By UbongAbasi Ise
“God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another”― William Shakespeare, Hamlet
If the living witnesses would cast back their mind to the tragic Saturday afternoon of December 10th, 2016, they may feel some jolt of dismay given the apathetic way Governor Udom Emmanuel is handling the matter involving human lives, and human deaths. When recollecting the dreadful scenes of the mangled bodies, pools of blood; the heartrending death grunts; the miserable sight of dying children; the wailings of women; the horrible, pitiful sight of victims solemnly taken away from the scene of the wreckage, coupled with the gloomy atmosphere that hung at Uyo Village Road, one could have expected the governor’s reaction to be in-extremis, in a way that could bring about a complete revolution in the building industry, and make professionals sit up in the matters of construction in the state.
After the clonk of the collapse, series of events unfolded and exposed a lot of incongruities in the construction of the failed church building. First, at the wake of the collapse, Governor Emmanuel responded by setting up a seven-man Commission of Inquiry led by Justice Umoekeyo Essang (rtd) to investigate the circumstances that led to the collapse of the church building including the attendant loss of lives with the view to forestall the reoccurrence of similar tragedy in the future. In spite of this, concerned members of the public could not help being disappointed in the aftermath of the misfortune owing to growing suspicion of cover-ups orchestrated by certain elements in the authority. Even after the Commission came up with the report in June 2017, the silence and seeming reluctance of Mr. Udom Emmanuel to act quickly and decisively on the report was indicative that he lacks the interest to implement the findings of the commission, and there was a growing suspicion from some commentators that the Governor’s indolence is nothing but a deliberate attempt to spare the sacred cow found culpable, and it was it.
When Governor Udom Emmanuel, perhaps bowing to human rights pressure, finally decided to act on the report, he did so in a way that further intensified already built up suspicion that he is on the side of the General Overseer of the Reigners Bible Church, Apostle (Dr.) Akan Weeks. His government produced a Whitepaper with no signature appended on it. This cast heavy doubt on the Governor’s willingness to go any further with the whole Reigners affairs. After all, since the public needed governor’s reaction, he responded by giving them the tokenism of a whitepaper. What else should they expect? Implementation of the findings? Well, the public can only watch to find out what the hen wants to do with the palm kernel.
The Commission of Inquiry, in its findings, discovered “adequate proofs of undue interference in some critical aspects during the construction of the building by Apostle (Dr.) Akan Weeks to an extent that he ordered for the removal of the temporary support system (Central Scaffold) supporting the drum of the steel roof and deletion of the basement floor during construction against all professional advice.” Adding to this, the report says the construction of the church building was rushed with impunity to have the event take place in an uncompleted building site.
The Commission also found that Apostle (Dr.) Akan Weeks had “illegally built the church on government land without seeking for and obtaining approvals. All known pre-approval processes from Uyo Capital City Development Authority, UCCDA, were disregarded by Akan Weeks.” In this way, the investigative panel found that Apostle (Dr.) Akan Weeks is culpable for his failure to observe the basic procedures for building including his undue interference in the construction process, and therefore recommended that Ministry of Justice should take appropriate court action against him. But it was quite shocking that the state government would go ahead to indict UCCDA officials while keeping unfair silence on the actions and inactions of the General Overseer of the Reigners Bible Church.
Despite the fact that the panel made known to the state government that Akan Weeks employed and relied on quacks to construct and supervise the building project, and unduly interfere in the critical aspects of the building process, Udom’s government was to come up with its own position that Akan Weeks relied on the professionals he engaged, and that it is the obligation of the professionals to execute due care and skill in the discharge of their duties or resign their appointments where they are not allowed to do so. In the whitepaper, the state government referred cases of professional negligence were referred to the Ministry of Justice for necessary action. The question is where is the state government placing Akan Weeks in the realm of justice? Is he going to be spared the comeuppance after he ruthlessly pushed the so-called professionals to compromise with the standard in a way that remotely and immediately led to the collapse of the church building?
The state government is acting like a proverbial foul that ignore the main person who cut its throat while going after the one that plucks out its feathers. Perhaps, because of friendship or some sorts of relationship, Udom Emmanuel seems blinded, thus failing to see any wrong done by the so-called man of God. The glib decisions as contained in the Whitepaper shows that the state government is not interested in the indictable offenses of Akan Weeks, hence its decision to look the other way.
It is, probably, not the original willingness of the state government to have acted on the report if not that it was stretched beyond limits. It would be recalled how a legal practitioner and human rights activist, Barr. Inibehe Effiong, in a lawsuit against the state governor and the state Auditor General at the State High Court sitting in Uyo, sought an order of mandamus directing and compelling the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State to urgently give him a Certified True Copy of the comprehensive Report, and the True Certified Copy of the government Whitepaper on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry appointed by Governor Udom Emmanuel. The state government, in its wisdom, avoided impending embarrassment, and did its best in releasing ‘unsigned’ Whitepaper some days after.
Anyway the governor is locked in the cloistered world of power. That may be one reason he may not know the exasperating pain the affected persons are passing through since December 10, 2016. Timely response would have assuaged their pains. The Commission of Inquiry had done well to recommend to the state government the setting up of a Trust Fund for the dependants of the deceased and the injured persons. But the government has jibbed at such recommendation. Instead, it has unenthusiastically accepted the recommendation to pay the sum of N1,000,000.00 to the dependants or administrators of the estate of the deceased based on the record that was with the Ministry of Health at the time of the incident. It is therefore left for the livings to see the end of this melodrama. If Mr. Udom Emmanuel is intending to reduce the whole Reigners affairs to a mere political issue, he should bear in mind that it is the matter of human blood which requires sincere and conscientious attention.
Yes! I am UbongAbasi Ise. For Comment, send SMS to 08189914609 | firstname.lastname@example.org