Gov Udom Escapes Death as over 50 Die in Church Building Collapse


Madagali bomb blast death toll rises to 45

Okon Bassey in Uyo and
Daji Sani in Yola
Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel came within a whisker of being killed yesterday in Uyo, the state capital, when a church building in which he was worshipping collapsed, killing more than 50 people. Emmanuel was among the top government officials and other dignitaries at the Reigners Bible Church along the Uyo village road when the tragedy occurred about 11am, leaving hundreds of worshippers trapped inside the church.

Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency said yesterday that 45 people had now died and 52 others were injured following Friday’s twin bomb blast in Madagali, in Adamawa State. The state coordinator of NEMA, Saad Bello, confirmed the new figures. Bello said many of the wounded were being treated at the Michika General Hospital.

A twin bomb blast had rocked Madagali market about 12 noon on Friday, resulting in the death of 30 people on the spot and injuring of 67 others. Bello said out of the 67 that were injured some later died at the hospital while receiving treatment, which raised the number of the dead to 45. Eyewitnesses said two suspected female suicide bombers had detonated themselves at the grains and second-hand clothes sections of the market.

THISDAY learnt that the Saturday service in Uyo during which the building collapse took place was a special programme organised to mark the Archbishopric ordination of the founder of the church, Akan Weeks, as Bishop. The Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Udoh, and the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr Ekerette Udoh, were among those injured and taken to the hospital.

At the time of filing this report, cranes from the construction company, Julius Berger, were still at the scene of the building collapse lifting debris in search of bodies and possible survivors. Government ambulances, medical personnel, the Red Cross officials, and security operatives were mobilised to help in rescue operations.
Eyewitnesses said the church building, which was undergoing renovation, was filled beyond capacity when the tragedy occurred.

A member of the church, who was visibly shaken and preferred anonymity, told THISDAY that he was in an adjoining building to buy water when the building collapsed. “I heard a loud bang and the next thing I saw was that the building just collapsed with worshipers trapped inside,” he stated.

Another member of the church said, “Pastor Akan Weeks was being consecrated today (Saturday), so the programme was holding inside the church when, suddenly, the whole building collapsed.
“Many people are buried under the debris, as emergency workers continue rescue exercise.”
The Police Public Relations officer in the Akwa Ibom State, ASP Cordelia Nwaiwe, said the number of casualties could not be ascertained immediately as rescue operations and evacuation of victims was still on.

“For now, we are not talking about death, but seriously involved in reviving some of the victims and taking them to the hospital for medical attention. The police commissioner will talk on the deaths in future,” Nwaiwe said.
She said men and officers of the state police command had been deployed to the scene of the accident to secure the place and check the activities of hoodlums who might want to exploit the situation to steal.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria have offered their commiserations to the church and victims of the Uyo tragedy.
A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, said the president had spoken with the Akwa Ibom State governor by telephone to commiserate with him over the collapse of the church building.
The statement said, “The president also conveyed to the governor and the people of Akwa Ibom State the deep sorrow of his family, the government and the entire people of Nigeria over the many deaths and injury recorded following the incident.”

Buhari prayed for the repose of the souls of the deceased and the quick recovery of the injured. He implored the people of the state, especially those within the vicinity of the incident, to rally round the victims of the tragedy to help ease their sorrow and pains.
The Akwa Ibom State chairman of PFN, Dr. Sylvanus Ukafia, said in a statement, “The Pentecostal Community shares the pain of Reigners’ Bible Church on the sad event of the collapse of its building during the Bishopric Ordination of its presiding pastor, Bishop Elect Akan Weeks, and stand with them in prayers and support.

“The PFN urges all Pentecostal churches in the state in particular and Nigeria in general to hold special prayers for the Church in their services on Sunday, December 11, 2016.
“Furthermore, the PFN urges all churches to take special offerings for the medical assistance of all those injured and send same to the Reigners’ Bible Church. Church members who can are also urged to donate blood, where necessary, to those in the hospital and make other donations as may be required in the course of the treatment of those injured.”