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Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom
Emmanuel, narrowly escaped death on Saturday as the building of Reigners’ Bible
Church Int’l Inc, along Uyo Village Road, Uyo, the state capital, collapsed
during service.

The incident left about 200
worshippers dead. Sources said it took the efforts of the governor’s security
officers to whisk him away to safety. He was said to have sustained a minor
injury.

URBAN EXPRESS NEWS learnt that the
governor was in the church attending the ordination of the church’s Presiding
Pastor, Bishop Elect Akan Weeks, when the building gave way few minutes before
offering period.

One of the aides, who rescued the
governor, was said to have died at a nearby hospital where he was rushed to.

A security officer, who did not
want to be named, said many dignitaries who accompanied the governor to the
church also died.

Our correspondent gathered that the
Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Etekamba Umoren, also shattered his head
in the incident. He was said to have been taken to an undisclosed hospital in
the state.

URBAN EXPRESS NEWS learnt that the
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Ekerette Udoh, also sustained serious
injury.

It was gathered that construction
works on a section where the ordination held were rushed because of Saturday’s
event. The church has an estimated 10,000-seater capacity. Two cranes belonging
to construction giant, Julius Berger, were used to clear the debris.

A clash was averted between the
police and some residents as the latter tried to calm frayed nerves.

The state Commissioner for Works,
Ephraim Inyang, refused to speak with journalists when he was approached. He ordered
them to leave the place.

Mrs. Yenime Ekpo, who is a mother
to one of the victims, Tony Brown, 46 with six children, said they were
worshiping in the church when the building collapsed.

She stated that Brown was trapped
in the rubble for many hours along with others before she was rescued.

Saying she was unsure of her son’s
survival, Ekpo noted that they were not members of the church but only went to
witness the ordination.

Also, a student of the University
of Uyo, Department of Communication Arts, Uduak Effiong, said she lost three of
her course mates to the incident.

She stated that when the building
collapsed, a pillar fell upon a woman and tore her body.

She said, “I saw over 100 dead
bodies. These were the ones close to me. From my estimation, more than 300
people might have died as people came from other churches in all parts of the
state, including government-sponsored praised singers with uniforms to attend
the programme. For some of us that escaped, we only did by the special grace of
God.”

Another student of the University
of Uyo, who pleaded to remain anonymous, told our  reporter that one of her friends, Blessing Linus,
was trapped in the debris.

It was learnt that the iron used in
holding the roofing sheet was twice heavier than the block used for the
building. Security operatives cordoned the area and denied journalists access.

Some members of the church seized
the identity card of our correspondent and his computer tablet, saying he was a
traitor as he tried to take pictures.

The state Commissioner of Police,
Mr. Murtala Mani, who said he could not ascertain the number of those dead or
those trapped in the building, expressed sadness over the development.

He said, ‘‘I am sorry about the
entire situation.’’

The Chief Medical Director of the
University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, Prof. Etete Peters, said of the 50 cases
treated in the treatment, only one person died.

He said about 200 persons were
brought to the hospital dead, adding that the hospital had never prepared for
such an emergency.

He said, “We only lost one person
in the hospital except those that were brought dead. In circumstances like
this, we have been overwhelmed. We need help from government.

“Many victims are in private
hospitals and mortuaries scattered all over Uyo metropolis; we can’t really
tell how many people have died so far. We have over 200 persons in the
mortuaries. We do not have space as people are still being brought in.’’

“We have done our best to revive
some victims. Right now, we have over 50 cases we are attending to. This is the
first time we are witnessing such an incident.’’

A statement by the Chief Press
Secretary also noted that persons found to have compromised professional
standards in the construction of the building would be sanctioned.

It added, ‘‘His Excellency, the
Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, was present at the church
service during the incident and thereafter personally supervised rescue
operations and evacuation of the injured to the hospital. The state government
will undertake the medical treatment of the victims.’’

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu
Buhari on Saturday congratulated Emmanuel, and his family on their lucky escape
from the collapse of the building of the Reigners Bible Church, Uyo.

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