By G9ija

The Guild of Medical Directors (GMD) has lamented what it refers to as exorbitant extortion through multiple taxes and levies by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC).

It says private hospitals in Abuja, which have been suffering under the weight of the economic woes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, have been at the mercy of the council.

In a statement signed by its president, Professor Olufemi Emmanuel Babalola, the guild said the area council recently unleashed its officials and agents to harass hospital owners for exorbitant multiple taxes/levies for things such as tenement rates, fumigation licence, TV/Radio licence and other bogus charges.

“We are witnessing a desperate effort to collect money in a way we have never seen before. How can a hospital be asked to pay a bill of over N500,000 for TV/Radio licence and N100,000 for fumigation?

“We have only started reopening after the problems related to the Corona virus and this is the time the council decides to reward private hospitals with extortion. They have a complete disregard to the issues being faced at this critical time.

He said the amount of money being demanded from hospitals in the current economic realities will definitely force many to close or pass on the money to needy patients, adding that countless meetings and decisions about the multiple taxes have not yielded any sensible resolutions.

“The Guild of Medical Directors (GMD) wrote a formal letter to the AMAC Chairman in 2019, intimating him that issues to do with taxation were still under consideration. The Minister of Health had actually set up a committee to review this, yet the council sends its thugs and even Police Officers to harass hospital staff and patients.

“They have very wrong assumption that private hospitals made a lot of money during this pandemic not knowing that many have even closed. Many hospitals have already shut down under the weight of this pandemic. Some may not even bother to open again with this kind of cold-hearted revenue drive.

“We honestly cannot afford for more hospitals to close at this critical time. Majority of the private hospitals in FCT serve the citizens in the suburbs where there is limited access to care.

“The public is hereby put on notice that this behavior will affect the cost of care in Abuja and make healthcare unaffordable for many. The general public must take the matter up with the Chairman of the area council as we are tired of banging our heads on walls in frustration.”

He added that soon, private hospital owners will not be able to provide care for the majority of people in Abuja and its environs if the council does not retrace its steps.

“We thereby call on the Minister of Health and well-meaning Nigerians to call the council to order.”