Yesterday, Akwa Ibom State Government stunned the people of the state with a press release issued by its Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Charles Udoh, titled: “IMPLEMENTATION OF REPORT ON REIGNERS CHURCH BUILDING COLLAPSE.”
The release dated: ‘February 21, 2018,’stated that; “After a detailed review of the Commission’s report, the Governor has set-in-motion necessary machinery to implement the recommendations of the report. The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice has been mandated to commence the process of taking appropriate actions against all persons found culpable in the church building collapse. All cases of proven professional negligence will be dealt with decisively within the ambit of the law. Similarly, all verified outstanding bills for treatment of victims in the various hospitals in Uyo have been fully paid up by the State Government,” the statement read in part.
Retrospectively, Governor Udom Emmanuel had while inaugurating the Panel in Uyo, on Thursday, December 15, 2016, said that the Panel would be referred to as Commission of Inquiry (Collapsed Church Building) 2016. He explained that his power to constitute the Commission was derived from Section 2 of the Commission of Inquiry Law, Cap. 33 of Akwa Ibom State 2000. He further added that the Commission would be cited as the Commission of Inquiry (Collapsed Church Building) Instrument, 2016 that had come into effect from December14, 2016.
In my opinion, it means, therefore, the Panel was established under an Instrument of the Laws of Akwa Ibom state. Thus and ideally too, government should have, first of all, gazetted the Report and issue a White Paper on it (rather than a PRESS RELEASE) to the public, before ‘mandating’ the Commissioner for Justice to take actions.
There is, a perceived deliberate act of procedural error in the way government is handling this Reigners Probe Panel’s Report. And this, has given a very wrong public impression about the government. Why would the details contained therein, in this Report be kept away from the public? What else is injustice to the victims of this unfortunate incident in Akwa Ibom, than this lackadaisical act of the state?
It suffices to say, that it is ridiculous and makes mockery of the situation, government press release, claiming to have fully paid “all verified outstanding bills for treatment of victims in various hospitals in Uyo.” If this is not a charade, and illusory, then government would have known that by now, every Akwa Ibom person, indeed, deserves to know, for instance; the names of these hospitals? How many victims were treated? How many victims survived? And how many died, as maybe contained in the Probe Report?
Moving forward, if it took government more than seven months to issue just a mere press release on the Probe Panel Report of such a tragic incident, submitted to it on July 5, 2017, by the retired Justice Umoekoyo Esang – Panel of Inquiry; then I resign my fate to God, as it is doubtful that the state will ever muster the political will to carry out its ‘threat’ of prosecuting anyone found culpable of the Reigners building collapse incident.
I conclude by averring that it is sad and most unfortunate that our government has only succeeded to re-awaken our gloomy memories on the tragedy with her well-fashioned Press Release in February, 2018.
• Franklyn Isong is a public affairs commentator