NHIS boss opens up on why he won’t accept suspension

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The Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, on Tuesday gave reasons why he ignored his indefinite suspension from office by the governing council of the federal agency.

Yusuf was on Thursday asked by the council to proceed on suspension to allow a panel set up by the council investigate allegations of fraud and misconduct against him.

The chairman of the governing council, Enyatu Ifenne, who announced Yusuf’s suspension again, explained that the council had been inundated by petitions against the official. She stated that the official would be sacked immediately should President Buhari be made aware of “one-tenth of the atrocities” committed by Yusuf.

Ifenne alleged the Executive Secretary had refused to carry out the board’s decisions on critical issues and “institutionalised” corruption at the agency.

She also accused Yusuf of allegedly inflating the scheme’s 2018 budget, “fraudulently inflating the cost of biometric capturing machines”, and “attempt to illegally execute N30 billion in federal government bonds”.

The board also alleged that the ES carried out unauthorised staff travel “in defiance to council directive”, “superfluous arrogation of project vehicles” and added he has been insubordinate.

This makes it the second time he would be suspended since assuming office in 2016.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, first suspended Yusuf 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.

In that first instance, he had also insisted on disregarding the sanction, saying the minister had no power to suspend him.

Since the board’s announcement on Thursday, the embattled executive secretary has refused to accept the sanction, and on Monday with the help of about 20 police officers broke a barricade mounted by angry workers of the agency to enter his office.

He has now in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service on Tuesday given the reason he brushed aside the directive of the governing council of the NHIS.

According to him, “The governing board has no right to suspend me as the Executive Secretary.

“I notified them in a written document that they lack constitutional rights to suspend or even block me from entering my office.”

Yusuf described the allegations of fraud and favouritism against him as baseless, saying they were deliberately levelled against him to divert public attention from “real happenings” in the NHIS.

“From the country I came from, if you say someone is a thief, you have to prove that. But since I came on board, I have being going through unnecessarily accusations of fraud.

“They’re doing that just to intimidate and stop me from doing my good work. They have failed, I will never succumb to their ploy, I think they have to change plan,” the executive secretary said.

He alleged that when he assumed office as the Executive Secretary, he was warned by “a handful of people that I have to succumb to NHIS agents or a face a battle.

“I told everyone when I came on board that the public funds in the commission belong to Nigerians, no one should tamper with that money, including myself.

“If I’m corrupt, EFCC and ICPC are currently recovering billions of naira from my whistleblowing in the commission and I have never been indicted by the anti-corruption agencies.

“My ordeal as the Executive Secretary of NHIS may be connected with NHIS agents who think that I stepped on their toes and you know these people are powerful and they are well established in the previous administration.

“Those NHIS agents, I told them to pay back their debts which has already run to billions of naira. After initial investigation, I learnt that so many abnormalities need to be corrected,”  Yusuf said.

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