NHIS Crisis: Why health minister, governing council, others are against me – Usman Yusuf

The suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Usman Yusuf, on Friday alleged that members of the panel that recommended his suspension were paid N19 million after his suspension was effected last year.

Mr Yusuf also alleged that the health ministry requested N975 million, ”which he turned down”.

Mr Yusuf was last week asked by the governing council of the agency to proceed on an administrative leave to allow a panel set up by the council investigate allegations of fraud and misconduct against him.

It was the second time he would be suspended since he assumed office in 2016.

The minister first suspended him in July last year over similar allegations. But he was reinstated in February by President Muhammadu Buhari despite his indictment by the panel that probed the allegations against him.

Two days ago, President Buhari directed that he proceed on administrative leave effective from November 5 to allow for unfettered investigation into allegations levelled against him.

Mr Yusuf made the allegations of bribery at an ongoing investigation of the crises by the House of Representatives.

An ad-hoc committee headed by Nicholas Ossai was set up to investigate the matter.

Mr Yusuf told the committee that his problem started ”when he turned down the ministry’s request for the N975 million”.

“This led to the setting up of a panel to probe me and the panel ‘delivered’ as they were given N19 million and even the security (officials) too were given money.”

PREMIUM TIMES could not independently verify the allegations.

Asked whether he has any evidence, Mr Yusuf responded in the affirmative saying ”he has documented evidence of how the money was shared.”

He described his suspension by the governing council of the agency as a coup against transparency which he stood for at the agency.

Mr Yusuf told the committee that he was suspended on October 18, 2018 because it was the day he was due to present to the board a report of the violation of the public procurement processes at the agency.

The executive secretary alleged that he was also expected to present before the board a forensic result of the activities of HMOs (health maintenance organisations) as well as a report of the NHIS performance.

“Why was I suspended on October 18 and not 19th of October? On the 18th of October was the day I was going to present a result of the forensic audit of the activities of HMOs.

“18th of October was nothing but preemptive coup at the NHIS. It was a gang up to stop my fight against corruption,” he stated.

He further challenged the committee to invite the ICPC and the EFCC, which he said had given him a clean bill of health on the same allegations being levelled against him. ”All the allegations were recycled,” he said.

Apart from the allegations for which Mr Yusuf was suspended last year, PREMIUM TIMES reported more recent allegations levelled against him by the governing council of the agency. These include allegations of budget padding, and insurbordination. The govenriing council was only put in place earlier this year and thus were not involved in last year’s activities at the agency.

Mr Yusuf, however, said he was being victimised.

“Due to the criminal nature of these allegations, there are anti-graft agencies such as the EFCC and the ICPC and I would like this honourable committee to invite them.

“These are all allegations that have been recycled. They were all investigated by the ICPC and EFCC and they found nothing and I was cleared. They wrote to me clearing me,” he stated.

Also speaking at the panel, the health minister, Mr Adewole, who was represented by the permanent secretary, Abdulaziz Abdulahi, in his submission asserted that Mr Yusuf was suspended for his ”financial recklessness and refusal to follow due process.”

He listed more than ten infractions which he said included the approval of N210 million contract for electronic media and how he ‘single-handedly’ made his brother media consultant to NHIS.

“All the allegations levelled against him are 100 per cent correct,” he said.

“The suspended ES did not carry out his statutory functions as an accounting officer pursuant to 20(1) and (2) of PPA 2007.”

In his presentation, Chairman, National Civil Service Union, (NCSU), Shehu Gajo, noted that Mr Yusuf was not given a fair hearing.

He said the Association of Senior Civil Servants ”is fond of frustrating all executive secretaries of the agency”.

“Right from the days of Femi Thomas when the agency was created, the association, once management fails to meet up to its bidding, it ‘crashes’ such a management.

While adjourning the hearing to a yet to be disclosed date, chairman of the committee, Nicholas Ossai directed the secretariat of the panel to summon the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, and the Central Bank of Nigeria to give an account of ”all they know about the agency”.

News Reporter

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