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A’Ibom church tragedy: I’ll never set my foot in that



Four months after a panel of inquiry was instituted to probe the remote and immediate causes of the collapse of Uyo-based Reigners Bible Church and issued a report on how to avoid a recurrence, it is yet to publish its findings. This is eliciting insinuations from some concerned church members and members of the public, that the victims have been abandoned. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA and NSIKAK EKANEM report

The scriptural saying: “Count it all joy when you fall into diverse trials,” is not a scripture for Uyobased petty businesswoman, Iniem Akpan, a chorister at the Reigners Bible Church, Uyo, after she cheated death when the church’s scaffolding roof collapsed, killing a number of worshipers and injuring several others.

Akpan, who witnessed the catastrophe first hand, said she will never step her foot into the church again, after God preserved her life in the December 10, 2016 incident where the state governor, Emmanuel Udom was lucky to escape unscathed although many of his aides were injured.

The incident occurred during the Bishopric consecration of the founder and leader of the Reigners Bible Church, Bishop Akan Weeks.

Akpan, who is a student of the University of Uyo, vowed never to go back to the church as her survival is for a purpose.

“I give God the glory and adoration that I was not a victim. Many of the worshipers who lost their lives have been forgotten since the panel of inquiry set up to probe the tragedy, despite given a deadline of three weeks, is yet to publish its report, four months after the incident.

The survivor confessed that she is scared of being attacked by unknown persons, and as such, she wouldn’t want to talk much on the incident.

She disclosed that a majority of the dead were members of the choir as they were seated at the position where the main scaffolding joint came down.

“We lost more choristers than the number made public by the police because the scaffolding crashed directly on my members. I will never set my foot in that church again.

My survival was a miracle that still baffles me till date,” she said. She told Sunday Telegraph: “As an eye witness, I can confirm to you that over 100 worshipers died.”

Pa Israel Johnson, a retired civil servant, said he has been with Bishop Weeks as a friend and non-member of the church right from his youthful days.

He noted that, the man of God had his own share of blame over the collapsed church building, but certainly not as bad as it was portrayed by the authorities.

Meanwhile, during Sunday Telegraph’s visit to the church, which had long shifted its venue of worship to the Uyo Local Government Secretariat, it was noticed that the number of worshipers had reduced.

Aduk Effiong, another chorister who sustained injuries in the incident, attributed the reduced number of members to the sad event, dismissing, as lies and insinuation in certain quarters, that many of the choristers were killed in the incident.

Aduk, who is in her early 20s, said some of those who worked on the church’s construction site, including members of the church, lied against Bishop Weeks during their appearance at the panel of inquiry in order to shift the attention of the Commission and the public from their culpability. She urged the public to shun the lies against the Man of God.

It can be recall that the Reigners Bible Church, located along Uyo Village Road, was filled to capacity last December for the consecration of Pastor Akan Week as a bishop, when the church building caved in.

On that Saturday, the octagon-shaped church auditorium, sized about 5,143.190 square metres on a land measuring 14, 792.177 square metres, collapsed while consecration of Bishop Weeks was ongoing. Several persons were reported dead, while hundreds sustained various degrees of injuries.

Figures given by the police in the media were staggering. But for the records, the government has since listed that only 26 lives were lost in the incident.

Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the Akwa Ibom State governor, who escaped death by the whisker instantly beat the resultant trauma to join hands with other members of the rescue team to supervise the rescue operation.

Sequel to this, an eight-man commission of inquiry headed by retired Justice Umoekeyo Essang with Mrs. Emem Daniel, a lawyer in the state Ministry of Justice as secretary, was inaugurated by the governor on December 15, 2016.

The panel also had three engineers – Messrs James Utiaruk, Asuquo Okon and James Amiang and an architect, Otu Umoren and Assistant Commissioner of Police, Damian Abibo, and John Linus, a prophet as members.

The six-point terms of reference handed the panel borders on the investigation of the causes of the incident, making recommendations on those found culpable and advising on measures to stop a re-occurrence.

The Nigeria Police had immediately initiated an investigation into the collapse structure.

Seven persons, including Bishop Weeks, involved in handling various aspects of the construction of the collapsed structure were invited to the state Police Command headquarters at Ikot Akpan Abia for questioning.

