Home / Featured / NHIS boss Usman Yusuf suspended, defies ministerial order

NHIS boss Usman Yusuf suspended, defies ministerial order

*I have not been suspended – Yusuf

*Workers, others compile many sins of Prof Yusuf

By Olajide Fashikun

Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Usman Yusuf, has been suspended from office. However, other sources claimed he is shunning the suspension and carrying on with his duties.

According to the very reliable source, the suspension letter, signed by a top official of the Federal Ministry of Health, was delivered to the NHIS boss on Thursday.

According to the source, the suspension of Yusuf was the outcome of a ministerial committee set up to probe his headship of the agency since his appointment a year ago.

“The truth is that the committee recommended for his suspension so as to thoroughly probe alleged deals that runs contrary to financial guidelines.

Defiance of suspension: Embattled Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Usman Yusuf, on Thursday night defied the suspension order handed on him by the Federal Ministry of Health, as he summoned an emergency meeting with all staff of the agency for 9am Friday at the national headquarters of the Scheme. The meeting is yet to start as at 9:20am

News of Yusuf’s suspension has filtered to staffers who were quietly celebrating it. However, Yusuf’s Chief of Staff, Ateiza Issa, sent a text message across to union leaders that “the ES will meet with all NHIS Staff at the HQS tmoro, Fri. 7th June 2017 by 9.00am. Tell others please…Ateiza Issa (CoS).”

“But there was confusion last night as some staffers who noticed a fundamental error in the month of the meeting said, “we are in July and not June. The pro-Yusuf fireworks have started. There is confusion in their camp. The union leaders have resolved to kick against the summon by Yusuf. We shall not attend a meeting called by a suspended ES. He should subject himself to rules of the game.”

According to a source in the NHIS, “Professor Yusuf by virtue of his suspension, until it is lifted, ceased to be the Executive Secretary of NHIS and thus cannot call staff for any meeting of a sort.NHIS staff are advised to disregard as such information as being circulated. The meeting is ill motivated to cause chaos in the Scheme. Don’t partake in the desire to destroy NHIS at all cost.”

Breakdown of law and order suspected: With the tone of the labour leaders not to take orders from a suspended Executive Secretary, there may be a heavy threat to security. However, a source told www.gongnews.net that the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies have been notified of the brewing crisis.

“As it is now, the crisis at the NHIS is getting to its peak. The moment of showdown has come. We await to see if one man is above the law,” said a worker when he noticed he was speaking to a reporter.

Yusuf, through a third party, had denied ever receiving any suspension letter from anywhere. It must be the figment of the imagination of the peddlers of the rumour. I challenge you (the medium) to produce a copy of the letter.

Transferred staffers may be returned: “Recently, Prof Yusuf directed no fewer than 100 staffers of the NHIS to be posted to various health facilities in various parts of the country to serve as desk officers. This is something that has never been done. The posting was a prologue to the recruitment of 15 categories of workers that were ‘seconded’ from other organisation by the embattled NHIS boss.

The source said, “as it is now, the transferred staffers to the health facilities are billed to be recalled. It was an action in clear violation of the statute setting up the agency and something far above his powers.”

Yusuf has been engaged in a war of attrition with major stakeholders in the NHIS, with various groups alleging that his leadership of the agency has been faulty and designed to undermine the workings of the Scheme. The National Assembly is currently probing various allegations against Yusuf by various groups.

The Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN) has accused the suspended NHIS boss of plotting to paint its members, Health Management Organisations (HMOs) in bad light. HMCAN recently petitioned Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to probe into Yusuf’s alleged maladministration.

The many sins of Prof Yusuf: Recently, a group under the aegis of United Youth Alliance Against Corruption (UYAAC) alleged that  Yusuf was engaged in gross abuse of his office and nepotism. In an open petition signed by its Coordinator, Solomon Agbo, the group noted that, “Yusuf’s expertise in the field of paediatrics and exposure in healthcare delivery is not in doubt.” It however said despite his competence, workers are against practices deemed inimical to the progress of NHIS.

