An aide to Udom Emmanuel lost his life in the process of saving the Akwa Ibom governor from the collapsed church building in Uyo, PREMIUM TIMES has gathered.
At least 27 persons lost their lives, while others sustained injuries when the roof and the iron beams in the building housing Reigners Bible Church, Uyo, collapsed on Saturday during a church ceremony.
The church pastor, Akan Weeks, was to be ‘enthroned’ as a bishop in the ill-fated ceremony.
Ubong Mboho, an evangelist, who was inside the collapsed building told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday, that he witnessed the governor’s aide sacrifice his life to save the governor.
“He (the governor’s aide) was standing close to the governor. I saw him push the governor away from danger when the building started falling,” said Mr. Mboho whose father, Elijah Mboho, an influential arch bishop in Akwa Ibom, was scheduled to perform the ‘enthronement’.
Unfortunately, the governor’s aide, whom PREMIUM TIMES later identified as Ernest Idem, couldn’t get out alive; he was hit by the iron beams and he died instantly, Mr. Mboho said.
Two other persons who spoke separately with PREMIUM TIMES corroborated Mr. Mboho’s story on how Mr. Idem died.
The late Mr. Idem, from Ibesikpo-Asutan Local Government Area, was said to have worked with the Zenith Bank before he joined the protocol unit of the state government when Mr. Emmanuel became the governor.
Mr. Mboho said he was making effort to save his own father – the archbishop – when the incident occurred.
He said the archbishop and his wife were unhurt, but that some persons within his entourage sustained injuries.
The 40 years old Mr. Mboho pulled off his shirt and got involved in the rescue operation as soon as his father was taken away to a safe location, within the church premises.
“My focus was how I could save those who were still alive,” he said.
One of the persons Mr. Mboho said he helped rescue was Emmanuel Ekpenyong, the Chief Whip of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly.
“The iron pillar had fallen on his leg. I had to rush to our bus for hydraulic jack which I used in lifting the iron (beam) before we could pull his leg out.
“He was in great pains and was screaming ‘My leg! My leg! My leg!’ while we were making effort to rescue him,” said Mr. Mboho.
Mr. Mboho, in the course of the interview with PREMIUM TIMES, refuted the information being spread on the social media that the enthronement later took place at Abak on the same day of the incident.
“That is complete falsehood. There is no way my father or any person for that matter could have gone ahead with the enthronement after such a terrible incident,” he said.
The archbishop has remained downcast because of the incident, he said.
“He has been talking to God since yesterday, asking what could been the cause of this calamity.
“The incident is not about Reigners Bible Church. It is not about Akan Weeks. It is about God’s kingdom.
“Please let the church and everyone come together and support the victims’ families, the church and Akwa Ibom State,” Mr. Mboho said.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police in Akwa Ibom, Murtala Mani, on Sunday confirmed that 27 persons died, while 37 were injured in the church collapse.
A source told PREMIUM TIMES that the church choirmaster and his family were among those who lost their lives.
When PREMIUM TIMES reporter visited the church, Sunday afternoon, a large crowd of people gathered outside the church perimeter fence to have a look at the collapsed building.
The church gate remained locked. Some police officers were seen inside the premises.
Cars, said to belong to those who lost their lives in the incident, were seen parked around the church premises.