The contractors that built the isolation centre for COVID-19 and other vulnerable diseases at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, (UCTH) have threatened to shut it down over non-payment of N68 million debt.
Speaking with newsmen in Calabar on Thursday, the Managing Director of Obi Achara Nigeria Ltd, James Obi said that his company decided to hand over the centre because of goodwill and in consideration of the health and wellbeing of Nigerians.
Obi said he was shocked that after three months, nothing has been said or done even suppliers were now threatening to kidnap him over his Company’s inability to pay for item they bought from them since 2016. “We have written several letters to the hospital management over the non payment of the balance of our payment in the tune of N68million.
“We completed the project and many others as far back as 2017, but they refused to pay us, out of goodwill and the interest of the people, we decided to hand over the centre with the view of getting paid as promised but till date we have not heard anything.
“We followed all due processes in executing the contractual agreement and happy that the centre has become very useful in the outbreak of COVID-19. We have written severally to the management, all to no avail, we would apply all legal means to close down the centre for the failure of the hospital management to meet their own contractual agreement,” he stated.
It was gathered that the Centre for Emerging Pathogens Research and Management (UCTH-CEPREM) was started in 2016 in the hospital under the former Chief Medical Director, Prof Thomas Agan and completed in 2017 but the keys were handed over to the management of UCTH 2020 following the spate of Lassa fever and reports of COVID-19.
It was further gathered that on November 15, 2016, the management of UCTH awarded the construction of an infectious disease centre (isolation centre) through an award letter UCTH/CMD/PROG/02M/45 at the cost of N68.7m to Obi Achara Ltd.
When contacted, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the UCTH, Prof Ikpeme Ikpeme, said via phone that they were not denying the fact that the contractor built the centre but we were going to pay him when funds were available.
“We are not denying that we are owing him, but we pleaded with him to kindly hand over the place to us, which he did and we promised to pay him when funds were available.
“We have not reneged on our promise and we don’t have time lag as far as the payment is concerned but what we said in the agreement was that, once funds were available we will pay, and we have not deviated from that” Ikpeme said.