By Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
A Benin-based human rights activist, Patriot Patrick Eholor, has threatened to sue the Management of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) over the alleged extortion and corrupt practices in regards to COVID-19 testing procedure .
Eholor, who is also founder, One Love Foundation, narrating his alleged ordeal at the hands of staff of the Teaching Hospital on Monday, said he was compelled to pay N30,000 for the test and another N375 for what they termed administrative costs.
‘I will soon be traveling overseas and in strict compliance with acquisition of COVID-19 certification, I went to UBTH to undertake the compulsory test only to be asked to pay N30,000 as test cost.
‘As if that was not insulting enough because health is supposed to be free for every Nigerian, as enshrined in the Constitution, I went and paid the N30,000.
‘On getting to the cash registry, I was told that there is a service charge for additional N375. And I asked what it was for?
‘The cashiers answered and said it was government regulations, that the hospital management is partnering with some firms who process theirn forms.’
The activist said he sees that action as ‘fraudulent and preposterous. I saw a lot of people, even children ,there who were helpless, as they were unable to afford to pay the excess charges of the COVID-19 test.
‘So, I am compelled to take them to court, I am going to sue the Hospital Management to make them explain to us why they are putting the burden on us because I also know that the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), has directed that no service charge should be more than sixty five kobo in any transaction…
‘I know that over time the CBN has directed that COT and other excessive charges be reduced considerably , to abort exploitation of the public by Bankers who thereafter invest the funds to buy properties in high brow estates abroad.’
Eholor said this corruption must be stopped, while those who are partnering with government to perpetuate this evil must be investigated as the ordinary citizens of this great nation are very pained, hence he is instituting the legal process to address the issue.
Eholor said he has briefed his lawyer, an Abuja-based legal luminary, Mr Ihensekhien, Esq., to file an action against the UBTH and CBN to explain their actions to the public why they are exploiting innocent Nigerians.
Eholor who presented copies of the payment vouchers to Journalists in Benin said it would have been very calamitous if he could not complete the process of the COVID-19 test as he did not have the extra cash on him and he had to plead with one Miss Gladys, a complete stranger, who agreed for money to be transferred into her account at the hospital, where she then withdrew the money for him to pay for the test.
He asked if he “did not meet that lady or could not afford the cost ? Would he have been allowed to suffer unjustly like others?’
He likened the situation at the UBTH to the contract at the Lekki Epe Tollgate and others where an influential elite received all the royalties and remit pittance to the government which led to the alleged massacre during the recent #EndSARS protests.
On whether he finds out from the Management of the Hospital whether the controversial charges were official, he said he indeed made a lot of enquires at the hospital and nobody said the contrary.
He said he wants them to as a matter of urgent public importance look at the problem as other countries are conducting this Covid 19 test for free, emphasizing the dreaded monster was still killing people globally .
Responding to the allegation, the Public Relations Officer, UBTH, Mr Uwaila Joshua, said his allegations were baseless and that COVID-19 test in UBTH is free for everyone who meets NCDC guidelines on testing.
Uwaila also said for someone who doesn’t meet the requirement and insists on getting tested, he cannot get the benefit of free testing.