INIBEHE Effiong, counsel for a welder, Mr. Idorenyin Udo, has petitioned the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Murtala Mani, to unconditionally release his client, who has been held for more than 18 days in police custody.
Udo is the managing director of White Steel Integrated Services, which provided roofing services for Reigners’ Bible Church, Uyo.
The uncompleted church building had on December 10, 2016, collapsed during ordination ceremony of its founder and General Overseer, Apostle Akan Weeks, as bishop.
The disastrous and unfortunate event was said to have resulted in the loss of lives and injuries to many attendees and guests who were adversely affected by the collapsed structure.
Speaking with Southern City News on Sunday in Uyo, Effiong said his client, was hired by Weeks to construct the steel roof/truss of the church.
He said his client did it diligently and in strict compliance with the specifications laid down in the structural design and in accordance with global best practices.
Effiong stated that the contractual relationship between Udoh and Weeks for the construction of steel roof/truss of the church was contained in the agreement dated August 29, 2016, adding that the contract provided 10 weeks for the completion of the church’s roofing.
According to him, due to Weeks’ failure to satisfy his financial obligations under the agreement and delays in the other components of the construction, Udoh could not meet up with the agreed timeline for the project.
“Owing to the overwhelming pressure mounted by Weeks, who was emphatic that not only must the uncompleted building be used for the bishopric consecration, the building must also be conducive for his invited guests, especially the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the construction work at the site was hurriedly done both day and night.
“Third, it was Weeks who personally ordered the removal of the main scaffold that supported the drum at the centre of the building less than 24 hours before his abortive consecration. That action ostensibly contributed greatly to the collapse of the building.
“Our client did not only refuse to remove the scaffold as ordered, he drew the attention of the site engineer and one other person to the directive of Weeks.
“All entreaties by our client to Weeks to rescind the removal order and allow the scaffold to remain fell on deaf ears. Weeks proceeded to order another person, a certain foreman, who was also working at the site to remove the main scaffold and paid him the sum of N50, 000 for complying.
“On December 12, 2016, our client voluntarily submitted himself to the State Criminal Investigation Department, where he was asked to make a statement on his role in the church building construction.
“Our client in his statement to the police at the State CID stated inter alia: That it was Weeks who ordered and paid for the removal of the main scaffold that supported the structure.
“After his statement was recorded, our client was detained that day at the State CID where he is still being held (more than 18 days or 432 hours) in gross and inexplicable infringement of his fundamental rights, particularly his rights to dignity of human person, personal liberty and fair hearing guaranteed by Sections 34, 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), respectively,” he said.
He explained that his client, who had been trained at Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron and Slawd Peters, Etinan, both in Akwa Ibom State, had successfully executed many prominent roofing contracts without any unpalatable incidents being recorded.
He said that the most painful part of the matter was that the prime suspect, the person whose illegal, reckless and desperate decisions, acts and omissions crystallised and contributed greatly to the disastrous incident of December 10, 2016; one that ignored several ‘stop work’ notices placed by the Uyo Capital City Development Authority on the church, Weeks is walking freely, protected by the men of the Nigeria Police Force, funded with tax payers’ money.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Cordelia Nwawe, said the matter is with the Commission of Inquiry, even as she asked our correspondent to speak with the Attorney-General of the state, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, who is the chairman of the commission.
Nwoko, on his part, advised the solicitors to go to the police station where their client was detained for his release.
“I know that the police is equally entitled to investigate the matter, but there is a Commission of Inquiry; let him go to the police station where he is being detained tomorrow (January 2, 2017).
“But as tomorrow is a public holiday, if they cannot get him out, let me know about it on Wednesday,” he said.
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