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Contractor Sought in Nigeria Church Collapse

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

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Dozens of worshippers were killed Saturday (Dec. 10) when a church in Nigeria collapsed during a large ceremony, and local officials quickly ordered the arrest of the contractor who had recently built the sanctuary.

Death toll numbers varied greatly as of Monday afternoon (Dec. 12), as state officials confirmed 27 fatalities, but eyewitnesses put the count at 160 or more. The collapse took place at the Reigners Bible Church International in Uyo, Nigeria, where the church’s founder was being consecrated as a bishop.

The building was still in the final stages of construction, reports say, and some have alleged that the contractors rushed the job to be finished in time for the ceremony.

Governor Calls for Arrest

The governor of the Akwa Ibom state, Udom Emmanuel, who was present at the church when the collapse occurred, called for the arrest of the building contractor on Sunday (Dec. 11). The contractor on the job has not been identified publicly as of Monday (Dec. 12). Emmanuel is said to have supervised rescue and recovery efforts on the site after the incident occurred.

According to reports, hundreds were inside the church when metal girders collapsed and the roof, made of corrugated iron, fell in from the center. Eyewitnesses said they saw close to 100, or in some cases more than 100, bodies; journalists were reportedly discouraged by church officials from documenting the scene.

A construction worker on the scene reportedly called supervisors, who brought a crane in to help lift debris off of the victims. In at least one case, a witness recalls using a tire jack from a car to lift a piece of the building from a victim’s leg.

Previous Collapse

Construction standards in Nigeria are said to be lax, and corruption widespread. In 2014, a building in a complex owned by the Synagogue Church of All Nations, in Lagos, collapsed, killing dozens. In that case, too, government officials were reluctant to release casualty figures, but media reports estimate at least 67, and likely more than 100, were killed in that incident.

At the time, T.B. Joshua, the founder of that church, claimed a plane was circling around the church the day of the collapse, and suggested the incident was part of an attempt to have him killed. Others blamed the collapse on shoddy construction of an addition on the building, a guesthouse where foreign visitors to the complex stayed.

Investigation

A representative of Governor Emmanuel told media outlets that the government would be investigating whether building codes were violated in the construction of the Reigners Church.

The church founder, Akan Weeks, known as the “Apostle,” is reported to have survived the collapse.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Churches; Construction; Contractors; Criminal acts

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