The Hon. Justice Sybil Nwaka of the Lagos High Court, has rejected the out of court settlement between the state government and Lekki Gardens Estate over a building collapse that killed 34 persons in 2017.The trial judge rejected the “Plea and Sentence Agreement” between the state and the company (Lekki Gardens Estate) because it was drawn up in the absence of families of those who died in the incident.
The state government had in 2017 filed six-count charges against the Managing Director of Lekki Gardens, Richard Nyong, and seven others over the collapse of a five-storey building where about 34 persons were killed.
The building collapsed on March 8, 2016, Lekki Gardens Estate reported that five people died in the incident as against the official figure of 34 casualties.
The stated had therefore arraigned Nyong and seven others on charges bordering on failure to obtain building permits and approvals, negligence resulting in the collapse and involuntary manslaughter.
However, at the resume trial in the case yesterday Justice Nwaka queried why the parties did not specify the names of family members who would receive the N10 million compensation for the five persons the company insisted were the only casualties of the building collapse.
The judge also faulted the amended charge arising from the out-of-court-settlement for leaving out the criminal aspects of the original charges filed by the Lagos state government against the property development company.
Following the submission of counsel on both side, the judge frowned at the lawyers for tendering a ‘Plea and Sentence Agreement’ and an ‘amended charge’ before the court without observing due diligence.
Justice Nawaka said, “the new charge is not before the court as far as I am concerned, we are still on the entire charge.”
The prosecution counsel, Mr Babajide Taiwo, told the court that within the period and the last adjournment, all the parties involved had “bargained on an agreement on dated January 23, 2020.
He added that all the parties signed the amended charge and the plea and sentence agreement.
While the defence counsel who represented Nyong and the sixth and seventh defendants, Mr. Bode Olanipekun, told the court that the parties explored the possibility of a resolution without going into a full-court trial, which led to a plea and sentence agreement and an amended charge.
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