The Akwa Ibom State government has rejected the plans by the Nigeria Society of Engineers, NSE, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, SON, and any other interested organisation to investigate the collapse of a church building in the state.
The Nigeria police said 27 people lost their lives, while 37 were injured when an uncompleted structure housing the Reigners Bible Church, Uyo, collapsed on Saturday during a ceremony to enthrone the founder of the church, Akan Weeks, as a bishop.
The building collapsed shortly after the ceremony started around 10 a.m., with heavy iron beams falling on worshipers, including women and children.
The state governor, Udom Emmanuel, escaped unhurt, while the Secretary to the State Government, Etekamba Umoren, the Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh, and the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ekerete Udoh, were said to have sustained some injuries.
The NSE and SON have reportedly made public their plans to investigate the tragic incident.
The NSE investigation committee, according to Channels Television, visited the site of the collapsed building.
The committee was led by Charles Ukoh, a former vice president of Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN.
Mr. Ukoh was quoted by Channels as saying that his committee would carry out proper investigation to unravel the circumstances that led to the incident.
“He (Mr. Ukoh) promised that the committee would present an unbiased report that can be confirmed anywhere in the world,” the TV station reported.
SON, through its Akwa Ibom State Coordinator, Dauda Mshelia, was reported to have also made a similar visit to the site, and took away samples of materials used for the construction for laboratory analysis to find out the cause of the collapse.
But the state government has come out to reject such plans by the NSE and SON.
“Government wishes to urge members of the public to discountenance any purported claims of enquiry or investigations into this tragedy by any organisation or entity,” the state government said in a press statement issued, Wednesday, by the spokesperson to the governor, Ekerete Udoh.
“The Panel set up by Government is made up of seasoned professionals in the engineering and building profession and the work of the panel will be independent, fair and thorough,”
The government barred unauthorized persons or groups from having further access to the site.
The panel of enquiry into the incident will commence work immediately, the government assured.
“We wish to restate for the avoidance of doubt that any persons found culpable would be made to face the full weight of the law irrespective of tribe, religion or status in the society,” the statement said.
“Government is set to streamline the processes involved in the monitoring and enforcement of relevant building regulations, especially with regard to public buildings to ensure that they meet professional standards.
“Henceforth only public buildings which have passed the necessary safety certifications would be allowed to host public events.
“Government is committed to doing all that is necessary to ensure that this unprecedented event never happens again.”
Chris Ekpenyong, an engineer and former deputy governor of Akwa Ibom State, was part of the NSE delegation which visited the site of the collapsed church building.
When reporters contacted Mr. Ekpenyong, he said the aim of their visit to the site wasn’t to investigate the incident, but to rather have first hand information before making plans to pay a condolence visit to the state governor.
“We couldn’t commiserate with the governor, without first going to the site to see what happened.
“We are not supposed to set up a panel, it is the government that should do that,” Mr. Ekpenyong said.