IBEDC, UCH trade words as Disco disconnects

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The Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company and the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, on Wednesday traded words over the disconnection of the hospital.

The IBEDC said it was compelled to disconnect the UCH due to an outstanding debt exceeding N400m.

 But the UCH said it did not owe the power company N490m.

IBEDC said it disconnected the hospital after exhaustive attempts to engage with the hospital’s management regarding the substantial overdue balance, which it said had persisted for over six years.

Responding to an enquiry from our correspondent, the IBEDC Chief Key Accounts Officer, Mr Johnson Tinuoye, said despite numerous written correspondences and multiple meetings, the UCH management “displayed an uncooperative attitude” toward addressing the outstanding debt.

 “IBEDC’s fiduciary responsibility to its stakeholders and market operators necessitates timely and complete remittances, especially considering the liquidity crisis facing DisCos. Unpaid electricity bills hinder DisCos’ ability to fulfill obligations to GenCos and purchase gas for power generation, contributing to the nationwide issue of low power supply,” Tinuoye stated.

He noted that the UCH operates more than 70 diesel-generating sets, consuming diesel at N1,600 per litre.

“This means they generate energy at N400 per kilowatt, significantly higher than the tariff of N74 per kilowatt that IBEDC sells to UCH.

“Additionally, IBEDC has provided infrastructure to ensure 20-24 hours of dedicated supply to UCH, yet they have refused to settle their outstanding debt or propose a workable repayment plan.

“It is pertinent to highlight that UCH is not the only teaching hospital within IBEDC’s franchise. Teaching hospitals in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Kwara State, and others in Ogun State promptly settle their bills. IBEDC questions why UCH differs in this regard,” Tinuoye said.

While saying it recognises the crucial role hospitals play in the society, the IBEDC emphasised the necessity of adhering to payment obligations, particularly amidst challenging economic conditions.

“As our regulator, the NERC, has warned DisCos of potential licence withdrawal for non-performance, IBEDC encourages all customers to pay for electricity consumption promptly to ensure the viability of the sector,” the statement added.

Our correspondent learnt that the disconnection of the hospital by the IBEDC since Monday was taking its toll on children in the incubators and patients in the intensive care unit.

On Wednesday, doctors and other workers in the UCH were said to have issued a 14-day ultimatum to the management to reconnect the hospital or they would embark on an industrial action.

The PUNCH reports that the teaching hospital was earlier disconnected in February over N500m debt. It was reconnected following the payment of some amount of money, after which nothing more was reportedly paid.

However, UCH’s Public Relations Officer, Mrs Funmilayo Adetuyibi, said it was not true that the hospital had an accumulated bill of N495m over the last three years.

She said that the present UCH administration, led by Prof. Jesse Otegbayo, assumed office on March 1, 2019, and inherited over N27m as of February 27, 2019, adding that it had since ensured the monthly payment of bills brought by IBEDC.

According to her, the UCH management has also been settling the backlog of bills inherited from previous administrations.

“This management has had meetings with the IBEDC management on several occasions,” she said.

“Aside that, a payment plan on how to offset the backlog of the outstanding debt has been forwarded to both the consultant of IBEDC and the regional head of IBEDC.

“This payment plan was rejected by IBEDC. They insisted that first payment of N250m should be made within three months.

“This management’s catchphrase is ‘patients’ comfort and staff welfare.’ In essence, the issue of power supply and water supply to the hospital is critical to our operations.

“While we can say that we have outstanding bills to settle with the IBEDC, the hospital management has left no stone unturned in our proactive approach in making sure our teeming patients have access to adequate medical care at all times,” she said.

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