*No mass burial of victims—A-Ibom govt
By Sam Eyoboka, Chioma Onuegbu, Dennis Udoma & Olayinka Latona
THE Panel of Enquiry set up by Akwa Ibom State Government to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the Reigners Bible Church, Uyo, building collapse on Saturday, is commencing work immediately.
Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Ekerete Udoh, who briefed newsmen in Uyo, yesterday, said that the panel which comprises seasoned professionals in the engineering and building profession would be independent, fair and thorough.
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, assisted by the Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Affairs, Mr. Raphael Edem, at a joint briefing in Uyo, yesterday, said that 29 persons died in the incident.
Out of this number, four were unidentified while three cases were unreconciled, arising from family related issues of claim.
Dr. Ukpong further disclosed that, 168 persons who also sustained various degrees of injuries were admitted at 10 different hospitals across Uyo metropolis, out of which 30 had been discharged, while those with severe injuries are still being treated by the doctors at the University Teaching Hospital and Ibom Specialist Hospital, among others.
The commissioner maintained that only 150 persons who had minor injuries were not admitted, as they had gone home since the day of the incident, noting that the state government will not carry out any mass-burial of the victims as the bodies had all been deposited at the UUTH mortuary.
Also, Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Affairs, Mr. Raphael Edem, said, though it was difficult to ascertain the state of health of the victims, government decided to spread the victims to the various hospitals across Uyo, to forestall stretching the manpower and equipment in some hospitals beyond the limits of professional competence.
He said, after consultations with health personnel and the security services, who were directly involved in the rescue operations, the government was able to make public the figure stated above as an account of the aftermath of the collapsed building at Reigners Church on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Chief Press Secretary, Udoh added, “Government wishes to urge members of the public to discountenance any purported claims of enquiry or investigations into this tragedy by any organisation or entity other than one by the state government. We wish to restate for the avoidance of doubt that persons found culpable would be made to face the full weight of the law irrespective of tribe, religion or status in the society.
“Government wishes to inform members of the public that the site of the unfortunate incident is an active investigation site. It is the practice worldwide under such circumstances that access to the site is restricted only to investigators cleared for that purpose.
“Also, government is set to streamline the process involved in the monitoring and enforcement of relevant building regulations, especially with regard to public buildings to ensure that they met professional standards.
“Henceforth, only public buildings which have passed the necessary safety certification would be allowed to host public events because the government is committed to doing all that is necessary to ensure that this unprecedented event never happens again.”
CAN commiserates with victims
Meanwhile, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has commiserated with the people and government of Akwa Ibom State on the tragedy that took place inside the Reigners Bible Church, Uyo .
CAN, in a statement by its General Secretary, Rev. Musa Asake, lamented the disaster and tasked every Christian to identify with the victims through prayers, gifts and condolence visits.
“We identify with the victims of the tragedy, we pray for their quick recovery as we are asking God to console and comfort all the bereaved. It is very unfortunate that the devil struck when the whole world is getting ready for the celebration of the Birth of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, who came to destroy the work of the devil,” he said.