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Edo petitions police over missing bags of rice



Edo State government yesterday petitioned the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Babatunde Kokumo, over comments credited to the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih. Orbih had raised the alarm that some bags of rice meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were diverted by government.

But the state government in a petition signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie and made available to newsmen in Benin, said Orbih, during a radio interview, ‘falsely and maliciously stated that the Edo State government wasinvolvedinacriminalconspiracy to divert 4,721 bags of rice released by the Federal Government for distribution to IDPs in the state.’

Also, the state government yesterday defended itself over how the contentious bags of rice and other items allocated to the state by the Federal Government through the Nigeria Customs Service (NIS) were distributed. The state government through the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, had released the roster showing how the relief materials approved by the Federal Government for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state, were distributed.

Ogie in the petition to the police dated February 22 said Orbih had claimed that 300 bags of rice were diverted to a certain senator in Ondo State. According to the SSG in the petition, “It is instructive to note that in making these allegations to the general public, Orbih claimed that he had facts and records to back up these criminal allegations.”

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How to check cancer in children, by Nwobi



That one’s child is sick is worrisome enough, but that the child has cancer is dreadful news no parent ever wished to hear. In an interview with Dr. Nneka Nwobi, founder of Children Living with Cancer Foundation, she said that the best way to avoid the dreadful news is for parents to be alert and do regular check up for their children. Oluwatosin Omoniyi writes


What is the progress made so far on Children living with cancer?
We are in a better place than last year. We are in a better place in the sense that things are looking up. Nigeria is out of “recession” and we are hoping that corporate bodies, individuals would continue to help in getting us the medicines and facilities we need. The test we need and equipments we need to get better chances of cure for these children
Last year was horrible. People did not donate. Just very few people donated and we have an anonymous donor.

I don’t know who the person is but the person is always giving us money. After every two weeks, he or she drops money into our account. I don’t know who the person is but I’m most grateful because those monies come in at very crucial periods.

We owed the pharmacy that supplies us drugs last year. At least we were able to clear off that debt. Things are looking up and we are hoping that as the year goes on we will have better response from the public, from corporate bodies, individuals and religious bodies.

What really could be the factors responsible for cancer in children?
Unfortunately, it is not as well known as adult cancer. For adult cancer, they will say lifestyle -related but it is not lifestyle related in children. The youngest I have heard about was nine weeks old. The baby had muscle cancer.
When you see a child like that, you start wondering what type of life style would a nine week old baby have apart from being on breast milk but then you think about how does a child get formed. It is from the ova and the sperm of the parents. Therefore, if there is a genetic manipulation or if the genes making the ova and sperm are distorted, the child can come down with it during the formation.

Because you know, these ova and sperm would make the cells organs in the child. So, If there’s anything wrong with the sperm and the ovum, definitely the child may be affected but then again, there is a correlation with some ailments such as down syndrome and leukemia. A child that was conceived in a place where there is nuclear reaction like the Hiroshima nuclear explosion, people living under high-tension wire, it is postulated that such people may come down with a cancer.

High-tension wires emit rays and those rays can cause a distortion in the genes. Like any other radiation, it emits rays constantly, even when women go for mammogram and stuffs like that there are precautions to be taken because the rays are not our best friends

Would you say that the lifestyle of the parent possibly contribute to the cancer status of their children?
I will not say lifestyle. Well, lifestyle in a way because what they are trying to make us believe is that all refined things we consume have to do with our health in one way or the other. Refined things like sugar are called killer. They are still working on that to know the relationship between refined sugar and cancer.

What I know is that we do not allow children on treatment to take much processed food especially those white sugar. Also refined foods such as poundo yam have chemicals that are used to preserve them and these chemicals have their effects on the body.

For you to keep juice for more than two days, it would ferment and to prevent that fermentation, you must preserve it one way or the other, what effect does that preservation have on you, that you know? It’s about discipline and mindset.

What are the precautionary methods parents need to take?
Know your child; know what is normal so that when there is anything out of the norm you can track it fast. Go for necessary checks during the baby period, the preschool check such as 1-year and the 5-year check. I was in a school and I asked the children if they have had X-ray’s done and none of them had done that. In most public schools, we usually have an entry medicine check and we do that at intervals but we have deviated so much from the norm.

Normally, while you are in school, you should have checks and when you are through with a session, there should be another check before you enter the next class and in between, they should be checked because if that is done, there is a possibility of knowing whatever is wrong with them on time.

