Coroner: TB Joshua's church should be prosecuted

A building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria led to the deaths of 116 people.

FILE: Nigerian pastor TB Joshua speaks during a New Year’s memorial service for the South African relatives of those killed in a building collapse at his Synagogue Church of All Nations on 31 December 2014. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Nigerian coroner has ruled that the Synagogue Church of All Nations must be investigated and prosecuted for negligence which resulted in the deaths of 116 people, most of them South Africans.

AFP is reporting that the relevant approval was not granted for construction work to continue at the premises owned by Pastor TB Joshua when it collapsed in September last year.

Rescue workers clear away mattresses used by occupants of the collapsed guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos on 17 September, 2014. Picture: AFP.

More than 80 of the victims who died when the building caved in were South Africans visiting the church.

The bodies of 74 of the victims were repatriated to South Africa last year.

Joshua has argued that he had nothing to do with the deaths, but that a plane that flew very close to the building caused the tragedy.

However, this claim has always been widely dismissed by some families of the victims and ordinary South Africans.

The inquest has also found that the building didn't meet certain criteria for a safe building, but that pastor went ahead with construction.

The church and families of the victims are yet to respond to the coroner's ruling.

The families of 44 South Africans killed in the church collapse visited the pastor over the festive season.

NIGERIAN INVESTIGATORS TO BUILD CRIMINAL CASE

Nigerian investigators are now expected to start building a criminal case against the church for the deadly collapse.

Joshua was the only witness summoned to appear before the inquiry who failed to do so.

There is also no finding directly against the pastor but only against his church.

Recommendations suggest that an investigation must now be launched into the church and the construction company responsible for alterations.

The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria Lulu Mnguni said, "The church must be investigated and prosecuted for failing to obtain the relevant approval before embarking on the construction of the building."

The church says it will only respond to the ruling later today.