The roof contractor of the Reigners Bible Church International and Managing Director of White Steel Integrated Services Limited, Mr. Idorenyin Daniel Udoh, has regained freedom after spending 23 days at the Criminal Investigation Department, Akwa Ibom State Police Headquarters.
Mr. Inibehe Effiong, a Lagos based legal practitioner and human rights activist, appeared before the Commission of Inquiry constituted by the State governor to probe the immediate and remote causes of the collapsed Church building in Uyo on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 and argued vehemently for the release of his client from custody.
The lawyer informed the retired Justice Umoekoyo Essang-led Commission of Inquiry that his client had been detained unconstitutionally without a charge and that there was no basis whatsoever in law for the continued detention of his client, who he said is presumed innocent until he is proved guilty.
Mr. Effiong cited several legal authorities and referred the Commission to his letter to the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Murtala U. Mani, and a publication in the Punch Newspaper of Monday, January 2, 2017 where the police said that the matter was now with the Commission of Inquiry. The lawyer further informed the Commission that it was unacceptable for the Founder and General Overseer of the Church, Apostle Akan Weeks, and other contractors who played prominent roles in the construction to be walking freely while his client is detained.
In his response, the Counsel to the Commission of Inquiry and Assistant Director of Public Prosecution in the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Justice, Mr. F. J. Etim, opposed the application for the bail and release of the roof contractor on the ground that there was no evidence that the said contractor was in custody. He further said that the Commission cannot be releasing people indiscriminately.
In his reply, Mr. Effiong expressed shock and dismay over the response of the State Counsel, who he said did not justify the detention of his client. The human rights lawyer asked whether the State Counsel expected him to produce a video before the Commission showing the contractor in police custody.
He further said that the Nigeria Police Force is represented in the Commission by an Assistant Commissioner of Police who can easily verify whether his client is in their custody. Mr. Effiong referred the Commission again to the letter he wrote to the Commissioner of Police and the publication in the Punch Newspaper where the Police Public Relations Officer in the State acknowledged the detention of his client and urged the Commission to discountenance the objection.
In his ruling, the Chairman of the Commission, Justice Umoekoyo Essang, said that Mr. Idorenyin Udoh will be accompanied by the police to the Commission to give evidence and advised Mr. Inibehe Effiong to approach the regular courts for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of his client.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Mr. Effiong appealed to the Commission to reconsider its decision and order the immediate release of his client in the interest of justice to afford him adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence. He said that it was impossible for his client to defend himself and participate freely in the proceedings while in detention and that the application for the enforcement of his fundamental rights cannot be pursued at the regular courts because the courts were yet to resume from the Christmas vacation.
The Commission subsequently gave an order for the release of the contractor. Mr. Effiong who was at the State Police Headquarters as at 8.00 pm to enforce the order confirmed that the contractor has regained his freedom.