RELIGION

State government trying to cover up collapsed church deaths

  • A overview of the Reigners Bible Church International that collapsed in the city of Uyo, Nigeria, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016. The roof collapsed Saturday as some hundreds gathered for the consecration of founder Akan Weeks as its bishop. (AP Photo/Chukwuemeka Nwaneri)

    A overview of the Reigners Bible Church International that collapsed in the city of Uyo, Nigeria, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016. The roof collapsed Saturday as some hundreds gathered for the consecration of founder Akan Weeks as its bishop. (AP Photo/Chukwuemeka Nwaneri)  (The Associated Press)

  • A victim of the collapsed Reigners Bible Church International building receives treatment at the university teaching hospital in Uyo, Nigeria, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Metal girders and the roof of a crowded church collapsed onto worshippers in southern Nigeria, killing at least 160 people with the toll likely to rise, a hospital director said Sunday.(AP Photo/)

    A victim of the collapsed Reigners Bible Church International building receives treatment at the university teaching hospital in Uyo, Nigeria, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Metal girders and the roof of a crowded church collapsed onto worshippers in southern Nigeria, killing at least 160 people with the toll likely to rise, a hospital director said Sunday.(AP Photo/)  (The Associated Press)

  • People gathered at the site of a collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016.  Metal girders and the roof of a crowded church collapsed onto worshippers in southern Nigeria, Saturday, killing at least 160 people with the toll likely to rise, a hospital director said Sunday. (AP Photo)

    People gathered at the site of a collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016. Metal girders and the roof of a crowded church collapsed onto worshippers in southern Nigeria, Saturday, killing at least 160 people with the toll likely to rise, a hospital director said Sunday. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

Nigeria's Akwa Ibom state government says only 23 people died in a collapsed church, an apparent attempt to cover up the true toll when the metal girders and corrugated iron roof crashed onto a crowded service over the weekend.

The Associated Press reported at least 160 people died, using the number of bodies counted at one mortuary by the director of the biggest hospital in the state, University of Uyo Teaching Hospital.

Hospital director Etete Peters said mortuaries were overwhelmed by Saturday's tragedy. But Peters later told journalists that only 24 bodies were at the hospital's morgue.

Reigners Bible Church was under construction when it hosted the consecration of founder Akan Weeks as bishop. Weeks and state Gov. Udom Emmanuel escaped unhurt. The state website put the dead at 23.