Eyo Ekong is a Pastor at the Reigners Bible Church and Rector of Dominion Word Institute, the education arm of the church in Uyo. In this interview with PAULINUS NTA, he speaks on the real cause of the 2016 church collapse, their relationship with the deceased families and why they have not returned to the church premises.
Your church premises has remained deserted after the 2016 collapse. Are you not bothered or have you abandoned the church?
We have not. In fact, we have a place at Ekom Iman Junction, along Etinan road. The church is the fastest growing church in Akwa Ibom with over a thousand congregation on Sundays. Why you have not heard much about us is that Apostle Weeks, the founder is not media savvy, he does not seek media publicity. We expand in strength and spirit, not by publicity.
Why do you prefer a new site to the old one which the church was known? Are you afraid of the spirits of the victims?
You know when the tragic incident happened, a lot of factors played out. Government functionaries were involved; it was massive and legal issues were involved. We have not been given the clearance to return. At the appropriate time, we shall return. We could not wait for the clearance, that’s why we got a temporary site to continue the mission.
Rumours making round has it that membership of the church has dropped remarkably after the collapse that consumed hundreds of lives. How true is this?
That is a wild rumour, manufactured and spread by mischief makers with evil intention. I said earlier that the Reigners Bible church is the fastest growing church in Akwa Ibom State with over a thousand congregation every Sunday. We have branches across Nigeria and in Ghana, Switzerland, South Africa and other nations of the world. Our people should learn to appreciate and encourage those whom God has blessed, than attacking and casting aspersions on them. Akan Weeks has the complete anointing of God. He hears from God; he sees and he speaks. This is why some disgruntled elements envy him.
What exactly caused the collapse?
Without any fear of contradiction. I can say authoritatively that the collapse was not an engineering fault, it was not Bishop Akan Week’s. It was not even the contractor that handled the construction.
Who caused it?
People like to chase shadows and ignore the object. Everybody wanted Akan Week’s head, nobody asked questions. Before a serving governor goes to an event like that, some people will go and inspect the place and conduct some security analysis before the arrival of His Excellency. Some people came and inspected the uncompleted structure where the event took place. Someone advised that the pillar and the scaffold that held the uncompleted iron that held the church structure be removed to create space and easy movement in the church. Akwa Ibom people did not ask those questions. Everybody shouted Akan Weeks, Akan Weeks. In my opinion, it was a xenophobic attack on an anointed prophet of God. Therefore when the vibrations from the speakers rose high, the iron roof fell on the congregation.
How does your church relate with the families of the deceased?
We are permanently in touch with the families, though it has drained us dry. We are making serious efforts to maintain calm. There would have been negative reactions if we were not in touch. It is not easy. It should not be an individual affair. We call on public spirited individuals and organisations to assist in giving succour to the relatives and children of the victims.
What has the state government done in this direction?
I am not aware because they do partner with the church. Whatever is done to the families is Bishop Akan Weeks.
How long do you expect to be in your present location?
We are about to move to our permanent site at Ifa in Etoi clan of Uyo local government. We can hardly control the crowd at Ekom Iman which, you know is already a congested area. So we expect to relocate to our permanent site soon.