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Patients, health workers agonise as electricity coy cut power supply in Niger hospitals

It was agonising 10 days for patients and health workers as Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) cut off power supply  in two state government-owned hospitals…

It was agonising 10 days for patients and health workers as Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) cut off power supply  in two state government-owned hospitals in Niger State. 

The hospitals,  General Hospital and IBB Specialist Hospital, all in Minna were cut off from the supply in a bid to recover N1.9 billion being owed by the state government. 

Daily Trust reports that the company had disconnected government buildings three times between April and October this year in a bid to recover the backlog of unpaid bills. 

The latest action put my patients at risk as there are unconfirmed reports that   some lives were lost as a result of the blackout. 

Daily Trust also gathered that the lives of many patients were endangered especially those on oxygen, premature babies in incubators and pregnant women who required Cesarian Section at the hospitals. 

Some of the health personnel, who spoke with our correspondent, said the action put them in a difficult situation. They said the action had forced the suspension of critical services such as dialysis and keeping premature babies. 

They said disconnection of hospitals put the lives of some patients at risks especially those whose conditions were severe. 

The Niger State Secretary of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Seth Abner, said each time the hospitals were disconnected, activities were disrupted. 

“It’s as clear as anything. Without light most of our equipment cannot function especially if we want to perform operation. There is nothing you can do when there’s no light. You cannot even strelise the equipment. How can you carry out some operations?  

“It’s not possible and you cannot manage patient in darkness especially a patient that has been brought back from theatre and he or she needs to be cared for ? These are some of the impediments and that’s why we are appealing to the government. In fact, it’s insensitivity of the government in its own side. At least, they should know that all these things are very vital and to disconnect them is not in the interest of the general public because health is very critical to the citizen. Each time our hospitals are disconnected, it affects healthcare service because there are critical procedures that cannot take place.’’  

He said the hospitals were forced to carry skeletal services while the situation lasted because of the high cost of diesel. 

A doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity said the situation was embarrassing and had thrown both patients and health worker into difficulty. 

Another doctor, who also spoke in confidence, said “the incessant disconnection of health facilities like IBB Specialist Hospital and Minna General hospital was very dangerous especially to patients. 

Relations of patients at the two hospitals also lamented over the situation. 

A relation of the kidney patient at the IBB Specialist Hospital said:”The 10 days during which AEDC disconnected this hospital was tough because the ward was not conducive for the patients. The lack of power supply also affected the water supply although the hospital sometimes did put on generators.  During that period, only a few kidney patients could get the dialysis done because the generator only worked for a few hours, between 9:30am and 2pm.” 

Another relation of patients, Mrs Hafsat Usman  who spoke with Daily Trust said: “Some patients who required emergency attention had to be transferred to private hospitals while some of them, especially children, died.  

“Government needs to take proactive measures because we are not sure if they have truly resolved the issue. This is not the first time and even with the previous disconnection, we were told that the issue was resolved but unfortunately, we still face the same challenge.” 

The Secretary to Niger State Government, Ahmed Ibrahim Matane in April this year, when the power distribution company made the first disconnection, accused the AECD of blackmail. 

He said, while addressing journalists in his office that the state had invested over N10 billion on purchase of transformers and service wires that ought to have been done by AEDC in the last seven years. 

“This current government has made an investment of over N3 billion specifically on transformers, service lines and many others. In fact, if you take it from  the previous administration to date, the state government has made an investment over N10 billion,” Matane said. 

Matane also said each time AEDC facilities broke down, the company would seek assistance from the government and communities. 

He said the company has not been living up to its responsibilities as a business entity, adding that the power distribution company had not been responding to complaints from communities even when facilities break down. 

“If you buy a transformer today, tomorrow AEDC would say it has become their property and when the same facility breaks down, it will take them months without fixing it,” he said. 

The SSG said what the state owed the company was a little bit over N1 billion  but was not up to N1.9 billion as claimed, explaining that in addition to off-setting the debts, the state was still paying the current bills to the company. 

He said the state government had already contracted a consultant to verify the validity of some debts “because we realised that there are some old facilities that are not functioning but they still appear as part of the bill. So, there was a need to verify and validate some of these claims and that is what we are currently doing.”  

Daily Trust recalls that the state’s deputy governor had also at a earlier meeting with officials of the company, Ahmed Mohammed Ketso said government would no longer condone the disconnection of critical facilities by the AEDC. 

Ketso, who met with the representatives of the AEDC in Government House on October 18 said “even in a war situation, healthcare  and water facilities are spared.” 

He said the AEDC action could incite the public against government. He added that the government had kept its promise to pay the current charges. It has also promised to pay N100 million monthly to offset the debt  it inherited from the previous government. 

Ketso also said the state had invested over  N13 billion in the power sector in the state and that they looked forward to  getting a soft landing for both parties. He accused the AEDC of taking an action that would undermine the existing agreement. 

The  Regional Manager of AEDC, Mahmud Keni Ndadama, had assured the government of the company’s cooperation adding that his office acted on a directive from the headquarters. 

He admitted that since his assumption of office in February this year, the state had sustained monthly payment of current charge, but the contentious issue was the debt that had piled up over the years. 


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