UCH, IBEDC trade words over power disconnection


University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan
PHOTO: Premiumtimes

By Chidinma Ewunonu-Aluko and Olatunde Ajayi

The Management of University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan and Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) have been trading words over the disconnection of power supply to the nation’s premier tertiary health institution.

IBEDC had disconnected the power supply to UCH over what it called technical faults and indebtedness.

Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UCH, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, in his reaction to the development, said that IBEDC should stop giving the hospital industrial bills.

Otegbayo said the electricity distribution company should realise that UCH is a social service provider and should, therefore, not treat it as a commercial outfit or a manufacturing company.

He said that part of the problems the hospital had with IBEDC was that it was giving the hospital industrial tariffs.

“The company should realise that we are rendering social services. Lots of people come here for treatment without having any money.

“Some even die after we have spent millions in treating them. At the end of the day, their relations will not be able to pay the outstanding bill.

“But because we are a government hospital, we have no choice than to release the corpse.

“So these are the things IBEDC should consider and not treat us as if we are a manufacturing company,” he said.

The chief medical director decried a situation where IBEDC increased its tariffs to the hospital from time to time without considering its status as a social service provider.

“We need them (IBEDC) to reduce the tariff because they have been increasing it from time to time.

“We, as a hospital, cannot be increasing what we charge our patients; otherwise, an average Nigerian will not be able to reach us and pay,” he said.

Otegbayo also said that it was not true that the company invited the hospital for a meeting on how to pay its debt, but that it (the hospital) failed to show up.

“It’s not true that they asked us to come for a meeting to see how we can pay and we did not go. It was the University of Ibadan’s College Of Medicine that they have that issue with, not UCH,” he said.

The chief medical director said that IBEDC had hired a contractor to recoup its indebtedness from agencies like UCH.

“We are owing about four hundred and seventy something million, but about N200 million of it is owed by College Of Medicine, not UCH.

“But because UI’s college of medicine is within UCH, they lumped us together; whereas, we are separate agencies. While the college belongs to Federal Ministry of Education, UCH belong Federal Ministry of Health.

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“We pay between N30 million and N45 million every month as electricity bill, but IBEDC gives us bills ranging from N45 million to N71 million.

“Whereas, we only receive N14 million for overhead per month from government, we supplement it with our internally-general revenue (IGR),” he said.

Otegbayo said that when he came on board as CMD in 2019, he met a debt of N300 million owed IBEDC, adding that efforts had since been made to pay.

Part of the efforts, he said, was to see the Ministers of Power and Health, including soliciting for support from some philanthropists.

According to him, efforts have also been made to install solar energy in some critical areas, such as clinics, some wards and other places.

Otegbayo appealed to government, non-governmental organisations and kind-hearted Nigerians to come to the hospital’s aide.

However, IBEDC, in its reaction, said that UCH was owing it over N400 million, with the debt spanning over six years.

Spokesperson of IBEDC, Busolami Tunwase, told NAN that IBEDC had made several efforts to get the money through several letters and meetings.

“We have met with them severally but there has not been any fruitful deliberation on how the debts will be repaid.

“As it is right now, discos are hemorrhaging, as the terrain in the power sector is getting tougher by the day.

“We have to make 100 per cent remittances on our obligations to the market operators.

“If we don’t get in our outstanding debts, there is no way we can meet up with our own obligations, let alone serving the people better,” she said.

Tunwase said that the disconnection was not applicable to UCH but to other customers with outstanding also.

“We need to get our money back in order to continue to be operational and survive as an entity,” she said.

The spokesperson, however, said that the issue of outstanding merely coincided with a technical fault that was reported around the hospital.

“But, the management of IBEDC and UCH need to sort out how about N500 million debt will be paid.

“We are not denying the fact that there was a fault but we need to get them to sit down with us and find a way to pay the money,” she said. (NAN)

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