Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to investigate the collapse of a seven-storey building under construction in Port Harcourt, yesterday started sitting and questioned three serving commissioners in the state.
The three commissioners questioned were Commissioners for Urban Development and Physical Planning, Dr. Reason Onya; Health, Professor Princewill Chike; and Special Duties, Dr. John Bazia.
This came also as the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the affairs of the state-owned Integrated Medical Industries Limited also started sitting with a witness stating how the directors of the company frittered away more than N35.7 billion fortunes of the firm.
Testifying before the Commission on the collapsed building which had claimed about 17 lives, the Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning, Onya said the ministry revalidated the 2014 approved plan for the collapsed building following the disappearance of the file of the building plan.
He said: “We couldn’t get the file of the approved plan for the building in the Ministry. So we had to revalidate the approved plan in 2018 following requests from the developer. We suspect that the movement of the Ministry from Moscow Road to State Secretariat could have led to the disappearance of the file.”
The commissioner, who insists that he had stepped aside to allow for proper investigation into the cause of the collapsed building, said the plan of the building was duly registered in the Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning.
Testifying before the Commission also, the Commissioner for Health, Professor Princewill Chike, said a total of 17 persons died in the collapsed building, pointing out that out of the number, only eight corpses could be identified by their relatives.
Chike stated that 12 of the corpses were deposited at the Ashes To Ashes Mortuary of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt, while three others were deposited at the morgue of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH).
He said three corpses were deposited at Kpaima, a privately owned morgue in Port Harcourt, adding that one of the corpses at Kpaima Mortuary, has been retrieved and buried by his relatives.
The Commissioner stated that a total of 31 persons, including a female were rescued alive from the collapsed building located along Woji Road, New GRA, Port Harcourt, saying that almost all the victims had been discharged from the hospitals.
Earlier, Chairman of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, Hon. Justice Adolphus Enebeli, said part of the terms given to the Commission is to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the collapse of the building.
Meanwhile at the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the affairs of Integrated Medical Industries (IMI) Limited, headed by Justice Douye Green, a witness, Dr. Ikedife Uba, also recounted how the management of the company frittered away the N35.7 billion fortunes of the company.
Uba, a professional economist, said at the inaugural sitting of the commission directors of the company were still disbursing funds from the company years after their tenures expired.
He said the state government had invested about N35.7 million in the company started by the Dr. Peter Odili administration but said the rot was uncovered when the Project Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, Amenya Wokoma, was arrested by security agents in June while trying to sell assets of the company.
He also revealed that as at December, 2015, after the principal and loan of loans from Diamond Bank had been repaid, the company received N857 million from the bank but thwe money was shared by the directors whose tenure had elapsewd as they were no more officials of the state government.
He said that as at June when the bubble burst in the company, some staff were owed more than 13 months salaries even though the company was selling syringes and other assets of the company.
Hearings continue in both commissions.