Prophet T.B. Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) would be closed down indefinitely if investigations reveal the collapse of a six-storey building on the church’s premises last week was a result of violation of relevant building and planning laws, Lagos State authorities are reported to have warned.
The death toll has so far crossed 100, with 84 of the deceased persons believed to be South African nationals. Over a hundred more persons have also been rescued and the South African government has flown a rescue team to Nigeria to help locate missing nationals, sign death certificates for the deceased and check that survivors are getting satisfactory treatment.
The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, told AFP ‘the number has risen from 67 to 84, with more bodies discovered on Thursday,’ adding that the toll could rise.
‘The number of South Africans who were in the church might be higher, as we believe that some people organised the trip themselves without using travel agents,’ Mnguni added.
South Africa, the worst affected country, has expressed sadness over the tragedy and called for investigations into the cause of the collapse.
Early reports had it that the building was originally planned as a four-storey and that the most likely cause of the building’s collapse was the construction of two additional storeys without reinforcing the foundations leading to the collapse.
News from Nigeria say though investigations are still ongoing to unravel what led to the incident, the Lagos State Government claimed that the General overseer of the church, Prophet T.B. Joshua, failed to obtain approval for the building, therefore the addition of more floors to the existing two-storey building was unlawful.
There are also reports that SCOAN members initially prevented rescue teams and emergency workers from doing their work but the Church has since issued a rather strong worded statement in denial: ‘It is very sad that inaccurate reports are coming from some quarters that we are not co-operating with the rescue teams and other agencies in collating information and providing assistance on the incident.
“We want to categorically state that the church has provided assistance when and where required; and continues to do so. Good Christians are good citizens. The church views this tragedy as part of an attack on The Synagogue Church Of All Nations and in particular, Prophet T.B. Joshua. In due course, God will reveal the perpetrators of this unfortunate tragedy,” the statement added.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on Saturday visited the collapsed site to offer his condolence to the affected persons, promising a thorough investigation into the tragedy after which the necessary actions would be taken.
Reuters reports that ‘analysts say Nigeria’s mega church leaders are so influential that few politicians dare upset them, especially just before a national election, which Nigeria is due to hold in five months.’
Meanwhile T.B. Joshua on Sunday spoke about the tragedy and said he would soon be moving to South Africa.
“Those who are affected in one way or another and those who passed onto glory, their greatest desire is to see that the work of salvation they died and suffered for, continues and reaches unreachable places.’
He continued: ‘For that, what they are coming here for should be taken to meet them in their country…Once in a month, I will be travelling to South Africa to meet people from South Africa and other nations who find South Africa easier to visit, in memory of martyrs of faith…My ministration in South Africa will not be on Sunday so that people will have the opportunity to attend their respective churches,’ he explained.
By Halifax Ansah-Addo (Twitter: @HalifaxAnsahAdd)