The rumbles between IBEDC and UCH over alleged N400m debt 

All is not well between the management of UCH Ibadan and IBEDC over unpaid bills leading to the closure of services in the nation’s premier teaching hospital. BAYO AGBOOLA reports.

There is no doubt in the fact that this is not the best of times in terms of the mutual relationship that had existed between the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan and Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) following the rumbling between the two entities over the unpaid electricity bills amounting to N328m.

Already, the management of the University College Hospital (UCH) has raised alarm over the said unpaid electricity bills hanging it on the failure of successive administrations in the hospital to do the needful in terms of payment of electricity bills incurred by the premier hospital.

It should be noted that this is first teaching hospital in the country. The circumstances resulting in the cutting of electricity supply to the leading health institution on Tuesday, 19, March, this year (2024) by Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) has remained like a dream to many.

Since last Tuesday when the incident occured, the entire hospital has been plunged into total darkness with both the medical staff, in-house and out-patients plus their relatives bearing the untold hardships arising from the cutting off of electricity supply by IBEDC. 

The situation has turned into another public debate with many Nigerians expressing worries over how the health sector in the country is turning to, if a leading health institution like UCH could be enmeshed in such a shameful situation of having its electricity supply cut off over debt causing hardships on innocent Nigerians who cannot afford to seek medical attention from outside the country or from other reputable hospitals.

UCH’s claim

According to the University College Hospital (UCH), Public Relations Officer (PRO), Funmi Adetuyibi, the current internally generated revenue by the hospital is not enough to settle the electricity bills. She also noted that the present Chief Medical Director of the hospital met a sum of N328m electricity debt on assumption of office in 2019.

“The present Chief Medical Director, Professor Jesse Otegbayo came on board on March 1st 2019. As at the time he resumed office, the total debt on power was N328m. Presently, the IBEDC is claiming UTC is owing them N495m. It is not that we do not always pay at all. This management is trying by all means to pay. We use IGR to run it. We collect N14m monthly as overhead. We use the N14m to pay for electricity, water, renovation and consumables,” she said 

Adetuyibi added, “To be candid, we use the whole N14m to settle IBEDC. The strike is also affecting us. We have written letters for help to come. We don’t mind if we see people who can support us. The IGR is not enough to pay our bills.”

From IBEDC stable

Meanwhile IBEDC management on its part in a statement titled ‘IBEDC Takes Firm Action on Outstanding Debt owed by UCH’ signed by its Chief Key Accounts Officer, Mr Johnson Tinuoye minced no words in declaring that the company has been compelled to disconnect the supply to the University of Ibadan College Hospital (UCH) due to an outstanding debt exceeding N400 million.

“The management of Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (IBEDC) Plc, has been compelled to disconnect the supply to the University of Ibadan College Hospital (UCH) due to an outstanding debt exceeding 400 million naira. This drastic measure comes after exhaustive attempts to engage with the hospital’s management regarding the substantial overdue balance, which has persisted for over six years.”

According to IBEDC Management, “Despite numerous written correspondences and multiple meetings, UCH management has displayed an uncooperative attitude towards 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.

“It’s worth noting that UCH operates more than 70 diesel-generating sets, consuming diesel at 1,600 naira per litre. This means they generate energy at 400 naira per kilowatt, significantly higher than the tariff of 74 naira 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 debts or propose a workable repayment plan.

“It’s 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 in Kwara state and others in Ogun state promptly settle their bills. IBEDC questions why UCH differs in this regard.”

IBEDC in the statement maintained further, “While recognising the crucial role hospitals play in society, IBEDC emphasises the necessity of adhering to payment obligations, particularly amidst challenging economic conditions. As our regulator, 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. IBEDC remains committed to excellent service delivery and urges other customers owing the company to make prompt payments to enable the company to meet its obligations effectively and provide reliable services.” 

Already, the blackout at the UCH has become the talk of the town with social commentators and the stakeholders in the health sector raising questions as to who among the two sides could actually be sincere with their claim and counter claims regarding the debt being owed thereby necessitating the need for an enquiry to ascertain why the hospital was owing such an amount of money.

With both the IBEDC and UCH justifying their stands in one way or the other, the fact remains that the public mostly the in-patients and the out-patients at the hospital are painfully feeling crisis arising from the rumbles. It is therefore high time for the authorities concerned to have waded into the issue and find the needed peaceful resolution to the matter before it degenerates beyond this point, not with all the services the hospital renders to the entire Southwestern part of the country.