Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has constituted a panel of inquiry to determine the cause of the collapse of the Okpanam Road branch of the Salvation Ministries in Asaba as the state police command said three persons, two female children and a woman, died in the incident, which occurred on Tuesday.
Okowa, in a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Patrick Ukah, on Wednesday said he received the news of the collapse “with shock and sadness.”
According to the statement, the government has also suspended the processing and/or approval of building plans for the Core Area II until the panel of inquiry concludes its work.
The panel has Dr Helen Anazia as the chairperson and S. A. Aghagba, Director, Ministry of Works; Rex Orhe, Deputy Director, Ministry of Works; Orerhime Iduseri, Ministry of Housing; Isichei Ekene, Ministry of Housing; and Moses Agwere, Assistant Director, Ministry of Justice, as members.
The Assistant Director, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Igho Eduvie, will serve as secretary to the panel, which has two weeks to submit its report.
The panel has among its terms of reference to inquire into and report on events surrounding the collapse of the building, including the number and identity of the deceased and the injured; the immediate and remote causes of the collapse; the scope and adequacy of current legislation, regulations, policies and processes concerning the safety of buildings for public use, and whether such legislation, regulations, policies and processes were complied with in the case of the affected building; and identify any person or institution culpable in that regard; as well as the scope and adequacy of current legislation, regulations, policies and processes concerning emergency management response to the collapse of the building.
The panel is to also make recommendations on measures necessary or desirable to prevent or minimise the collapse of buildings in the state.
The state police command had earlier in a statement by the spokesman, DSP Bright Edafe, confirmed the death of three persons, two female children and a woman, in the tragedy.
The police statement read in part, “Rescue operation is over; 18 persons were rescued initially; four persons were discharged and 11 persons are still receiving treatment; three deaths were recorded – two female children and one woman – their names unknown for now. Kindly debunk the rumour making rounds that 10 persons died.”
Meanwhile, the Okpanam community is in mourning following the collapse of the building housing the church and other offices.
Eyewitnesses said the building collapsed around 5.55pm during Tuesday’s evening service.
It was gathered that the building was originally owned by a businessman, who sold it to another businessman.
It was learnt that following the ownership transfer, the occupants of the building were asked to leave as the new owner embarked on renovation of the structure.
However, the Salvation Ministry could not move as it had over two years’ rent paid to the former owner, but the new owner reportedly continued with the renovation work.
The contractor in charge of the renovation was busy supervising workers and over 150 worshippers were waiting to take Holy Communion when the building collapsed.
The site engineer was said to have taken to his heels when the incident happened and left his car behind.