Akwa Ibom Church Tragedy: State Government Releases Architect
The Commission of Inquiry set up by the Government of Akwa Ibom State to unravel the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the Reigners’ Bible Church building along Uyo Village Road in Uyo on December 10 has ordered the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Murtala Mani, to release the architect, Mr. Anietie Augustine, from custody.
The Chairman of the Commission, Justice Umoekoyo Essang (retd), having listened to Mr. Ini Ekpo, counsel to founder of the Reigners’ Bible Church, Apostle Akan Weeks, adjourned hearing on the matter to Friday, January 6.
Ekpo said that all the relevant documents, like architectural design, building plan, and the survey plan, were with Augustine who has been held in the police custody. He noted that except Augustine was released to give evidence, the case would not be smooth sailing.
He added that they had done everything within their power to secure Augustine’s release from the police detention but without the police cooperating.
Counsel to Augustine, Mr. Ekanem Ekanem, said the action for his client’s release has been long overdue. He added that they had tried their best since December 10, 2016 when Augustine was detained, but the police had always proved stubborn and adamant.
He explained that Augustine release will bring to light many things that were not open, things that were hidden. He noted that his client was being detained “for being the one to design the structure” although he knew that his client did not design any of the aspects of the collapsed church building.
According to him, he just heard the issue was going to be discussed on Tuesday and he came, and fortunately his client was asked to be released.
He added that for the purpose of testifying before the commission, it does not matter, for whatever purpose, so long as his client release has been ordered, he is grateful.
Ekanem said when they went to the police, they were told that those in custody were there on the instruction of the state government, that they did not have the power to release them.
He added that the next time they went to the police, they were told that the people were held on the order of the owner of the church, unless the church’s owner asked them (the police) to release the people before they could do so.
He said, “He (Augustine) merely volunteered to carry out the design which was already made by people that he has named; somebody designed the roof, somebody designed the structure, so he merely came to supervise what was already planned, drawn and designed.
“I met him on two occasions while in detention and he gave me what I’m just telling you now. I asked him what was his roles; he said nothing, that he merely volunteered as he worships in that church to check the work. He told me that he only joined the workforce as a professed member and worshipper of that church.
“Why do we now leave the people who designed the building and mapped out everything to now concentrate on the people that merely assisted? It is like leaving the substance to pursue the shadow.”