By Ime Silas

One of the victims of last week’s collapse of a transmission mast belonging to the Mixx 88.7 FM radio, located at Shelter Afrique, a residential estate in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, has decried the damages occasioned by what she termed “avoidable” disaster. The newly-built radio station is reportedly 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.

It would be recalled that the radio mast had earlier collapsed partially on the 7th day of January, 2021, and was, according to residents of the area, shabbily re-erected. Inhabitants of the affected area led by Mr Larry Ettah, had, through their lawyer, Barr Iyanam, approached an Uyo Court to challenge the sitting of the radio mast in a densely populated residential estate.

Our paper gathered that the mast which fell again following a mild downpour in the early hours of Wednesday, March 24, 2021, was reconstructed in defiance to the court action.It was further gathered that the governor’s aide- owner of the radio station, Friday Ben, has been evading service of the court summons.

Reacting to the incident, 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.

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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.

“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. 

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“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?

“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!

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“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”.