A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Gwagwalada has confiscated six vehicles belonging to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital over failure to repay a loan.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the vehicles currently parked in the court’s premises, were impounded on Thursday.
A top official of the court told NAN on condition of anonymity that the vehicles were confiscated because the hospital failed to comply with terms of out-of-court settlement directed by the court.
The source said Guaranty Trust Bank had filed a suit against the hospital over failure by its two trade unions to repay loans obtained from it.
The source explained that the hospital was sued because its management guaranteed the loan.
It was gathered that the loan was obtained by the Medical and Health Workers Union and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions of the hospital.
Both unions, it was learnt, obtained a total of N132 million from the bank in 2008 with a three-year repayment period.
NASU collected N77 million and MHWU got N55 million.
NAN, however, gathered that NASU had repaid N100 million to the bank, with interest, while MHWU had paid more than N60 million back to the bank.
It was gathered that it was when the unions defaulted in defraying the balance of the loans long after the expiration of the loan period that the bank filed the suit to recover the money.
The source said: “It was when the unions defaulted in the repayment of the loan that the suit was filed against the hospital that guaranteed the loan.
“A judgment was delivered by the court following an agreement reached by the parties on modalities to complete the repayment about four months ago.
“The hospital failed to comply with the agreement even when the terms were initially accepted by the parties and that resulted to the confiscation of the vehicles when the bank returned to complain that the hospital reneged on agreement.”
No official of the bank agreed to comment on the issue when NAN visited its Gwagwalada branch.
In his reaction, Frank Omagbon, spokesman of the hospital, said the loan was obtained in 2008 by the two unions and guaranteed by the hospital management.
Omagbon said the current management of the hospital was making effort to ensure that the vehicles were returned to the hospital.
He said the confiscation of six operational vehicles of the hospital was not in the interest of patients in the hospital.
He appealed to the parties involved in the matter to expedite action to ensure speedy resolution of the issue.
On his part, Hassan Goroh, a former chairman of NASU in the hospital, during whose tenure the loan was obtain, confirmed that the union obtained N77 million loan from the bank, with three years repayment period.
Goroh said that about N100 million, including part of the interest on the loan, had been repaid, adding that the alleged default by the union as being claimed by the bank was as a result of arbitrary increment in interest rate.
He added that the death of some of the beneficiaries of the loan also contributed to the failure of the union to repay the loan.
He said: “When this was realised, we consulted the bank and several meetings were held in respect to ensuring that the repayment was completed.
“Initially, we had a disagreement where the two unions agreed to pay N20 million to cover all the outstanding interest and the bank said it must be N25 million.
“This was when the bank filed a suit against the hospital management and when both parties opted for out-of-court settlement, the unions were not carried along.
“It was at this point that the bank said that the amount had increased to N35 million, and without consulting the unions, the hospital management went and signed the agreement.”
Contacted, Avong James, former chairman of MHWU, said a total of N55 million was obtained as loan from the bank, adding that over N60 million had been repaid.
James blamed the challenges in recovering the loan on the new pension system where the hospital had no access to funds of late members of staff.
James said the death of some beneficiaries of the loan constituted a major hindrance to the recovery of the loan.
He said: “When the bank informed us of our default, we approached the hospital management to assist us so that internally, we can pay back to the management.
“Unfortunately, when the management was not able to pay, the matter was taken to court but along the line, the parties agreed to settle out-of-court.
“In the course of the out-of-court settlement, management signed that N35 million will be paid to the bank within one year by the two unions without consulting the unions.
“We have told them that we can only afford N20 million and that we were not involved in the agreement that led to the confiscation of the vehicles.”
James, however, appealed to the bank and the court to temper justice with mercy and release the vehicles in the interest of patients in the hospital.