For deliberately trying to cover up the truth about the cause of the collapse of a guest hostel in his church premises, Pastor T. B. Joshua should be arrested and tried. This is the position taken by a group of Nigerian intellectuals based in the United States of America.
The demand was made in a press statement jointly signed by Olufemi Taiwo of Cornell University, Ithaca; Ebenezer Obadare of University of Kansas, Lawrence; Akin Adesokan of Indiana University, Bloomington; Wale Adebanwi, of the University of California, Davis; and Tejumola Olaniyan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The dons frowned at attempts by Joshua, General Overseer of the Synagogue Church for All Nations, SCOAN, to deny emergency services and the media access to his church when the incident occurred.
They also picked holes in his bid to link the collapse to terrorist attack, noting that the fact that the cleric attempted to bribe journalists not to report the incident lends credence to Joshua’s culpability and thus should be made to stand trial for his role in the unfortunate incident in which 115 people from across continents were killed.
In their opinion, T.B. Joshua’s actions amount to unpardonable impunity laundered under the cloak of “a man of God” with little or no respect and concern for the dead and their families.
The professors believe that his intention to divert attention from obvious neglect of stipulated building regulations is tantamount to callousness on the part of the pastor, thus he should be made to face the law.
Similarly, the dons frowned at the visits of President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Babatunde Fashola to the troubled preacher to commiserate with him on the disaster that befell his church.
The signatories to the statement wondered why the meetings were not held in hospitals where some of the victims are being treated for injuries or at the homes of the dead where their relatives are still grieving.
“The president’s visit to the scene of the collapsed building in which he commiserated with Mr. Joshua was painful to watch. Why would the Nigerian president visit and express solidarity with the leader of a church who should be a person of interest in an ongoing police investigation?”
Governor Fashola was also chided for putting his reputation on the line by visiting Pastor Joshua and keeping their conversation private.
Rather than visit the premises, the professors said, the premises should have been cordoned off to preserve evidence for investigation. The professors said that all efforts should be made to get to the root of the matter as well as provide support to survivors of the mishap.
Regardless of the high-profile visits by government officials, the group called for support for security agencies to unearth the truth.
Before then, they called for the arrest of Pastor Joshua not only for what they called his “callousness” but for his efforts to subvert the truth.
By Nkrumah Bankong-Obi