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Onitsha building collapse probe: Anglican Church wants two investigating panel members to recuse selves or removed by governor for alleged prejudice

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Building under construction  before (above) and site after collapse (below).

From Chuks Moses, Awka

The Niger Diocese of the Anglican Church, owners of the collapsed Centenary Building at the Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, which crashed 12 days ago, has called on Gov Chukwuma Soludo to drop two members of the panel he set up to investigate the collapse; or they should honourably recuse themselves for alleged predicial comments.

The two members, Prof Akaolisa Ezeagu who chairs the panel and Engr. Victor Meju, a key member of the panel were said to have made prejudiced comments publicly after the collapse of the building.

In a letter to the governor last night, a team of lawyers for the church, led by Nnamdi Ibegbu, Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, expressed worry that the public and the diocese may not get a fair hearing after both men have demonstrated manifest bias and unprofessionalism on the matter.

The legal team cited the Sun Newspaper publication of June 16, 2024, under the column, Voice of the Nation- with heading “No Approval Given For The Collapsed Onitsha School Building – NBRRI” where Prof Akaolisa Ezeagu made comments and came to the conclusion publicly that there was no authorisation from any quarters before the gigantic structure was erected.

Akaolisa, according to them had also in the same publication even before the commencement of investigations attributed the collapse of the building to a poor foundation, which he claimed was as a result of disconnect between the building team and the Technical Engineer.

He also stated that “preliminary investigation points to foundation problem”.

The team further cited the Punch Newspaper of 14th June 2024 with headline “Three More Victims Rescued from Anambra Collapsed Building As Probe Begins”, where Engr. Victor Meju, a mechanical engineer, and Chairman Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria(COREN), Anambra State Chapter, stated that “the collapse could be traced to a faulty foundation and substandard materials used for construction.” He went further to state that the approval was given for a two – storey building, but that the builders decided to add more floors to it.

The lawyer, therefore, pointed out to the Governor that Prof Akaolisa and Engr. Meju, having acted unprofessionally in their comments, could not be trusted to give unbiased decision in the panel’s work.

Consequently, the lawyers pleaded with the Governor to withdraw the two persons from the panel; or in the alternative, the men be allowed to honourably recuse themselves from the panel for natural justice, equity, and fairness to prevail.

They, however, commended the Governor for setting up the panel to investigate the immediate and remote causes of building collapses in parts of the state.

The diocese,  according to the legal team, believes  that the initiative by the governor will help ensure utmost professionalism in the construction sector in the state.

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