Okon Bassey in Uyo
There appears to be conflicting figures over the number of deaths recorded when the Reigners Bible Church International collapsed in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State Capital, last sarturday.
At a solemn assembly organised by the state government Monday night to commiserate with victims of the collapsed building, the state Governor, Udom Emmanuel, said not more than 23 lives were lost in the tragedy, and none of his cabinet members were killed in the incident.
This is as the contractor and site engineer that handled the construction of the collapsed Church building tragedy.
The governor’s death toll figure has contradicted the earlier one given by the State Police Commissioner, Mr. Mutala Mani, which put the death toll as at Monday at 29 while unconfirmed report had said over 50 died.
Governor Emmanuel also denied reports that one of his aides who assisted him to escape from the collapse building lost his life in the process.
However, the governor admitted that only one staff, a driver, in his service lost his life because as a member of the church he sat elsewhere in another location within the building.
According to him, the earlier figures from some sections of the media came as a result of multiple counting as a result of the different private health facilities that victims were rushed to, before being transferred to the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital and the Specialist hospital in Uyo.
The governor was full of praises to God saying what happened on the fateful day showed that God honoured the covenant he made concerning his executive council members, maintaining that none of them died in the disaster.
He said he was able to charter an aircraft to bring in neuro-surgeons from around the country, adding that his efforts resulted in 99 percent success rate for all the injured victims.
The governor who applauded the deputy senate president Ike Ekweremadu for his presence at the solemn assembly appealed for assistance from the federal government to help in the medical expenses of the victims.
The Senate President represented by the Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu and the Governor of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike both extended their condolences to the government and people of the state and assured of their readiness to support the state government’s efforts in ameliorating the crises.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of White Steel Integrated Services, Mr. Idorenyin White, who handled the iron roofing of the church said he should not be blamed for the disaster while the site Engineer, Anietie Augustine, said the collapse of the building did not occur on the civil structure but the roof.
Defending himself, White said all pieces of advice given when he noticed some abnormalities in the building were ignored by the site supervisor.
“On Friday, the building had an issue, I called the site manager and showed him that this building has a problem and he saw it with me and he said that after the programme on Saturday, that he building will be reinforced.
“Apart from that the building was under construction and they brought experienced Engineers to come and look at it. I told the construction committee members from the church that the scavel that was inside the church should not be removed, but there was a lot quarrel between me and the church because of that scavel.
“Even another engineer said that the scavel should not be removed until everything is completed because the construction was still on going. So the roof was heavier than the construction which was 50 percent done
“Earnestly speaking, I really advised that the scavel should not be removed but nobody listened to me because they havee senior Engineers in the church.
“They brought one Engr Inyang and the man even advised that the scavel should remain until the poline and metals are tight but nobody want to listen.
“The steel that was used to construct the building was okay. One engineer came and designed the steel and they were working on that. Moreover, that building was not filled, it is during this programme period that they filled the building.
“The whole thing was compacted. Even the side beam was not fully cast and the side beam in the middle was small. I did my work well. The fault is not from us, the fault is from the civil work”, he stressed.
On his part, the site Engineer and Supervisor of the building project, Augustine said: “It is not the wall that had a defect, even as the roof fell the wall was still there. It is the roof the roof that caused the problem.
“I was not the one that approved the roof. The Engineer Uwen Okoko brought a team of Engineers to come and look at the whole work then designed the roof that will suite the building.
“I don’t know whether the roof constructed was designed according to specification because I was not the one that approved it,” he explained.