By Hassan Zaggi
The reinstatement of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Usman Yusuf, by President Muhammadu Buhari, has been greeted with a lot of reactions by many Nigerians.
On Tuesday evening, the news brook out that the Presidency has issued a letter of reinstatement of the NHIS Executive Secretary to the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole. He confirmed receipt of the letter.
The reinstatement letter urged Yusuf to work closely with the minister upon resumption.
Those who are against the reinstatement are of the opinion that it is a tacit support for corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government. They are of the opinion that with the weighty allegations levelled against Professor Yusuf coupled with the findings of the committee set up by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, the anti-corruption posture of the APC-led government has literarily failed.
On the other hand, those who are in support of the reinstatement are of the opinion that the sack of Prof Yusuf was not in good faith, hence, was not going to stand the test of time.
While many Nigerians see the reinstatement as a vindication of Prof Yusuf of the alleged wrong doings levelled against him by the Minister, others see it as an indictment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government on its stand in the fight against corruption.
It would be recalled that Professor Yusuf was suspended in June last year by the Minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole, after a committee he set up to investigate the alleged wrong doings of Prof. Yusuf submitted its report.
Others however, alleged that Prof. Yusuf was suspended because of his refusal “to oblige to series of monetary requests by the health ministry.”
The letter of the suspension by the Health Minister reads in part: “Please refer to my earlier letter ref C.405/1/132, dated 6th July 2017, suspending you from office for three months to allow for an interrupted administrative, investigative committee to look into the various allegations against you including that of monumental fraud, gross abuse of office and nepotism inimical to the NHIS scheme under your leadership.
“While awaiting Mr President’s directive and considering that the committee found you culpable in many areas of your performance as the executive secretary of the NHIS, I am further extending your suspension from office pending the decision of his Excellency Mr President C-in-C on the report.”
Some documents obtained by The AUTHORITY after the suspension of the NHIS Executive Secretary allegedly indicated that the ES awarded contracts to friends, relations and relations of some of his seconded staff.
According to the documents, on February 20, 2017, the former ES allegedly got approval and was paid the sum of N5,196,260.00 for a Health Insurance Conference in Prague, Czeh Republic.
He collected the money but fail to attend to conference.
In the same vein, between January22- 23, this year, the ES was billed to attend the African Executive Summit in Dubai, the sum of N3,699,558.00 was approved and paid, however, alleged that he did not also attend.
However, a reliable source at the NHIS countered the document, alleging that they were concocted and framed up, hence should be disregarded.
Part of the report of the committee the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, set up to investigate the activities of the agency which was submitted to the president for his action, obtained by The AUTHORITY, revealed that the Scheme was discovered to be using estacode and per diem for its staff which is not in tandem with the extant rules.
According to the report, the Chairman, NHIS Governing Council/Executive Secretary/CEO is paid 900 dollars estacode and N50,000 per diem; Council members receive 750 dollars estacode and N40,000 per diem. On the other hand, NHIS staff from level 13-15 receive 750 dollars estacode and N32,000 per diem, NHIS staff from level 6-12 receive 600 dollars as estacode and N24,000 per diem and NHIS staff from level 3-5 receive 350 dollars estacode and N10,000 per diem.
“There was no evidence of approval of the Minister of Health for all the foreign trips embarked upon by the suspended ES and some staff of the Scheme. This contravenes the provision of circular Ref:HCSF/CSO/HRM/Pol.1402/1 dated January 22, 2015 from Office of the Head of Service of the Federation.”
The committee, in the report therefore, advised for the urgent and comprehensive staff audit and streamlining the bureaucratic set up of the scheme; the management of NHIS should be made to recover the 13th month salary paid up front to seconded staff; the three months salary paid after cancellation of the secondment (April, May and June) and that funds paid to four seconded officers for the aborted Oracle training in Neitherlands.
The committee also uncovered that “on the allegation of the award of N28 million for e-library equipment to Promatrix Resources Ltd, payments made before the job was executed and the purchase of project vehicle exceeding the appropriated amount, there was a provision of the sum of N35,500.00 for the procuremnent of e-library books and periodicals and the sum of N35,196,109.00 for the procurement of project vehicle in the 2016 NHIS capital appropriation.
“There was no evidence of composition of Procurement Planning Committee (PPC), Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) and Procurement Plan Committees for this procurments and the process was characterised with irregularities, violating section 21 of PPA 2007.”
On the other hand, the House Committee on Health Services, chaired by Mr. Chike Okafor, after hearing both sides of the issue mandated Prof. Adewole to immediately call back the suspended NHIS Executive Secretary.
According to the committee, it appears that the ES was being punished for exposing corruption in the NHIS during his speech at the committee hearing.
“The House is shocked by the testimony and revelations by the ES during the hearing, where he decried the corruption being perpetrated by the HMOs.
“He likened it to the fraud in the fuel subsidy scheme, stressing that they are padding figures of enrollees so that they can get paid,” Okafor said.
The House resolution stated, “invite the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt of the House as the suspension of the Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, appears to be intended to intimidate him, punish him for testifying before the House and silence him from further testifying before the House of Representatives, in its constitutional duties of investigation of issues of corruption, inefficiency and waste in governance.
“Request the minister and the acting Executive Secretary to stop henceforth every process of HMOs re-accreditation, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation mandated by the House.
“Request the Minister to recall ES of NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, from suspension forthwith and allow him to continue with his sanitisation programme in the agency.”
It is therefore, necessary to say here that since President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the reinstatement of the suspended NHIS boss, it means that all the allegations leveled against him were found not to overcome integrity test.
It also means that the assertion by the House of Representatives that the Minister suspended Prof. Yusuf to cover up some alleged corrupt activities in the NHIS is true.
A cross section of Nigerians interviewed by The AUTHORITY in Abuja, yesterday, advised the reinstated NHIS to focus on his earlier intension to clean up the agency. They described the recall as a vindication of Prof Yusuf.
While others call on Prof. Adewole to resign if he is not comfortable with the reinstatement, others however, called on him to forget the past, swallow his pride and work with the reinstated NHIS ES for the good of Nigeria and Nigerians.