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Govt White Paper on Reigners Church Build Collapse, A’Ibom APC Fumes

Apr 12, 2018
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PRESS RELEASE

ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS
AKWA IBOM STATE CHAPTER
# 4 ATIKU ABUBAKAR WAY, UYO.

GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER ON REIGNERS CHURCH BUILDING COLLAPSE

The flurry of condemnations that followed the release of Government’s White Paper on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry set up by the State Government to investigate the tragic collapse of the Reigners Church building reflects the incompetence, dubiousness and duplicity of Mr. Udom Emmanuel. By trying to shield Apostle Akan Weeks, the owner of the church from justice, Governor Emmanuel has violated the very Oath of Office he took which constrains him from allowing personal interest to influence his duty and responsibility to the people. APC stands with Akwa Ibom people, specifically families of the dead and injured, to condemn Udom Emmanuel for his lack of empathy and a sense of justice.

As expected, the Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired Justice of the High court, Umoekeyo Essang was diligent and uncompromising in the discharge of its duties. The white paper revealed and maintained that Apostle Akan Weeks, Leader and General Overseer of the church was without doubt culpable for the avoidable death of innocent worshippers on that fateful day. Apostle Weeks was indicted in clear and unambiguous terms for failing to obtain requisite approvals from government before embarking on the construction work, tampering with the structure by removing essential components and refusal to heed professional advice. Weeks is reported to have been obstinate and remained resolute in defiance of the “Stop Work” notice issued to him by the Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA).

What is shocking is that notwithstanding the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry that Apostle Akan Weeks be prosecuted for complicity in the death and injury to innocent Akwa Ibomites, Deacon Udom Emmanuel has blatantly objected to the prosecution of Akan Weeks. On February 22nd, when it became apparent that government was being dishonest in handling this matter, we alerted Akwa Ibomites via a press release to be vigilant.

The release stated inter alia: “After the sitting of the Commission and the submission of its report in July 2017, family members of the dead and injured victims and, indeed, concerned citizens patiently awaited the release of Government’s White Paper on the report. But instead, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Charles Udoh yesterday issued a prescription designed by government to deceive the people and protect the culprits. A critical analysis of the commissioner’s statement, particularly the choice of words, betrays hidden and dubious interest of government as widely speculated. Of course, it’s becoming clearer that this government has a lot to hide. There are clear, obvious and inherent indications in the recommendation issued by government that serves to confirm that this government cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Having tried unsuccessfully to sweep matters under the carpet, the government has now come up with a statement fraught with subterfuge to subvert the course of justice.

From inception, we had premonition that Deacon Udom Emmanuel’s choice of a Commission of Inquiry (instead of a Coroner’s Inquest under the Coroner’s Law of Akwa Ibom State) was a ruse to deceive the people having regards to the provisions of the Commission of Enquiry Law of Akwa Ibom state. The law precludes punitive measures and forbids testimonies and related evidence obtained at sittings in the Commission from being tendered in regular courts to secure civil or criminal convictions. In other words, the Commission has no powers for criminal prosecution and punishment. To our mind, the import and purport of the Commission was not to secure conviction and or punishment for persons found culpable. Nothing in paragraph 3 of the Press Release states that culprits shall be prosecuted and punished. It states inter-alia; “The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice has been mandated to commence the process of taking appropriate actions against all persons found culpable in the church building collapse. All cases of proven professional negligence will be dealt with decisively within the ambit of the law ….”. The question is, who determines what constitutes appropriate action? Is the word “prosecute” too heavy to mention?”.

Without any iota of doubt, Deacon Emmanuel has again shown himself as the enemy of the people who prefers to protect his friend at the expense of bringing justice to the bereaved families. What Udom Emmanuel has done by retracing his steps and releasing the white paper is simply to avoid being embarrassed and trounced in the suit brought against the government by Inibehe Effiong under the Freedom of information Act, 2011. Under the Act, government will have no grounds for defence as it maybe compelled to release the white paper. Not wanting to be shamed, government has instead opted to release the white paper and to hinge its defence in the event of further prosecution on the safeguards provided by the Commission of Enquiry Laws of Akwa Ibom state (2000) that precludes punitive measures and forbids testimonies and related evidence obtained in sittings at Commission of Enquiry from being tendered in regular courts to secure civil or criminal convictions. Under the cover of this law, Apostle Akan Weeks will most certainly evade justice and go unpunished while the families of the victims’ wallow in perpetual pain with no succour to assuage their hurt.

The APC hereby calls on the bereaved families and relations of the injured, and indeed, the entire people of Akwa Ibom state to reject this clever cover-up by the Udom Emmanuel administration. This cover-up is clearly a continued pattern of opacity, dishonesty and obfuscation with which Deacon Emmanuel has been conducting affairs of the State.

Sign:

Edet Eyo Bassey (Esq.)
State Publicity Secretary
Akwa Ibom Chapter

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