An Ebute-Metta Chief Magistrate Court on Friday granted the request of the Lagos State Police Command seeking to keep the Managing Director of Lekki Gardens, Mr. Richard Nyong in custody pending the conclusion of on-going investigation into collapse of a five-storey building under construction on Kushenla Road, Ikate Elegushi area of the state which killed no fewer than 35 persons.
The court also ordered one of the contractors handling the project, Odofin Taiwo Henry to be kept in police custody at Panti alongside Nyong for the next 30 days. Magistrate Folashade Botoku, who granted the remand order, held that same was in the interest of justice and public safety. 34-year-old Nyong was apprehended on Thursday, while Odofin was arrested on Wednesday.
The building had crumbled around 3am on Tuesday with several workers trapped in the rubble. The state government had sealed the building, which was originally designed to be a three-storey structure but in a brazen act of defiance and impunity, the owners of the building, Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, the promoters of Lekki Gardens, were said to have criminally unsealed the property and continued building beyond the approved floors until the unfortunate incident.
Nyong and Odofin were brought to court at about 1pm in a black Range Rover Sports Utility Vehicle with registration number (Abuja) KWL 682 CN. When the case was called, police prosecutor, Godwin Osuji informed Magistrate Botoku of an ex-parte application seeking to remand the defendants beyond the constitutionally prescribed period, saying the application was brought in the interest of justice, public safety, public order and morality.
He said in view of the circumstances of the case, it was impossible for the police to conclude the investigation within two days, hence the need for the application. According to Osuji, as at Thursday, 24 bodies were recovered from the scene of the incident, while others were still being recovered. He added that some of the relatives of the victims were still making efforts to identify their dead bodies, while autopsy is yet to be conducted. He said: "In view of the circumstances of this matter, it will be impracticable for us to conclude investigation in two days as there are so many agencies involved and so we have come to court in order not to run foul of the law."
He, therefore, urged the court to grant the request to keep the defendants in custody of the Police Criminal Investigation Department pending conclusion of investigation. Responding, counsel to the defendants, Bode Olanipekun orally applied for the bail of his clients. Olanipekun, in the alternative, urged the court to order that the police should release his clients but that they should make themselves available to police when needed.
However, Osuji, in response, said it was trite law that an application for bail could only be filed after the defendants must have been arraigned on a criminal charge. He said at the moment, the police was yet to file any charge against the defendants and as such the application for bail was not yet ripe.
In her ruling, Magistrate Botoku ruled that under Section 264 (1) of the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2011, she was empowered to order the remand of a defendant as in the instant case, but that the major consideration is the justification of such application.
She held that having gone through the facts of the case, it was in the interest of justice for the application to be granted, as there was merit in it. Magistrate Botoku therefore ordered the defendants to be kept at the Criminal Investigation Department Panti for 30 days at first instance, subject to variation upon further applications. The matter was consequently adjourned to April 12.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE
MINSTRY OF JUSTICE LAGOS STATE