Akwa Ibom church tragedy: Commission of Inquiry orders release of architect
The commission of inquiry set up by the Akwa Ibom State government 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 (rtd), 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 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 police detention to no avail. 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’s release would bring to light many things that were not in the open, adding 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.
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 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 told me what I’m just telling you now. I asked him what was his roles; he said nothing, that he merely volunteered as he worshipped in that church to check the work. He told me that he only joined the workforce as a professed member and worshipper of the church.
“Why do we now leave the people, who designed the building and mapped out everything to concentrate on the people that merely assisted? It is like leaving the substance to pursue shadows.”