The five-storey building (under construction), on Kushenla Road, Ikate, Elegushi, Lekki, Lagos, a property of Lekki Estate Worldwide Limited which collapsed and killed 35 people on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 is still generating heated reactions from different corners of the society, especially on the punishment the tragic incident will earn the Managing Director (MD) of the company, Mr. Richard Nyong and one of the contractors in charge of the collapsed building, Mr. Odofin Taiwo Henry.
However, ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with some lawyers on the position of law and the likely fate of the embattled Lekki Garden MD and the contractor if found guilty of the charges that may be proffered against them.
One of the legal practitioners, Barr. Fred Agbaje stated that the two may be charged for murder or manslaughter which attract death by hanging and 25 years imprisonment respectively as they’re criminally responsible for the death of the innocent 35 Nigerians. He, however, was of the opinion that Lagos state government should also beam its search light on the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development and ensure that appropriate punishment is also meted to any erring official or officials of the ministry in respect of the ill-fated collapse.
“Both Nyong and the contractor are criminally responsible for the death of those innocent people. Nyong alone can’t be charged, he should be charged alongside the contractor for negligently or intentionally causing the death of so many Nigerians, not for a good job but greed for money.
“So, they’re entitled to be charged for murder which is death. But if the government sees the case on the other side of the law, instead, they may be charged for manslaughter which is 25 years imprisonment. Either murder or manslaughter, it will serve as deterrent to greedy landlords and builders in Lagos. In fact, such landlords and builders will be made to appreciate lives of their tenants rather than the greed for money. And they won’t end up building death traps and give to people for habitation.
“Also, the Lagos state government shouldn’t stop at that, it should also look inward by beaming its search light on the officials of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development for negligence of duty after collecting money. Or are they telling the public they don’t know such buildings exist in Lagos. Their duty is to monitor the construction and ensure the builder doesn’t contravene the building law of Lagos State. They should also be punished if found wanting in this matter.”
In her submission, Barr. Toyin Bamgbose-Falaiye said, “My position is not strictly what the law prescribes as punishment, but what will be the likely outcome of the case and the eventual sentence. However, their likely punishment can never be 25 years imprisonment. It will be by what the judge considers a befitting judgment after the case has been proven against them. So, seven years jail term is likely if found guilty of the offence, which will run concurrently on account of their negligence in not being able to ensure quality control.
“But TB Joshua has been facing a similar case which may serve as precedent and a good defence for Nyong if his lawyers know their onions. However, the position of the law is that, if it’s murder, it’s death while the sentence for manslaughter is 25 years imprisonment.”
According to Barr. Muhammed Fawehinmi, “The jail term for Nyong may be 14 years imprisonment depending on the variations of the charges-manslaughter, attempted murder, negligent conduct and more.”
Meanwhile, following the Tuesday, March 8,2016 building collapse which sent 35 people to the great beyond and many others injured, the Lagos state government in fulfilment of its constitutional mandate of ensuring that law takes its course arrested and detained the MD of Lekki Estate Worldwide Limited, Nyong and one of the contractors overseeing the collapsed building, Olofin.
As if that’s not enough, the government also sealed off the site of the collapsed structure, sacked three senior officials of the state Building Control Agency (BCA), as well as ordered the immediate sealing up of other buildings in the estate in order to allow integrity test to be conducted as a precautionary action to avert future tragedy.
However, the detained MD and the contractor later regained their freedom on Thursday, March 24, 2016, waiting for arraignment. The MD was granted bail on self recognition while the contractor’s bail was secured for N10 million naira with two sureties in like sum.