…Law Chambers destroyed; Lawyer cries out

…station owner evading service of court summons -Residents

By our Correspondent, The Profile Newspaper

Residents living close to a newly built FM radio station located at Shelter Afrique Estate, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, this morning, escaped death by the whiskers as the station’s reerected transmission mast collapsed again. The mast, which was reconstructed in defiance to a court action fell following a mild downpour.

Our paper gathered that the new station is built and owned by Mr. Friday Ben, a.k.a. Dollie Popman, who is also the Special Assistant on Protocol to the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel.

Inhabitants of the adjourning area who spoke to our correspondent alleged that the owner of the fallen Mixx Radio 88.7FM transmission mast, Friday Ben, used his position as governor’s aide to influence the sitting of the station against environmental regulations which prohibit building of such high-rising mast in a densely populated residential estate.

It was learnt that following an earlier partial collapse of the same mast on the 7th January, 2021, it was allegedly shabbily reerected, while the owner was constantly evading service of court summons instituted by the affected residents, led by Mr. Larry Ettah, the immediate past Group Managing Director of UAC of Nigeria Plc.

According to earlier media reports, the affected residents had in their petition, while demanding relocation of the station, raised several regulatory and oversight issues as to why such a structure was erected in a residential estate in the first instance.

“The petition was filed by the law firm of Victor Iyanam & Co and addressed to the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Managing Director, Akwa Ibom Property and Investment Company Limited and Mr. Friday Ben, a.k.a. Dollie Popman, the owner of the station and also the Special Assistant, Protocol to the Governor.

“The petitioners are miffed that the 110 metre mast located at House KO3 suffered a partial collapse of a 15 metre section on January 7, 2021 during a mild shower and constituted a real and present danger to all homes within a metre radius of its current location.

“They are demanding explanations as to the rationale of granting a radio station a permit within a residential estate let alone granting a permit to erect a mast of that magnitude, which now constitutes a serious danger to residents.

“They are also querying if the proprietor of the station abused his power to ensure that regulators overlooked issues of environmental impact and safety in erecting the mast.

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“The petitioners also wonder what sort of disaster could have ensued if the mast was hit by strong winds, when a mild storm as experienced on January 7 had brought it down.

“Also in issue, is that no government agency has shown any interest in the matter and that the said radio station is now in the process of rebuilding the mast despite the danger it posed to residents.

“The petitioners therefore demand that the state government restrain the station from engaging in further rehabilitation activities and dismantle and relocate the structure altogether. Failure to do this, the petitioners said they would have no other option than to resort to legal action”

The suit, according to court papers at our disposal, has been filed at the Uyo High Court.

The state government, as at the time of this report has yet to comment on the matter.

…lawyer-victim cries out; slams Akwa Ibom State Govt, APICO, others

Reacting to the incident, one of the victims, Enwongo Cleopas, a lawyer at Akpabio Chambers & co, blamed it on “laxed” Akwa Ibom State government and its bodies, ministries and agencies responsible for approvals of sitting of such structures.

She specifically chided the Akwa Ibom Property and Investment Company (APICO), as well as the state Ministries of Environment, Works and Health for failing to guarantee safety of citizens’ lives and property.

Enwongo, who relieved her frustrations in a release she forwarded along with photographs of the incident, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent, also called on the state government and its relevant agencies to beam searchlights on various persons and corporate bodies whose activities endanger safety of indigenes of the state.

The release is here presented in full “The pictures you are seeing here are the aftermath of Tuesday night’s thunderstorm in Uyo, Akwa Ibom. This is my office and the damage you are seeing is caused by a radio mast that fell into our building.

“I received a call incredibly early on Wednesday morning from my co-worker, Etido, who asked me to come into the office earlier than scheduled to assess the situation of things. I simply thought that what she tried to convey on phone was a little brush on our building, until I drove down and saw these.

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“On arrival, I was surprised by the extent of the damage done, and it was not until I left the office that it dawned on me that I was downplaying a situation that would have turned out fatal if the building were occupied by my colleagues as at when the mast fell.

First, I am thankful to God that all we counted were damages to properties and furniture and not human lives.

That said, let me state the main reason I am making this post.

“This radio station (Mixx 88.7FM) had no business being situated in such a closely built residential area. Everyone who knows Shelter Afrique Estate will agree with this. This is a strict residential area of the city, and with houses being in close and restrictive spaces, this should not have been permitted.

“The very first time I saw the mast go up, I had shared my concern (again and again) with my colleagues, expressing strong reservations to the appropriateness of this structure and its usage. Everything about this screamed hazard and danger. This was no prophecy or bad energy but simply facts backed by science, research and COMMON SENSE. 

“One would have thought that after the first mast incident last month, the body responsible for the regulations and management of the estate, APICO (Akwa Ibom Property and Investment Company) would have re-assessed their approval for the usage of the station. From my previous working as an external lawyer to this body, it surprises me that an approval of this nature was granted.

While my questions might go unanswered, I am putting this here for the sake of posterity. Did APICO assess this structure and its usage, and did it follow due process in approving it? I still recall APICO being stringent on incidents like noise pollution and safety issues that emanated in her enforcement and compliance expectations from recreational centers, offices and religious centers in the various estates that they oversee. It truly boggles my mind that this could go through.

“I am highly disappointed and pained that the Akwa Ibom state government seems so laxed in its duty to protect the lives and properties of citizens in the state. A simple and carefree drive around town, and one can count even as a layman with no knowledge of structural design and safety many buildings and structures that have no business being put up or sited. We have more than 3 government ministries and subset departments that govern and regulate on compliance, safety and environmental impacts of buildings. If the Ministries of Works, Health and Environment cannot guarantee our safety, then who can?

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“The state is still yet to come to terms with the casual dismissal of the Reigners Bible Church incident. The brazen politicization of the collapse of the church building is one that pains till date. And therefore, I am angry because I know that if this mast incident had claimed my life and that of my colleagues or the many residents that live just 5-steps away from it, nobody would have been held responsible for such disaster. What would the commiseration, anger and maybe, compensation do for something so avoidable? A.V.O.I.D.A.B.L.E!

“Beyond the physical danger this exceptionally long mast posed, did anyone sit to consider the obvious health consequence of being in such close space with electromagnetic waves and other energy emissions that could constitute real harm to the people living around it? I have a lot to say. See, I am tired of seeing actual human lives being made subject of greed-backed policies and politics, and I refuse to keep quiet about this. That I am typing this unharmed is enough fuel to call out the government of the day on its negligence. Enough is Enough!

“I am going to end this by letting everyone know that a real-life threatening situation is being allowed to go on along Ikot Ekpene road by Ikot Ebido. Certain factories and companies should not be allowed to operate in a space where you have people living and going about their daily activities.

“That the state government is yet to step in and stop the ungodly volume of carbon emission that is generated along that area is disappointing. Have they cared to find out why there is a sudden increase in respiratory problems amongst the residents in this area? A passerby can just tell of the ticking time bomb by looking at the quality of air and the soot pollution spreading slowly. This is not okay!

While I remain thankful for the safety of my Principal and my coworkers at Akpabio Chambers & Co/EtteUdo Motors, I am angry, and rightfully so”.