Knowing your children health status is key. We had a parent who didn’t know that her child had a lump in the abdomen. It was a tailor who felt the lump, and for a tailor to feel that, it meant it was a big one.
As parents, you wake up very early and you leave the house, by the time you come back, the child is already sleeping, You don’t know what’s wrong with the child. No time spent with them to know what is wrong with them. I will advise parents to ask their children questions habitually.
Abroad, a test is conducted, pre-natal diagnosis to know if a child is predisposed to have cancer but we do not do it here. We do not even do the basic ones. The cancer tests help us discover quickly certain markers of cancer. If a child has those markers, it means the child would be followed up. It doesn’t mean that the child has cancer, it just means that there is a possibility of having cancer. All these things are things to keep in mind.

What is the survival chance for children living with cancer?
Abroad, we have 80-90 per cent of survival, cure rates. Here in Nigeria we have less than 20 per cent. It is very dismal. A while ago, we were

looking at 25 per cent cure rates by 2025 but white men are already making us feel that we cannot achieve it. We have to take care of ourselves, for instance chemotherapy drug is not produced in Nigeria and whenever we want to use it, we get it abroad which is more costly.
For example in India, when they had the right to produce the drug, the cost rates dropped. A drug they were buying at $3, came down to $1. That could be because the government key into that course. Our government too should key into it, the government should encourage pharmaceutical companies to produce cancer drugs in Nigeria. Not many people use cancer drugs, it’s not very popular, even when we are looking for it here it’s not very easy to come by. All those are things one should look at when we are talking about survival rates.

When we are talking about cancer drugs, how accessible is it for children living with cancer?
It is not cheap and we have very few companies bringing them in and of course they too have to make their profits and sometimes, not all the medicines produced in India are acceptable in our teaching hospitals and because it is cheaper people go for the Indian made chemotherapy drugs than the England made chemotherapy drugs.

What is the difference between Indian-made- chemotherapy and US or Britain-made chemotherapy drugs?
Sometimes some doctors just prefer the England-made ones above the Indian-made drugs. It is a thing of mentality. Some of the Indian made chemotherapy drugs may not enhance healing the way you want it to. Some of the doctors ask specifically for British made drugs and we go for that.

Would you say that childhood cancer is on the increase in Nigeria ?
I want to believe that there is more awareness for now. More people are bringing in their children and more children are dying from cancer. They are now coming out because when we started, we used to have families hide their children. We used to have families send the children to the village. One of the parents we had, the child was 14-years old, had a large, massive tumor, they sent the child to the maternal grandmother place, the child stayed there until the woman died. The mother of the child went home to bury her own mother brought back the child to Lagos and the father refused to have that child in his house. Even when the boy needed blood, he refused to let the boy’s siblings donate blood to the boy.

At a point, the tumor was so much that the boy could not eat. He had a muscle tumor so it was compressing his airways, the esophagus, so he had to eat through tubes and of course there was no way that child was going to survive for long but you see that brokenness in him. Knowing that your father has rejected you is something that no child should go through, even when the child does not belong to the man.
We’ve had some crazy family set-ups that one father asked us to pay for the DNA test because he was not sure that the child was his.

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Attack: My men acted in self-defence, says NSCDC Commandant



Bayelsa State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), yesterday said its officials deployed to protect oil facilities in Ikarama community shot in self-defence when attacked by community youths. NSCDC Commandant in the state, Godwin Nwachukwu, said the operation was within the rules of engagement of the corps. He added that the command had acted in response to reports of increased sabotage of oil facilities and deployed men to arrest suspects behind the vandalism.

He said members of the community had ambushed men of the NSCDC, who were on their legitimate duties at the oilfields. “My men acted in selfdefence, and it is our mandate to protect oil facilities, they were attacked and the metal bridge that serves as exit was demobilised to trap my men.

“In an effort to escape, my men fired some shots in the air to scare them away, no one was shot,” he declared. Reacting to reports that NSCDC operatives allegedly shot a neighbourhood watch member in Ikarama, Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa, Nwachukwu said the command arrested and questioned a woman who was with a suspect. “My men went to arrest a suspect who escaped, so they arrested the woman who was with him, we interrogated her and released her,” he said It will be recalled that the incident occurred in the early hours of Tuesday.

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