The Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) yesterday requested two engineers in charge of the construction of the collapsed Synagogue building in Lagos to appear before a panel seeking to investigate alleged professional misconduct.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja, chairman of the panel, Engr. Nurudeen Rafidaju, explained that the panel is to investigate alleged misconduct by their professional colleagues, Engr. Oladele Ogundeji and Engr. Akinbola Fatiregun and not for the purpose of criminal investigation nor is it pursuant to the Coroner or High Court hearing.
This followed submissions by lawyer to the engineers, Mr Oluseun Abimbola, stating that COREN lacked grounds to hold the panel hearing because there are substantive legal issues regarding the matter. The respondents however, did not appear at the hearing yesterday.
Abimbola who also stated that COREN had earlier made a submission before the Coroner as witness, in which it took a prejudiced position, concluding that the building collapsed as a result of engineering failure, noted that it would be unfair to the respondents summoned when COREN has already taken a decision.
But Rafidaju pointed out that the panel is not a parallel proceeding and does not stop or interfere with the criminal proceeding, noting that the Coroner’s case is to determine the cause of death at the building and not professional misconduct.
“In view of these we find nothing precluding the panel from investigating alleged misconduct of our professional colleagues. We request the engineers to appear on a date to be communicated,” he said.
Meanwhile, on whether his clients will be present at the next panel when a date is communicated to them, Abimbola said, “We will review the decision once we get a record of today’s proceedings and we will then be able to take appropriate steps.”
Speaking further, he said “I don’t agree with the decision, I have a completely different opinion of the resolutions because the issues we have raised are substantive issues that have to do with fair hearing.
Asked if it is legally wrong for COREN to invite its members to a hearing on an alleged professional misconduct, he said “Any professional body would have some disciplinary procedure, but in the exercise of its powers, under its enabling laws to discipline any of its members whether investigation before the tribunal hearing or otherwise, there are still required conditions, don’t forget every enabling law takes its relevance subject to the constitution.”
“We are not talking about the criminal case, we are talking about the fact that COREN has already taken a position with respect to what it regards as the cause of the collapse and that position was contained in the evidence and testimony of CORENS’s representative in the previous proceedings,” he stated.