Senate investigates NHIS chief, Usman Yusuf, for alleged N960 million procurement scam

Nigerian Senate Chambers
Nigerian Senate Chamber used to illustrate the story.

The Nigerian Senate on Tuesday constituted a five-member ad-hoc committee to investigate the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf, over allegations financial and administrative abuses.

The motion to probe Mr. Yusuf, a professor, was sponsored by Kabiru Marafa, APC-Zamfara, who expressed concern about “scandalous activities of the new Executive Secretary since his appointment.”

President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Mr. Yusuf head of NHIS in July 2016.

Mr. Marafa, in his presentation, alleged that Mr. Yusuf had been spending above his threshold without the approval of the supervising ministry which is the Ministry of Health headed by Isaac Adewole.

In substantiating his claim, Mr. Marafa mentioned “corrupt expenditure of N292 million” incurred by Mr. Yusuf for healthcare financing training; “illegal expenditure” of N218 million for “training of staff”; “scandalous expenditure” of N400 million “purportedly for training during month of October 2016”; and N50 million for T-shirts and face caps “despite presidential order banning promotional items and souvenirs”.

All the expenditures totalling N960 million, said Mr. Marafa, were without recourse to “any appropriate approving authority” – though the Executive Secretary’s spending limit is N2.5 million.

Apart from alleged financial corruption, Mr. Yusuf was also accused of other abuses, including illegal recruitment, “fraudulent” change of the designations, and questionable promotions.

Mr. Marafa cited “the recent appointment or elevation of a barely 32 years old to the position of Assistant General Manager, equivalent to an Assistant Director in the ministry (of heath) who in fact had less than 10 years in service.”

“Corrupt and scandalous activities of the Executive Secretary if left unchecked could affect the smooth running of the agency,’ said Mr. Marafa.

The Senate, led by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, agreed to Mr. Marafa’s single request that Mr. Yusuf face an ad-hoc investigative panel of the Senate.

Accordingly, Mr. Ekweremadu constituted the committee, comprising Lanre Tejuso, APC-Ogun, who is the chairman of the committee on health; Ahmed Lawan, APC-Yobe, the Senate Leader; Bassey Akpan, PDP-Akwa Ibom; Ahmed Ogembe, PDP-Kogi; and Mr. Marafa to investigate Mr. Yusuf.

PREMIUM TIMES understands that Mr. Yusuf has had frosty relationship with health management organisations which NHIS regulates over policies and alleged pompous attitude of the Executive Secretary.

At a time, the HMOs reported Mr. Yusuf to Mr. Tejuoso who was said to have no interest in bringing the allegations against the Executive Secretary before the Senate before Mr. Marafa now did.

Mr. Yusuf was said to have boasted about having direct access to the President, thereby showing no regard for the minister, Mr. Adewole, a professor and former vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan.

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