*PDP queries Buhari’s protection of Usman
By Hassan Zaggi and Myke Uzendu
Despite the suspension of the Executive Secretary (ES) of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, the police on Monday returned him to office after chasing away some protesting workers.
But the health workers in Nigeria have vowed to continue their protest and to mount pressure on the Federal Government to remove him from office
They took the position during a massive protest at the NHIS premises to force the ES to obey the suspension order placed on him by the Governing Council of the agency.
On Wednesday last week, the NHIS Governing Council suspended Yusuf indefinitely, following what it described as financial infractions.
Despite the suspension, the ES still went to office on Thursday and Friday last week.
Angered by what they described as flagrant disobedience to the directive by the Governing Council, the workers vowed to forcefully stop the ES from entering the premises of the NHIS on Monday (yesterday).
However, in a show of force, at about 7am, the ES came with over 30 policemen who tear- gassed the workers in the premises and forced Yusuf to his office.
Some of the police officers later left while others remain until the close of work.
However, the Head of Special Services at the Office of the Executive Secretary, Dr. Uchenna Uwuleke, insisted that according to the NHIS Act, the Governing Council has no right to suspend the ES.
He accused the owners of the Health Management Organisations (HMOs) for fuelling the protest.
“However, let’s make it very clear, the Act establishing NHIS specifies the roles and functions of the Council. There is specification to that prescription that gives the Council the authority or power to suspend co-appointee of the Mr. President;
“The Council members are appointees of Mr. President, so also the Executive Secretary is also the appointee of Mr. President.
“By virtue of the Act, it is express, there is no power conferred on the Council. However, I respect the leadership of the Council- Dr. Ifenne is a very respected person, she is very cerebral and very intelligent, but you know we are all fallible, we all make mistakes,” he said.
He noted that the suspension of the ES was not the major issue that is fuelling the protest, describing it as minor issue that will soon be resolved by the ES and the Governing Council.
While insisting that the protest was beyond the suspension of the ES, Uwuleke noted that: “What is just playing out here is the transfer that has just been done. Let’s make it clear, the issue of nepotism has come up, people have accused the ES of nepotism in terms of the recent transfer that was done.
“That is the real issue. Let us put it clear, the Confidential Secretary in the office of the ES is a Christian, there are two Divisions under the ES office and I am heading one.
“The two heads of divisions are Christians, the head of audit is a Christian, the head of Finance and Accounts is a Christian, the head of Procurement is a Christian, the head of Formal Sector is a Christian, the head of Informal Sector is also a Christian.
“There is no issue of religion or region that is here, it is purely an issue of people who feel that they have fallen out with the control they use to have. That hegemonic control where they use unionism to perpetrate the crisis. We, the staff of NHIS are saying we will put an end to it.”
Speaking with journalists at the venue of the protest, the Chairman of Medical and Health Workers Union in FCT, Comrade Shanabo Abubakar, insisted that the protest will continue until the ES obeyed the suspension order.
He reiterated that “we want him to leave this place.”
Responding to questions from our correspondent, he said: “We are here this morning because we don’t want the ES of this organisation to remain in office because he has been suspended.
“He has been suspended by the Governing Council of this organisation but he is forcing himself
PDP queries Buhari’s protection of NHIS boss
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to come out clear on why he has been protective of Yusuf, who has been variously indicted for alleged corrupt practices, including the reported siphoning of over N25 billion from the coffers of the agency.
The party said that with Monday’s forceful repression of the suspension of Yusuf over humongous corruption allegation and abuse of office, it has become clear that the Presidency is directly complicit in the NHIS fraud and is seeking every means to ensure a cover up.
In a statement he issued on Monday in Abuja, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, asked Nigerians to recall that the same Executive Secretary was in July 2017 suspended by the Minister of Health over alleged gross misconduct and corrupt practices, only for President Buhari, upon his return to the country in February 2018, to reinstate him while he was still a guest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The PDP urged Nigerians to note how the Presidency had continued to provide cover for accused officials even without the slightest investigation on the allegations and sanction by both the minister and the Governing Council.