Nigerian pastor TB Joshua fails to show for criminal negligence trial

TB Joshua. The influential Nigerian preacher is under fire for the collapse of a six-storey guesthouse in his church compound in September 2014.Photo: Facebook/TB Joshua Ministries

The Nigerian pastor TB Joshua who was indicted for criminal negligence after his church guesthouse collapsed killing 116 people, could face arrest after he failed to show up for his trial. The two engineers on the charge sheet also failed to appear.

Joshua, who has claimed the building fell down after a "hovering" aircraft flew over it or was brought down by a controlled explosion, had also failed to show up on several occasions at the inquest earlier this year when the coroner's ruling held that he and the engineers were to blame for the tragic deaths.

The engineers have described the coroner's verdict as "unreasonable, one-sided and biased" and have themselves attempted to get an injunction against their arrest and prosecution.

Nation reported that just one member of the church's trustees was at Lagos High Court for the trial where Judge Lawal-Akapo made it clear he was not happy and would not tolerate delays. 

"It appears the defendants are not mindful that this is a criminal proceeding. This is a criminal trial and a sensitive matter like this one should be given accelerated hearing," he said, directing defence lawyers to provide the court with the addresses of the engineers within 72 hours. 

Synagogue Church of All Nations' guesthouse collapsed in 2014, killing 116 people who were inside the six-storey building which did not have planning permission. Of the dead, 81 were from South Africa. Coroner Oyetade Komolafe ruled that the church leadership be prosecuted.

Nigerian journalist Chima Nwankwo told TimesLive that if Joshua did not show up next time, "the trial judge may charge him for contempt of court".

He added: "In that case he may be arrested on the orders of the court, detained and forcefully brought before the court."

Some relatives of the dead are backing Joshua, arguing he was not to blame and that the trial is the devil's work.

In July this year the inquest heard the building collapsed because of structural failures. Victims included a six-year-old child.They were eating lunch on the ground floor when the building fell down on top of them. 

In 2011 Joshua, who claims to perform miracle healings, was listed third richest pastor in Nigeria by Forbes, which put  his worth at about $15 million.

The case was adjourned until December 11.