NHIS Controversy: Workers protest as Executive Secretary Yusuf resumes

Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf [Photo: Concise News]
Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf [Photo: Concise News]

The newly reinstated Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Yusuf Usman, on Thursday resumed work as workers under the scheme staged a protest at the premises of the headquarters of the agency in Abuja.

The workers under the aegis of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria and the Joint Health Sector Union during demanded that Mr. Yusuf’s reinstatement be reversed while investigations on allegations levelled against him continue.

According to the workers, the reinstatement of Mr. Yusuf would impede his investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The protest began shortly after Mr. Yusuf resumed at the headquarters of the agency in Abuja.

“He has resumed work but has not held any management meeting,” Ayo Osinlu, Head, Media and Public Relations of NHIS told PREMIUM TIMES.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday reinstated Mr. Yusuf exactly six months after he was suspended by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, following allegations of gross misconduct.

Mr. Yusuf, 54, took over the state-run health insurance provider on July 29, 2016.

But his reign at the agency has been fraught with graft controversies.

Some staff described Mr. Yusuf’s leadership as causing disaffection and low morale in the system.

The chairman, association of senior civil servant NHIS chapter, Razaq Omomeji accused Mr. Yusuf of bringing someone born in 1984 to become an assistant director in the scheme.

Mr. Omomeji said Mr. Yusuf, a professor has poor knowledge on the management of the scheme.

Alowuyi Kayode, Chairman Medical and Health Association Union, also accused Mr. Yusuf of using divide and rule system to transfer staff indiscriminately.

“We believe that this government came to fight corruption. We also believe that whoever must come to equity must come with clean hands. Prof Yusuf’s reinstatement behoves much to be desired. Presently he is being investigated by the EFCC and ICPC, so we are appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to wait for the report of this investigation to be concluded before any further action,” Mr. Kayode said.

“If the man is giving a clean slate then he can return but as is it now, all his activities for the past one year has been that of ethnicity, tribalism, religiosity and nepotism. Imaging him transferring over 40 per cent of the staff outside Abuja and replacing them with 300 NYSC members. It leaves much to be desired, so we are appealing to this government as a union of NHIS to reverse this recall while investigation with EFCC and ICPC continues,” he added.

There has been a rash of reactions from Nigerians since the news of Mr. Yusuf’s reinstatement broke.

On Wednesday, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, explained that Mr. Yusuf’s recall will not stop any corruption investigation by anti-graft agencies.

Though the presidency has not spoken official on the basis for his reinstatement, a source at the Presidential Villa told PREMIUM TIMES that the suspended executive secretary was reinstated because the president believes the allegations against him are yet to be proven.

The source said the committee constituted by the minister to investigate Mr. Yusuf was neither independent nor free from bias.

“Barely one year into his assumption of office, Professor Usman was suspended by the Minister of health on the strength of a petition by the United Youth Alliance Against Corruption, UYAC and Association of Senior Civil Servants.

“The Minister, relying on the petition, constituted a 17-man committee under the headship of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry to look into the petition by this body of Civil servants. Out of the 17 members of the committee, 16 of them were staff of the Ministry while one member was from the Department of State Services (DSS). The request for a nomination from the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) was declined because they feared a conflict of interest.

“From the composition of the committee, it was obvious that the committee was neither independent nor free from biases.

“Some of the allegations brought against the Executive Secretary by the UYAC could not be substantiated in 20 of the 23 allegations as no evidence was brought forward. “Others were obviously concocted as there were evident alterations and mix-ups in dates on some of the petitions,” the source said.

He said it is clear from the investigation that the presidency identified an acute lack of capacity in the NHIS as an organisation and unless a new set of competent managers are found and recruited, the objectives of setting up of the NHIS may remain a mirage.

“This is why the minister was directed to work with the Executive Secretary to redress some of the identified shortcomings within the organisations to avoid a breakdown of one of the federal government’s flagship programmes and truncate the intention of government to expand the scope of beneficiaries of health insurance scheme and indeed broaden government’s efforts in repositioning the health sector.”

Meanwhile, the acting Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Attahiru Ibrahim, on Wednesday reportedly met with the senior officials of the agency during which he asked them to prepare handover notes for Mr. Yusuf.

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