A coroner on Friday ordered one of Nigeria’s most popular preachers to give evidence at an inquest into the cause of a guesthouse collapse at his church which killed 84 South Africans.
TB Joshua’s lawyer, Jude Nnadi, had argued at the hearing that his client would not be able to come in person “because he was not an eye-witness” to the September 12 tragedy that claimed at least 115 lives.
But coroner Oyetade Komolafe summoned the popular televangelist, known to his followers as “The Prophet”, to appear on November 5 because his evidence was crucial.
“We are not excusing Prophet Joshua. You, as his counsel, should advise him to come,” the coroner told Nnadi.
“He has to come and tell us what he knows. He cannot sit over there and be sending words. That is not acceptable.”
Joshua, a self-styled miracle worker who claims he can see the future and counts presidents among his followers, has previously claimed the building collapsed because of sabotage.
He suggested that a low-flying aircraft apparently seen over the building four times before the building came down was to blame, and also said he had been targeted in a deliberate attack.
But Lagos State firefighter Olayinka Adebayo told the hearing that his initial assessment on the day did not suggest foul play.
“There was no evidence of the use of explosives based on the number of those rescued from the site,” he told the court.
“Although some of them (the victims) had some injuries, they were not that serious. Even those that died still had their bodies intact.”
If the building had been bombed, the bodies would have been badly mutilated, he added.
Komolafe ordered Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) to supply the court with a list of everyone in the guesthouse at the time.
That would help in the identification process, which is not yet complete, and allow for the bodies to be repatriated and funerals to take place, he said.
Some 350 South Africans were thought to be visiting the church at the time of the tragedy.
But there were claims that more lives could have been saved if church officials had not blocked access to rescue workers for three days.