By; Patrick Titus, Uyo.
Witnesses at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry set up to unravel the remote causes behind the collapsed of Reigners Bible Church building in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state have indicted the state government of dereliction of duty.
The witnesses in their testimonies before the Commission of Inquiry sitting in Uyo on Friday, said that last December 10th tragedy which claimed 26 lives during Bishopric ordination at Reigners Bible Church would have been averted if the state government was alive to its expectations to Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA) to enable it discharge its functions as necessary.
UCCDA is the Akwa Ibom State Government owned agency saddled with mandates to regulate and control the development of all buildings within the Uyo capital city of the state in line with its enabling laws to ensure safety of human and property, besides generating revenues to state government.
UCCDA Town Planner, Mr. Effiong Akpan told Justice Umoekoyo Essang eight-member Commission that the UCCDA had marked Reigners Bible Church building for demolition after the expiration of seven days removal notice and 21 days ultimatum demolition notice served on the Church as required by law respectively before September, 2016 on ground that the building was an illegal structure located on the area regarded as “state government reserved forest”
He said that the materials used in building the Reigners Bible Church were heavy iron, therefore for UCCDA to carry out demolition of a building of such magnitude, it needs Excavator, Crane, Bulldozer and funding for security coverage to staff during the demolition exercise.
Essang who spoke while on the witness box on behalf of UCCDA, said that in order to acquire these equipment and boost the capacity of staff, UCCDA had on may 4, 2016 applied to the state government for funds. He added that the application was approved by the Governor but the money was never released by the Office of the State Accountant General to UCCDA.
“We lack the capacity to go into the terrain where the building is located and demolish a building of that magnitude because the materials used were heavy iron. We need fund to hire a heavy duty machine like Bulldozer, Crane, Excavator and security coverage for staff.
On 4th May, 2016, we wrote to the state government applying for funds to acquire the equipment and for security coverage. The money was approved by the Governor but it was never released by Office of the Accountant General for us those things we needed to carry out the demolition exercise,” Mr. Akpan told the Commission.
Also, a member of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Prof. Charles Uko while testifying on behalf of NSE noted that UCCDA was ill-equipped by the state government to effectively discharge its mandates as a development controlled body of government within the state capital city.
According to Prof Uko, UCCDA should be restructured and appropriately staff, empowered legally and financially to tackle the menace that threatened the environment and persons in the state.
During a cross examination of Mr. Effiong Akpan by counsel to Reigners Bible Church, Ini Ekpo Esq., he blamed UCCDA for the collapsed of that Church building, stressing that if the Authority had demolished the building after the 21 days ultimatum notice issued to the Church for demolition, the tragedy would have been averted.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Commission of inquiry, Justice Umoekoyo Essang has adjoined the sitting of the commission to Monday, January 9, 2017 for more witnesses to testify.
By; Patrick Titus, Uyo.