“I LOST consciousness after a rod fell on my back.” Those were the words of one of the survivors of Reigners Bible Church that collapsed on Saturday, December 10, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. Murtala Mani, commissioner of Police in the state, on Sunday, December 11, confirmed 27 dead and 37 injured in the disaster, and dismissed speculations that as many as 60 or 120 were killed in the incident.
On his part, Governor Udom Emmanuel, who narrowly escaped death in the incident, announced that the government would set up a high-powered panel of inquiry to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the disaster and bring to book persons found to have compromised professional standards in the construction of the building.
Speaking to Vanguard at Anua Hospital, Anua Offot, in Uyo Local Government Area, Eno Etim, 44, from Mbo LGA of the state, thanked God for saving her life.
Narrating her ordeal Etim said: “I was inside the church and everything was going on normally. A lady was called to lead the praise and worship when the governor entered. After the governor came in and the church welcomed him, the next thing was praise and worship. As that was going on, we heard the church roof breaking and started falling on people. Before we knew what was happening, the building fell on us. I do not know how I got to the hospital. “That was all I remembered. I do not know how I got to this hospital. It was after a while that I regained consciousness. I still feel pain in my back and all over my body. But I am grateful to God because I am not better than those that lost their lives in the place.” She said added that she was a member of United Intercessors Network and that Pastor Akan Weeks was one of their leaders.
Corroborating her, Nkoyo Ekong, her niece, said she was in the house when Etim called her that she should meet her in the hospital because she was involved in the church accident. Also Emem Akpanitiat, 22, who also managed to utter few words, because of excruciating on her head, legs and arms, because of injuries, equally said she did not know she got to the hospital. She added that she had been informed a doctor said she would be transferred to University of Uyo Teaching Hospital.
Mani, who disclosed that the injured were receiving treatment in three hospitals, said: “For now, we can confirm that 27 persons died in the church building collapse on Saturday. We have concluded rescue operations but we are monitoring the situation to see what happens further.” The victims evacuated from the collapsed church on Uyo Village Road, near Government House, are receiving treatment at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, St Lukes Hospital, Ibom Specialist Hospital and Lifecare Hospital. The State Chairman of Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr Aniekeme Uwah, said 22 bodies were deposited at UUTH. Uwah, who could not confirm the total number of deaths in other hospitals, said he had mobilised all medical practitioners in the state to be part of the rescue operations. He said it was not possible to identify the number of government officials and clergymen affected in the incident because the focus of rescue operation was on saving lives.
In the mean time, Governor Emmanuel said the government would set up a high-powered panel of inquiry to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the collapse and bring to book persons found to have compromised professional standards in the construction of the building. The governor said the essence of such action and its attendant penalty on culprits would forestall a future recurrence of such incident.
In a state broadcast on Sunday, December 11, the governor also announced a two-day mourning between Sunday and Monday, December 12, in honour of the victims urging the Christian community to show support, love and understanding in prayers for the families of the victims and the state. Emmanuel said: “We have never had such a shocking incident in the history of our dear state. I was present at the church when the incident occurred and shared in the agony of the moment. I personally supervised rescue operations and evacuation of the injured to the hospital. I directed all emergency organizations, agencies of government and corporate organizations especially the construction companies to be involved in the exercise. They acted promptly and I commend their sense of patriotism and gallantry.”
Meanwhile, state governors and others have continued to send their condolences to Governor Emmanuel, the people of the state and victims’ families. Among governors that sent condolences, weekend, were Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
In his condolence message, Governor Obaseki, in a statement by John Mayaki, his chief press secretary, said: “We received with shock the sad news of the Reigners’ Bible Church International building collapse on Saturday. While I and the good people of Edo State rejoice over your miraculous escape, we, however, commiserate with your Excellency and family members of worshippers who lost dear ones in the incident.”
Similarly, his Delta State counterpart, in a statement by Charles Aniagwu, his chief press secretary, said the tragic death of some worshippers in the church was a very sad experience and prayed for their repose.
In the same vein, Governor Bello, in a statement by Kingsley Fanwo, his director general, Media and Publicity, said: “The entire nation is with the Akwa Ibom people at this dark hour. I wish to condole with my brother, Governor Emmanuel and the entire Akwa Ibom people over the unfortunate incident of the church auditorium collapse in which many are feared dead.”
Also, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in its condolence by Nsima Ekere, its managing director, described the disaster as shocking and horrifying. He said: “My deepest condolences also go to the families of the victims of this very terrifying catastrophe.”
- Based on Vanguard newspaper reports
— Dec 12, 2016 @ 15:00 GMT