By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo
AKWA Ibom State has in the last two weeks been in the news for incidents bordering on the tragic. Particularly still a talking point days after was the collapse of Reigners Bible Church International located at Uyo village Road, Uyo which led to loss of lives and several others injured.
While families of the victims mourned their losses, the state government had responded by taking proactive measures to ensure that those who survived the unfortunate incident were properly taken care of.
However, even this gesture was not enough to stop controversy from rearing its head with issues being raised about the alleged culpability of certain individuals with regards to the incident. But more pronounced presently is the seeming persistent question of why nothing much is being said about the condition and whereabouts of the founder of the collapsed church, Akan Weeks, who was supposed to be ordained as a Bishop on the day of the unfortunate incident.
Weeks who many eyewitnesses said escaped unhurt alongside many other ministers of the Gospel who attended the ceremony last week spoke through Planet FM Radio, Uyo claimed that he sustained injuries and was hospitalized. He however did not mention the name of the hospital where he is receiving medical treatment.
He had also debunked widespread speculations that he had gone to Ikot Ekpene where he was secretly ordained despite the disaster. He even gave up on the bishopric enthronement saying that he was no longer interested.
“Let nobody believe the speculation that I was enthroned as the bishop; the enthronement was cancelled completely and I am not interested. Please, this is not the time to crucify me; I’m still your brother. Reigners Church family, I’m still your Pastor.
“The enthronement was cancelled completely and I am not interested. Please let us rise and pray. I really sympathise with the departed soul. Once I’m out of my hospital bed, I will come on air and we will pray together. I was also seriously injured. One of my legs was seriously damaged,” he had said.
Expectedly this had generated heated argument among members of the public in the State capital who till today believe that he was not being sincere about his condition.
Failure of the state government to disclose the hospital Weeks was being treated even made matters worse. Accordingly, some of the citizens had even visited the hospitals government had listed as where most of the survivors who sustained injuries, including some members of the State Executive Council and aides to the governor, were admitted but Pastor Akan
Weeks was not there. Government had listed the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, UUTH, Ibom Specialist Hospital Uyo and General Hospital Anua Offot, Uyo.
A civil servant who did not mention his name, however expressed sadness over the development thus: “We were told that some government officials sustained injuries and had been treated, that even most of them have been discharged. Some people, including journalists, saw them. But the only person who claimed to also had sustained injury during that disaster and who put that event in place was not seen anywhere. So where is Akan Weeks?”
Publishers of state based Newspaper Publishers were also at the designated hospitals on Monday on fact finding mission. The Publisher of Town Crier, Mr. Ernest Akpan, told Vanguard Metro that they actually went to find out if government has done the things that it said it had done towards saving the lives of those affected in the church building collapse considering the controversies that erupted in its wake.
“We went to find out things by ourselves. You know there has been disparity in the reports over the church building collapse, especially in the casualty figures given by government and the media. And it does not portray the image of the state well.
“You are aware that there are insinuations that it is only government officials affected in the incident that were admitted at the Ibom Specialist Hospital; so we went there to see if actually the sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers of the nobody’s were there.
“We also wanted to find out if the claim by the state government that it is giving free medical treatment to the survivors is true. So those are the reasons we embarked on fact-finding tour of the hospitals. And we acknowledge that government is keeping to its promise by doing what it said it was doing in respect of the accident victims,” he stressed.
Many people were even of the opinion that the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, should have ordered the arrest of the contractor as well as the owner of the Church. Some were even quick to conclude that the fact that the relevant government authority did not arrest the owner of the church (Akan Weeks) and also failed to say anything about his condition till now clearly indicated that it is in a conspiracy of silence over his alleged culpability.
The Governor had during the Christmas Carol last Saturday blamed the church building collapse on human error. He said: “Last Saturday the roof of a church building caved in while worship was going on and this led to the death of 26 persons. We have not fully recovered from the shock but let us say that what fell was a church building (man’s handiwork), not God’s promise.
“The collapse of the building was man’s error and that is why we have set up a high-powered panel of inquiry to determine what went wrong. We are still standing on God’s promises. On Christ, the solid rock, we still stand. This, however, should serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
“We dedicated two days of mourning for the souls of the departed, we activated the full machinery and resources of Government to aid in the rescue and evacuation of victims of the tragedy and we have assured the victims’ families of government’s resolve to stand by and with them during this time of mourning”.
Meanwhile, the religious group which planned the foiled bishopric enthronement of Akan Weeks under the aegis of Assembly of Charismatic Ministers and Bishops of Nigeria, ACMB, are insisting that enthronement of Akan Weeks as Bishop would still be performed, but in 2017. The group made this known in a press statement made available to newsmen last week signed by Archbishop Elijah Mboho and Prof. Ahaziah Umanah, Founder/International adviser, and President of ACMB, respectively.
In the statement the group said the ACMB, “the College of Bishop that planned to carry out the consecration and enthronement of Apostle Akan weeks of the Reigners Bible Church, Uyo Village Road, Uyo, wishes to condole with the Bishop-elect, his family and his church on the unfortunate tragedy that took place during the service of the consecration and enthronement, Saturday 10th December, 2016”.
The group added: “We also wish to console the families of those who lost their loved ones during that unfortunate tragedy that befell the Christian community in Akwa Ibom Sate. We further console and condole the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, who was physically present in the church during the tragic service, for the loss of lives of citizens and any visitors to the state, who attended the service.
“Finally, we wish to assure the Bishop-elect and his family, the Reigners Bible Church and the Christian community in Akwa Ibom State, that the aborted consecration and enthronement shall be consummated next year, 2017, when he and his family, the church and the assembly, would have picked the spiritual, emotional and physical pieces, arising from that sad tragedy”.