Nigerian Church Collapsed Killing 160 Due to 'Structural Faults,' Regulators Say

People are seen behind the fence of the collapsed Reigners Bible Church in Uyo, Nigeria Dec. 11, 2016.
People are seen behind the fence of the collapsed Reigners Bible Church in Uyo, Nigeria Dec. 11, 2016. | (Photo: REUTERS)

The evangelical church in Nigeria which collapsed last week killing at least 160 people had several structural faults and was constructed without any building permit, according to the regulators.

Regulators also say that the authorities ordered construction of the Reigners Bible Church International in Uyo to stop on several occasions but were ignored, BBC reported, adding that engineers involved in the building have been asked to turn themselves in to police.

The roof of the church caved in on the congregation during the ordination of a bishop last Sunday. The members and invitees were reportedly in the throes of worship when the tragedy struck.

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State Governor Udom Emmanuel was also inside the church at the time, but survived.

The church's General Overseer, the Rev. Akan Weeks, told Nigeria's Guardian newspaper that the people and his members should not blame him. "Please, this is not the time to crucify me, I'm still your brother. Reigners Church family, I'm still your Pastor. The enthronement was cancelled completely and I am no more interested. Please, let us rise and pray. I really sympathize with the departed souls. Once I am out of my hospital bed, I will come on air and we will pray together. I was also seriously injured. One of my legs was seriously damaged."

Usire Akpan, a reporter and witness, was quoted as saying, "I saw death, but God saved me. Immediately we entered the church with the governor and my other colleagues, I jokingly told them the structure of the church was bad and it could collapse. It was not up to two minutes that it happened. That is why some of them are calling me prophet."

It "was about 11 am and 30 minutes into the programme. Suddenly, the roof from the middle fell on worshippers. The governor was quickly rescued. But others were not that lucky," another survivor was quoted as as saying.

"I was inside the church. Everything was normal; there was no problem. A lady was called to lead the praise worship session; the governor came in shortly after that. As the praise worship was going on, the building fell and I didn't know how I got here," Eno Etim, also a survivor, told Punch.

Etim, who was speaking from a local hospital, said she had no idea how she got there but remembers an iron bar hitting her in the back during the collapse before she passed out.

President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his condolences "over the many deaths and injury recorded following the incident," presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

Collapsing of buildings is not uncommon in Nigeria. In September 2014, at least 116 people, including 84 South Africans, were killed in Lagos in the collapse of a church belonging to televangelist T.B. Joshua.

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