From Joe Effiong, Uyo and Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Eight days after the auditotium of Reigners Bible Church collapsed on Saturday, December 10, killing more than 26 persons, during a proposed bishopric enthronement of its General Overseer, Pastor Akan Weeks, the cleric was missing from the first service after the building collapse tragedy.
The church also relocated temporarily to a new venue, Uyo Local Government multipurpose hall to hold its service.
Weeks did not attend the one-hour Sunday-in-Council and it was not certain who presided over it.
The church premises, along Uyo Village Road, has since been sealed off by security agents on the orders of the state government.
Daily Sun observed that ‘tourists’ still visited the church premises, although they were not allowed entry as three anti-riot police, led by a sergeant were manning the gates by midday yesterday.
Some vehicles with the church inscriptions were, however, allowed into the place to carry some equipment, especially loudspeakers.
The state government had warned citizens to steer clear of the collapsed church premises in order not to jeopardise ongoing investigation by an eight-man panel, set up last Thursday by Governor Udom Emmanuel.
But, when Daily Sun called the church’s official telephone line, a lady, who identifies herself as ‘a church member’ confirmed the service held at the hall but added, “it was not a regular service. We only met there to pray for one hour.
“We also chose to go round the hospitals to pray with those who were injured. But, why don’t you people leave us alone. All these things you are writing, is it not causing more tension?” Reminded that giving out the right information on time to the public would defuse tension, she explained that members went to the church premises to take loudspeakers from the church premises to to the owners. “Owners of those musical instruments do not even sympathise with us. They want their instruments.”
So we had to go and bring them out,” she said still declining to mention her name and her position in the church.
Meanwhile, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), Nigeria chapter has condemned what it called the incessant cases of building collapse and inadequacy of safety standards and procedure in the country.
The group in a statement by its President, Herbert Nwaka, expressed sadness over the collapse of the Reigners Bible Church, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and the fire incident at Phil-Hallamrk Supermarket, Benin, Edo State.
Nwaka, who commiserate with the Akwa Ibom and Edo governments over the incident, said the group cannot fold its arms and continue to watch building collapse in Nigeria.
According to him, failure to comply with safety procedures that would guarantee quality works in the construction of buildings in Nigeria has been responsible for many buildings which has collapsed and killed several innocent people.
Urging the government, engineers, construction experts and civil society groups to join in the campaign for safety compliance for all buildings in Nigeria, ASSE said it would organise a safety summit in the March 2017 at the Oriental Hotels, Lagos to proffer ways to halt the collapse of building in Nigeria.
“The American Society of Safety Engineers totally condemns the situation of Building collapse and inadequacies in safety standards and practice. The failure to adhere to safety standards has been responsible for the tragedy that has claimed lives and rendered several others handicapped and disabled. There is a need for citizens to stand up to ensure that standard operating procedures are followed and quality not compromised in the course of work.
“We are using the opportunity of the summit to emphasise and partner tested and trusted organisations l
and other well meaning Nigerian-based professional partners on the need to guide against our investments, buildings and ensure that the highest safety precautions are adhered to.
“Nigerians must resist any form of quark no matter how enticing it may look and look up to safety of its citizenry. We advocate a comprehensive investigation and a root cause analysis of the issues, impending dangers and anomalies related to this incident to further make Nigerians appreciate the dangers and to prevent reoccurrence.”