The Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) has locked up the gates to the National Hospital Abuja (NHA) in the early hours of Tuesday.
Shehu Lawan, the Chairman, FCT Ministerial Special Task Force on Recovery of Debts owed AEPB, said that the hospital owed the board N7,776,800 as at June 2016.
He disclosed that the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, constituted the task force to recover more than N9 billion owed AEPB by various ministries, departments and agencies as well as private and corporate bodies resident in the FCT.
According to him, the board obtained three court summons against the hospital, but the NHA failed to comply.
Reacting to the incident, Dr. Adetayo Haastrup, the hospital’s spokesperson, described the situation as a rude shock, a national embarrassment and an inhuman act considering the health services rendered by the facility.
Haastrup confirmed that the AEPB told the hospital management that the board had a court injunction to recover the debts.
The spokesman also said that the hospital only received the paper for payment of bill of the said amount in June.
He explained that the NHA had made series of attempts to pay up the bill but that the accounts kept bouncing and that the hospital management had explained the challenges to the board.
According to him, in the event of any indebtedness by any agency, AEPB ought to give room for bargaining with the indebted party before resorting to the “seal-off” option.
“I believe that it should be after exhausting such avenue and no positive response is reached that the board should go ahead with the seal-off option,” said Haastrup.
The spokesman however lamented that the AEPB gave no such avenue to the hospital.
Haastrup said the hospital’s next line of action would include going to the court with the evidence of payment made earlier, among others.
He also expressed displeasure over the incident, noting that the hospital had paid up to date its bills, including electricity and water.
“This is a government institution with a difference because of the kind of services we render; it has to do with saving lives, ambulances might be coming in for emergency cases.
I think it is out of place for AEPB to do this to the apex and strategic hospital in Nigeria; it is an embarrassment.
We have enjoyed a cordial relationship with the board.
On three occasions we tried paying the money but it was bouncing back because they are not on Treasury Single Account (TSA).
For example, government to government you have to be on TSA because when you send the money through the TSA it will go, but when the money goes to the central bank it will reflect on your TSA.
We have all been instructed to move our account to TSA, so, when we pay, the money is being rejected because they gave us commercial bank account number not TSA account.
We have called on the agency supervising the AEPB to look into the matter and to have sympathy for the patients,” said the spokesman.
Photo Credit: NAN PHOTO