Reinstatement Of NHIS Boss: Our Stand

Reinstatement Of NHIS Boss: Our Stand

On Tuesday February 6, President Muhammadu Buhari reinstated the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Usman Yusuf, who was suspended by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, in June 2017, following allegations of gross misconduct.

Recall that a panel commissioned by the minister after Mr. Yusuf’s suspension later found him culpable of infractions that ranged from nepotism to theft of public funds. The panel was at the instance of the then acting president, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Trouble started with a petition dated April 21, 2017, by a group named United Youth Alliance Against Corruption, UYAAC, which made damaging allegations against Yusuf, accusing him of budgeting N860 million for a questionable training programme in the 2016 appropriation bill, violating laid-down procedure by splitting contracts and raising multiple payment vouchers, and spending money without any approval from the supervising ministry.

Following the petition, the Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, suspended Yusuf, but he publicly declared that he would disregard the minister’s directive.  According to him, Section 47 of the NHIS Act, only empowers the minister to give directives of a general nature to the Governing Council of the scheme while, in the absence of the council, the Presidential mandate allows him to exercise its powers and functions. He said, since the powers and functions of the council do not include the discipline, suspension or removal of the Executive Secretary of the Scheme from office, the action of the minister was ill-motivated and that he would not obey it.

Eight other senior officers of the scheme were suspended alongside Yusuf, namely: Femi Akingbade – zonal GM, South South; Mr. John Okon – General Manger, Finance and Account; Mr. Yusuf Fatika – General Manger, Human Resources and Administration; Mr. Shehu Adamu – Assistant General Manager, Audit; Mr. Vincent Mamdam – Assistant General Manager/Head Insurance; Mr. SafiyanuAttah – Senior Assistant Officer, Marketing; Mr. Owen Udo Udoma-Senior Manager, Contribution Management; and Mr. Innocent Abbah- Senior Assistant Officer, Planning Research and Monitoring. But while Yusuf was reinstated by executive fiat, thesae other officers are yet to be recalled.

According to sources, President Buhari did not consider Mr. Yusuf’s indictment by a ministerial panel before asking him to return to work. The decision immediately sparked widespread criticism from different interest groups including the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the KOWA Party.  On Thursday, NHIS workers also staged a protest at the premises of the agency’s headquarters in Abuja after Mr. Yusuf reportedly returned to work.

It is most regrettable that taxpayers’ money was expended in funding the committee to investigate these weighty allegations yet their findings and recommendations were flagrantly disregarded.

We state with compunction the fact that this administration has on several occasions treated with levity reports by committees set up to investigate different allegations of corruption including the investigation committee into the allegations against the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal and the former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Ayo Oke.

Also, the report of the committee that investigated the $43 million discovered in an apartment at Osbourne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos; the allegation of award of $25 billion contracts without following due process made against Dr.MaikantiBaru by Dr.IbeKachikwu, the DSS indictment for corruption of the Acting Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim Magu and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.

We therefore call on President Buhari to allow the rule of law to prevail at all times, and to strengthen institutions.

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