© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Udom overrules probe panel, exonerates pastor whose church collapse killed 27 in 2016
The Akwa State government has exonerated Akan Weeks, a Pentecostal Bishop, of any blame over the collapse of his church building in 2016, which resulted into the death of 27 people.
A panel of inquiry set up by Governor Emmanuel Udom to investigate the causes of the church building collapse had reported that the incident was due to unprofessionalism and negligence.
The panel also reported that Weeks did not get appropriate approval from the state authorities before beginning the construction, and that he had exerted “undue interference” over the contractors handling the building.
“His (Mr Week) adamant posture of unbridled impunity as the Founder/General Overseer of Reigners Bible Church led to the unfortunate incident of 10 December, 2016,” read the panel’s report, which was signed by its Chairman, Umoekoyo Essang, a retired judge.
But having kept the report of the panel under wraps for more than one year, the Udom-led administration issued a statement saying neither Weeks nor the Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA) was to blame for the fatal collapse.
“Facts available indicate that Apostle (Dr.) Akan Weeks relied on the professionals he engaged. It is the obligation of the professionals to execute due care and skill in the discharge of their duties or resign where they are not allowed to do so,” the government said.
Ironically, the state government accepted the commission’s recommendation that Effiong Akpan, Head of Planning at the UCCDA, should be punished by the agency. Also, two other individuals involved in the building construction were recommended for prosecution.
However, Inibehe Effiong, a human rights lawyer from the state, accused Udom of deliberately shielding Weeks because of his friendship with him.
“Udom Emmanuel is a friend of Akan Weeks’ and was physically present during the consecration event when the building collapsed,” Effiong said in a statement.
“We should remember that the Governor himself rode to power on the blood of innocent Akwa Ibom people and does not have respect for human life. This explains why the government has fraudulently exonerated the principal culprit of the building collapse, Akan Weeks.
“Since the government has rejected the findings and recommendations relating to Akan Weeks and the UCCDA, why should any other person be prosecuted? If Akan Weeks, the principal culprit, is not liable despite being indicted by the Commission of Inquiry, why should any other person be held liable?”
The church building collapsed during a service where Weeks was consecrated Bishop. The event was attended by many dignitaries, including Udom himself who narrowly missed being injured in the tragedy