Building Collapse: Court Orders Lekki Gardens MD, Contractor To Be Remanded In Prison For 30 Days

Richard Nyong-Taiwo Odofin

An Ebute-Metta Chief Magistrate Court on Friday granted the request of the Lagos State Police Command to keep the Managing Director of Lekki Gardens, Richard Nyong, in custody for 30 days pending the conclusion of investigations into the deadly collapse of a five-storey structure handled by the firm.

The building collapse at Kushenla Road, Ikate Elegushi area of the state, Tuesday, killed at least 35 people.

The court also ordered one of the contractors handling the project, Odofin Taiwo Henry, to also be kept in police custody at Panti alongside Mr. Nyong for 30 days.

Magistrate Folashade Botoku, who granted the remand order, said the decision was in the interest of justice and public safety.

Mr. Nyong, 34, was apprehended on Thursday, while Mr. Odofin was arrested on Wednesday.

The building crumbled around 3am on Tuesday with several workers trapped in the rubble.

The state government said the building was sealed after its owners, Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, in a “brazen act of defiance and impunity”, raised the structure above the three-storey originally approved by the authorities.

However, the owners of the structure were said to have “criminally” unsealed the property and continued building beyond the approved floors until the unfortunate incident.

Messrs 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 Mr. 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 bail for his clients.

In the alternative, Mr. Olanipekun urged the court to order that the police release his clients but that they should make themselves available to police when needed.

Mr. 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 adjourned to April 12.