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NHIS crisis latest: Buhari bows to pressure, asks Yusuf to step aside

Apparently reacting to workers’ protest and insistence from the Governing Board of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday ordered the embattled Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, to proceed on administrative leave in order to create room for an unfettered investigation.

The President also approved the establishment of a seven-man fact-finding panel to investigate the allegations leveled against Yusuf by the Governing Board of the NHIS.

The President further approved that Mr. Ben Omogo, a Director of Administration in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation be deployed to oversee the affairs of the Scheme.

In a statement signed by Olusegun A. Adekunle, Permanent Secretary (General Services Office) on behalf of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the presidency said that the development became necessary to create room for an unfettered investigation into the series of allegations against Yusuf

The statement also directed Ben Omogo to take over the activities of the scheme in acting capacity pending the outcome of investigations by the constituted panel.

The Panel, headed by Dr. Hassan Bukar, a retired Permanent Secretary, was directed amongst others to investigate the alleged infractions listed by the NHIS Governing Council in a letter dated October 18, 2018 and determine the extent of culpability or otherwise of Yusuf with regards to the allegations;

“To identify, investigate and make recommendations with regards to issues that led to the unhealthy relationship between the Board and the CEO;

“Investigate and make recommendations on the extent of involvement of staff Unions’ within the institution as to the current impasse between the Governing Board and Executive Secretary; and “To examine all governance challenges in the NHIS and make appropriate recommendations”.

Other members of the panel include Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, Director, HPRS, FMH; Mr. Adewale Owolo, Director, Audit, (AuGF); Mr. Shamsuddeen Bello, Deputy Director, Expenditure (OAGF) and Mr. Ishaq Yahaya, Director, Certification & Compliance, BPP.

Other members are Dr. Ekanem John Udoh, Director of Science (FMS&T) and Mrs. Jummai Idakwo, Secretary, Director, Administration (OSGF).

The panel will be inaugurated by the SGF on Friday at about 3pm in the conference Room of the OSGF.

Mustapha said that the committee has two weeks to report its findings to the government for necessary action.

According to the SGF, the Federal Government has found it necessary to restate that the objective for establishing Parastatals is in fulfillment of the need to deliver services to Nigerians faster and better.

He said: “The government has also considered it necessary to restate that the roles of Governing Boards/Councils are as prescribed by the statutes, guidelines and extant circulars and that the position of Chief Executives of Parastatals is to ensure that policies of Government as ennunciated by Boards and Councils are implemented in accordance with their mandate.”

However, he said that the government has however observed with deep concern the growing tension between Boards and Chief Executives and their attendant implications for governance.

The statement reads in part; “For the avoidance of doubt, government will neither tolerate acts of indiscipline from any appointee nor will it habour any acts of corruption.

Government will however ensure that due process is followed strictly in trying to maintain discipline and probity in public service.

“With specific reference to recent developments at the National Health Insurance Scheme, Mr. President has after due consideration approved the establishment of an independent fact-finding panel to investigate the alleged infractions by the Executive Secretary and report back within two weeks.

According to the SGF, the terms of reference of the committee include: To investigate the alleged infractions listed by the NHIS Governing Council in letter dated 18th October, 2018 and determine the extent of culpability or otherwise of the Executive Secretary with regards to the allegations;

To make appropriate recommendations based on the findings from TOR I above; To identify, investigate and make recommendations with regards to issues that led to the unhealthy relationship between the Board and the CEO;

Investigate and make recommendations on the extent of involvement of staff Unions’ within the institution as to the current impasse between the Governing Board and Executive Secretary; and to examine all governance challenges in the NHIS and make appropriate recommendations.

The Federal Government reiterated that it recognises the importance of the Scheme as a strong mechanism for the delivery of public healthcare and wishes to re-assure all Nigerians of its determination to place high premium on public interest.

The Daily Times recalls that the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, first suspended Yusuf in June 2017, after an administrative panel found him guilty of allegations of gross misconduct, nepotism, financial recklessness and alleged theft of public funds to the tune of N919 million.

In October, Adewole made the suspension indefinite pending action from President Muhammadu Buhari.

But in February 2018, the President reinstated Yusuf through a letter from the President’s Chief of Staff to the Minister making no mention of the allegations against Yusuf but simply urging him to “work harmoniously with the Minister”.

On October 18, 2018, the NHIS board chaired by Dr. Enyantu Ifenne directed Yusuf to proceed on suspension, pending the conclusion of investigation against him.

Ifenne said that administrative panel has been constituted to investigate the allegations and other activities of the NHIS boss.

She said: “His suspension will allow for unfettered access to the records of the agency to ascertain the truth behind the corruption allegation against the chief executive of NHIS”.

She added the board consulted with all the stakeholders including the Minister of Health , Prof. Isaac Adewole, before his suspension decision was taken.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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