The petition also alleged that the Scheme approved the sum of N860 million “for a training programme” which was the total sum budgeted for training in the 2016 budget, adding, “these trainings were not targeted at staff capacity building, but towards his personal profiteering, as observed in their poor contents, particularly in the ICT sector.

This, he perfected with his cronies by organising five different trainings namely: (i) ICT, (ii) Risk Management, (iii) Healthcare Financing, (iv) Communication strategy and (v) Public Procurement.”

The group also alleged that: “all these spending he carried out were above his approval limits, but he was always heard boasting that he has the ears of the President, being from the same state and whatever complaints against him will go nowhere.”

Similarly, there are claims that Yusuf approved the sum of N210 million for electronic media project without recourse to laid down procedures. According to the alliance group, an IT company, whose ownership is close to the Executive Secretary, was engaged in spending over N400 million through contract-splitting, a development anti-ethical to existing procurement rules.

The initial course fee of N520,000 per staff for a three-day local training was approved without recourse to diligent planning, but with the mindset to gratify his cronies. However, after the initial protest from staff, the fee was reduced to N270,000.

Again, Yusuf allegedly approved the supply of e-library equipment at the cost of N28 million, with the favoured company receiving upfront payment before job execution, as against procurement rules. He is also alleged to be entrenching the culture of spending the Scheme’s funds without prior approval from the supervising minister, claiming that President Buhari had given him blank approval.

In his bid to fully take charge of the entire Agency, Yusuf approved a new head for the Insurance Unit. But tongues started wagging when he thereafter approved the transfer of two insurance experts out of the headquarters. With the appointment of an Actuarial Scientist as the Head of Insurance, claims are rife about the Executive Secretary’s preference for his cronies occupying juicy positions in the Scheme.

Another issue raised by the petitioners is the choice of Guinea Insurance among the numerous insurance firms approved by the NHIS.  “One of the companies so chosen, does not have an office in Abuja, but was brought on board by the Scheme. More worrisome is the directive that each HMO should pay N7.2 million to the insurance company. At present, there are over 34 national HMOs, the EFCC should urgently beam it searchlight on this matter. Why the flat rate?” the petitioners queried.

“Also of foremost importance is the open declaration by the Executive Secretary that he would not give jobs to any one that is not his person, which he has adhered to so far. Let the names of companies that he has awarded contracts since August 2016 be brought out and their financial transactions examined. It would not be surprising that most of them are his cronies and fronts.”

Katameya Firstcall Hospital Ltd: Yusuf’s critics are also alleging that he “increased the approved financial support to one Fatima Saidu Dabai from a sum of N10,800,000.00 to N16,220,600.00 which he directed should be paid to Katameya Firstcall Hospital Ltd, as against the first approval to pay directly to the lady.” The group alleged that the hospital may be owned by a confidant of the NHIS boss.

Nnodim Chinyere: There is also the case of Nnodim Chinyere, where a sum of N16 million was arbitrarily approved by the ES without recourse to laid-down rules. This approval looks suspect, because there are many enrollees currently awaiting support, but their claims have not received any favourable attention from the Executive Secretary. The petitioners recalled that a staff of the Kaduna office, Mr. Al Amin Mohammed, was denied medical assistance which ultimately led to his death, while the two already assisted by the Scheme are not even enrollees.

Contrary to claims by Yusuf that he has succeeded in ridding the Scheme of about 23,000 ghost enrollees, another source faulted this assertion, saying “what the NHIS boss did was merely an attempt to discredit past administrations and divert attention from his wrong doings. The truth of the matter is that Yusuf has taken charge of the Scheme’s data base. This is suspected to be part of his plans to systematically dish out whatever information he desires without any hindrance. What he did was to delete names and claim they were ghost enrollees.

