By Ekemini Simon
The last may not have been heard over the plan by the Civil Liberties Organization in Akwa Ibom State to drag Akwa Ibom State Government to court over the non presentation of report of Reigners church mishap to the public after 12 months of the mishap.
It could be recalled that the State government had few days after the mishap on 10th December 2016 inaugurated an eight-member Commission of Enquiry to investigate the circumstances that led to the collapse of the Reigners Bible Church building with a task to recommend appropriate sanctions and or actions against all persons found culpable in the said church building collapse.
A year has however elapsed with no report presented by the State Government after the Commission had in July presented its report to the State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel.
Reacting to the effect of the delay, the Chairman of the Civil Liberty Organization in the State, Barr Clifford Thomas said the non-presentation of the report by the State Government after one year anniversary of the mishap has not only left more to be desired but was also suspicious and hampered justice to be dispensed to the victims.
He stated “there has been a lot of cover up and the people are uncomfortable with it since the people who died had the right to live”.
He noted that to pursue justice, the Human Rights Organization was poised on approaching the Law court for the State Government to yield to the wishes of the people by presenting the report and not white paper. He said justice will only be obtained when the report is presented and not through State government White paper.
He said “We will have to approach the court by way of Freedom of Information for government to release not the white paper but the Commission to be mandated to make the report public “.
Commenting over the current conditions of the victims of the mishap, Thomas who was also the Counsel that represented the victims of the Reigners Bible church Mishap at the Commission of Enquiry, noted that the victims have been abandoned and forgotten. He pointed out that the State Government have not shown interest in them.
He added “After the mishap, a lot of them died. The victims should have been given proper census. Few days after, several persons died. During the days the Commission were sitting, more persons died. Those with minor injuries got healed while those with major ones died and some are still suffering “.
He however commended the government’s effort to pay over N200 million naira bill for victims who were treated at Ibom Specialist hospital but queried how much that effort helped or assisted the victims.
The Chairman offered insight to the fact that there is also a concern of organ harvest of the victims, indicting the State Government to have carried out autopsy of dead victims without the deceased family members being part of the process as demanded by law.
Pointing out another issue of worry, Thomas noted that the health and economic situation of those who sustained major injuries have snowballed into a pitiable condition because they can neither pursue their means of livelihood nor have persons to foot their bills.
Contacted, the Commissioner for Information, Akwa Ibom State, Mr Charles Udoh told TheMail that the State Government is on course to present the report.
According to him, “The report is a voluminous document. His Excellency has directed that the report be reviewed and represented. We are still in that process. The Governor is not supposed to read the entire document. There must be a smaller group that have to review that”.
While speaking about government effort to the victims of the mishap, the Commissioner said that the State government has treated everyone who were victims.
He stated “I was a victim and I was treated. Everyone who reported at Ibom Specialist hospital were treated”. He however assured that when the reviewed report is out, it will be announced.
Attempt to get Commissioner for Health, Dr Dominic Ukpong to speak on concerns raised over organ harvest of dead victims proved abortive as he neither picked his calls nor returned text message sent to his phone line.