Akwa Ibom: I Secured Approval to Build Collapsed Church, Says Founder
Founder of the Reigners Bible Church, Apostle Akan Weeks, on Monday, told the Justice Essang Commission of Inquiry investigating the collapse of the church in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State Capital on December 10, 2016, that he got approval from the Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA) to build his church.
Weeks dismissed claims dismissed the claim by the Uyo Capital City Development Authority (UCCDA) that he didn’t apply and secured approval for the building of the church.
Apostle Weeks made the clarification while testifying before the commission of inquiry set up by the state government to probe into the collapse of the church were scores of people died and many other wounded
The cleric, who was also injured when the church building collapsed, said he duly applied to the UCCDA attaching the necessary documents like the survey plan, structural design and other things with the sum of N300, 000 cash paid as was demanded by the agency for the application to be processed.
“It was after I filled the form at UCCDA office, submitted the necessary documents for the construction and building of the property called, ‘the Reingers Bible Church’, I was told to pay the sum of N300,000 as approval fee. One of the agents of UCCDA Etido Ekerete Udo follow me to my office any I paid cash”, he said.
He said it was after the building had collapsed that a staff of the agency called him while he (Weeks) was on hospital bed but he could not speak as the wife picked the call.
“To be very honest, I am a man of God. I don’t believe in lies. We applied. That was in 2014. I applied with all the documents required. We applied through writing and there were other documents which I gave to them like the survey plan; structural design and so on.
“They also demanded for money (N300, 000) which I gave to them in my office. One Etido Udoh collected the money. No receipt was given to me at that instance but I was surprised after the December 10 incident while I was still in the hospital I had a call and somebody said he was from UCCDA (one Edito Udoh).
“He asked if he could speak with me when my wife picked the call. He insisted to see me and I told him I was not in town. He said he wanted to give me my church documents. I told him to reach my counsel. They returned my building document and the N300, 000 through one Mrs Ima David, a lawyer to my lawyer Ini Ekpo on January 4, 2017 at the premises of the court.
Apostle Weeks who said works on the church project started in early 2015 added that the collapsed building was still under construction when the incident happenened..
After acquisition of the site, he said actual construction work did not start because of the terrain which needed time for the land after the sand filling to be properly compacted, adding that construction work stated when the architect inspected and gave go ahead for the project.
He said the church used best brains and professionals in the industry including the state chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Architect, Abimbola Oke and Engineer Uwem Okoko of Hensek Construction Engineering as well as best materials in the market as recommended by the builders to erect the church.
He said to the best of his knowledge he was satisfied with the work of all the professionals engaged in the building of the church explaining that he bought the land from the original owner and power of attorney obtained.
Apostle Weeks rejected the position of the UCCDA that the church building had been marked for demolition five different times. “They (UCCDA) did not mark the building for demolition. Officials of UCCDA never came to mark ‘X’ to the church building. I never authorized anybody to remove the central pillar. I am not competent to do so because I am a layman.”
He disclosed that the church committee awarded contract for the roofing of the collapsed church building at N26million to one Mr Idoreyin Daniel of White Steel Integrated Services after several experts had bided for the job..
“When we got to the roofing stage, we made it open to the public. Some professionals came and tendered their quotations and we settled for Idonreyin White of White Steel Integrated Services. Quotations were also from Golden Wield Steel Company; Kemison Construction Services; Danny Steel Enterprises and Idem Dan Company. Idem Dan Company is also owned by White Steel Integrated Services Company.”
However, counsel to UCCDA, Mr. Friday Etim in cross examining Apostle Weeks said the land in which the church building was erected had been declared as ‘forest reserve area’ by the state government through a newspaper report of Weekend Pioneer of October 20, 2000.
But Weeks said: “If had known the content of the letter, I wouldn’t have bought the land.”Recalling that after the purchase of the land he went to the village to make inquiry on the land was there was nothing negative.