Some staffers whose names were among the ones deleted have been complaining. For now, there are enrollees all over the country whose names are no longer in the system and they are genuine. What do you say about that?”

Workers Issue Ultimatum: Following the refusal of Yusuf to outrightly terminate the engagement of the 15 staffers he recruited, senior civil servants had to issue an ultimatum on the NHIS boss to do the needful or risk an industrial action. In a memo to the Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, they wondered why the Executive Secretary should defy the ministerial directive for him to drop from the Agency’s payroll names of the 15 illegally recruited staff.

In their petition to the Minister, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), called on him to ensure the agreement on the illegally recruited staffers by the NHIS is implemented. Their letter dated 4th May, 2017 and titled: ‘Demand for the implementation of the report in respect of the vexed issue of illegal secondment of officers in the NHIS: Urgent need to call the Executive Secretary to order’, the Union alleged that the Prof. Yusuf has turned himself into “an emperor” and running the Scheme as a personal estate.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Executive Secretary NHIS only informed the seconded officers to step aside while he kept assuring them that he is doing some work in the Presidency, Office of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation, including the Office of the Head of the Service of the Federation towards their eventual return to the NHIS.

“On the strength of that promise, he has refused to delete their names from the payroll. Thus, the affected secondees were illegally paid April salary by the Executive Secretary against due process,” said the letter.

According to an insider, the official designation of a Grade Level 15 officer in the Scheme is General Manager (GM) and in this category, the Executive Secretary engaged four substantive Level 15 officers but rather than designate them appropriately, he smartly ascribed ‘Head’ as their official designation.

Strangely too, a female staff with a birth date of 24th October, 1984 (name withheld) from Kano State with Personal File number NHIS/2038 was catapulted to the position of Assistant General Manager (AGM), an equivalent to Assistant Director in the civil service in very suspicious and curious circumstance.

Findings indicate that the lady, who is slightly above 32-year-old, may have spent less than 10 years in service to get to the position whereas those that graduated from the university at about the same time she was born just got to the directorate cadre. Curiously too, her seniors in age, with more years of working experience and higher qualifications in the same department are Principals officers and Assistant Chiefs.

Plotting collapse of Health Insurance: Insiders in the Scheme claim that current efforts massed against Yusuf is capable of bringing down the laudable vision of health insurance scheme to Nigerians. The workers are at a loss why the Federal Government seems unconcerned with happenings in the agency.

“Why should the Buhari-led administration be unconcerned with the rot threatening to consume health insurance in the country? This is someone who is out to foist nepotism and plot the collapse of the agency. He cannot be trusted to do justice and improve on what he met on ground,” said a source who pleaded anonymity.

Legal tango and tussle: Not to be bested by other forces massing against Yusuf’s alleged high-handed leadership style in NHIS is the Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN). The Association has already approached a court of competent jurisdiction in its bid to resolve all contentious issues with the NHIS new management, especially in relations to the payment of outstanding capitation fee by the Scheme.

According to its Chairman, Dr Tunde Ladele, who swore to an affidavit to support the originating summon, “The governing council of the first defendants (NHIS), designed the health insurance scheme to be prepaid and the members of the plaintiff (HMOs), were paid three months in advance, a payment referred to as capitation fee.”

In addition, Forefront gathered that the Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs), with several stakeholders are also not left out in the mounting protestations meant to draw government’s attention to the alleged rot threatening to derail the health Scheme.

Will Yusuf be probed? Several attempts to get the reaction of Prof Yusuf were unsuccessful as phone calls to his lines were ignored. The Scheme’s Public Relations Unit presently has no head or staff to handle enquiries as he was said to have transferred those on ground immediately after assuming duties in the Agency.

Will Prof Yusuf continue to play the Lord of the Manor? This and other questions are only left in the womb of time now that he is refusing to obey a ministerial suspension. Is Yusuf above the law? This is a question that may be answered in a couple of days.

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