For worshippers of St. Paul Catholic Church, Ugolo, Delta State, it was rejoicing turned to mourning as the church building collapsed during morning mass.
The church is located in Adagbrasa, Okpe local government area of the state.
After the hail of dust and amid the rubbles that followed the collapse, an 11-year-old boy, Jerry Enukanerhirhe, who is the church drummer, died on the spot while many worshipers sustained injuries. The deceased is the son of former minority leader of Okpe Local Government Area, Jackson Enukanerhire.
“We are aware of the collapse of the Catholic church in Ogbe local government area of the state,” Aniamaka Andrew, Delta police spokesperson, told The Guardian.
“An 11-year-old boy named Jerry died as a result of the accident. Four persons have been hospitalised. The police is doing all we can to help the victims.”
Jeffery Enukanehire died on the spot when a section of the building wall fell on him while drumming during a prayer and worship session.
Giving details of the incident, his father, Jefferson Enukanehire, while lamenting the death of his son, said: “We had just finished the morning prayer for the 7:00a.m mass when the wall collapsed on my son.
“We had gone for service in company of my wife and five children when the unfortunate incident occurred.
The wall on the left side of the building collapsed and subsequently pulled the other sections of the building down on the worshippers.
My son had succeeded in freeing himself from the initial wall that fell on him when another section of the building fell and crushed him to death.”
The Chief Press Secretary to Delta State government, Charles Aniagwu, also confirmed the incident in a statement released on behalf of governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
He described the church collapse as “very sad and unfortunate”.
The governor also promised that the state would pick the bills of treatment of victims of the collapse.
The governor had earlier dispatched the Commissioner for Works, Chief James Augoye, to visit the site with a view to unraveling the circumstances surrounding the collapse and how government can come to the aid of the injured worshippers and the church.
The governor prayed for the repose of the departed faithful and condoled with the family and relations of the deceased, the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, chairman of Okpe Local Government Area, Chief J.J. Scot, the Orodje of Okpe, HRM, Orhue 1, Major Gen. Felix Mujakperuo (rtd) and the entire Ugolo community in Okpe kingdom over the unfortunate incidence.
Okowa said: “This is indeed a very sad and unfortunate incident. It is our prayer that the soul of the deceased will rest in peace, and that the injured will experience quick recovery. Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with the people of Ugolo in Okpe Kingdom over this tragedy.”
According to the preliminary report by the Commissioner for Works, Chief James Augoye, “One person died from the incident, 11 were rushed to the hospital out of which seven have been treated and discharged while the remaining four were still undergoing treatment and were in stable conditions.
“The church building is 100 years old and in an attempt to rebuild and expand the church, the old building collapsed as a result of heavily soaked waters occasioned by the weight of worshippers who leaned against the walls while the early morning mass was on.
“While we pledge to pay the cost of treatment for the injured, people must ensure they seek necessary approvals before construction of buildings, particularly public structures to avoid incidences such as this,” he added.
Meanwhile, president of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Sunday, commiserated with the state government and the Catholic Church in Nigeria over the collapse of St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Saraki, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, promised to help ensure that survivors received necessary medical attention.
“My prayers are with the worshippers, affected families, governor Ifeanyi Okowa and the people of Delta State on the collapse.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide assistance to see that survivors are rescued and treated.
“Right now, we must all come together as Muslims, Christians, people of faith and most importantly, Nigerians to provide all necessary relief for the affected families and community.
This tragedy affects us all and we join the Catholic community to mourn the deceased, even as rescue efforts are still under way,” he said.