not have a time frame but, stated that approval will not be granted without payment.

When asked the procedure for enforcing compliance, he said there are series of enforcement notices to be served if the proponent failed to comply as the authority will issue a stop work order followed by a quit notice and then demolition notice.

The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) building at Ikotun Egbe collapsed on September 12, 2014 killing 116 people.

Meanwhile Justice Lawal-Akapo has adjourned further proceedings till December 6 and 7, 2018 for continuation of trial.