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Health stakeholders fault Yusuf’s reinstatement as NHIS boss

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Prof. Usman Yusuf


• Recall won’t stop EFCC prosecution, says FG
• Lawyer sues Buhari for ‘violating’ federal character principle

Stakeholders in the health sector, led by the Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN), have condemned the reinstatement of suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf.They accused President Muhammadu Buhari of preferring ethnicity to competence and ignoring the report of a panel that indicted and suspended Yusuf over an alleged N919 million fraud.

Yusuf, currently under probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was on Tuesday reinstated by Buhari in a letter to Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole.

The minister had set up the panel that indicted Yusuf because the NHIS is under the purview of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH). Yusuf, however, had insisted he is answerably only to Buhari.

HMCAN described the recall as shocking and disturbing, warning that the development spells doom for the health insurance sector. It urged Buhari to remove Yusuf from office, arguing he has no moral justification to continue as NHIS boss.HMCAN is the umbrella body of Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) in Nigeria.

In an interview with The Guardian in Abuja, the National Publicity Secretary of the association, Lekan Ewenla, said the reinstatement proves the current administration’s anti-graft war has failed. “It is a shock that someone that is being investigated and that has been found culpable by the EFCC is being reinstated without any consultation. Yusuf was interrogated by the EFCC on Monday and Tuesday. Is there no platform for this government to feel the pulse of the nation? The industry is doomed because if someone has spent N1 billion and is being reinstated after suspension, it means he can do whatever he likes,” he said.

Ewenla said the move is condemnable and inconceivable. “This should not be happening in the health sector which is very critical. If the president likes him so much, let him give him any other office, not NHIS because he does not posses the technical capacity,” he said.The President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Mike Ogirima, declined to comment. “I will prefer to leave it to the politicians. What we are interested in is that mandatory health insurance should be available for all Nigerians. Whether it is a goat or sheep that is there, what we want is anyone that can perform and make health insurance universal,” he said.

The President, Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria (HCPAN), Dr. Umar Sanda, also said: “We just heard the news today. We will wait until things unfold. We are not going to comment because we have not got the full details. We do not know the circumstances.”HCPAN is the umbrella body of retainer hospitals paid by the HMOs under the NHIS.

The Guardian could not reach Prof. Adewole or any of his aides, as their phones were switched off. Prof. Yusuf refused to pick his calls.The phones of the President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed Yakasai, were also switched off.The Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) also criticised the reinstatement, saying the action suggests the anti-graft war is selective.

In a statement, the Secretary-General, Comrade Alade Bashir Lawal, urged Buhari to rescind the action and allow Yusuf to leave the system. He said: “How can a government official being investigated for a whopping N919 million fraud by the EFCC be reinstated by a government that came to power promising to sanitise the system? This is one intervention too many.”

The Federal Government, however, said the reinstatement would not halt Yusuf’s prosecution by the EFCC.Fielding questions from State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Buhari, yesterday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, denied knowledge of the probe.

“I am not aware that the EFCC is investigating the recently reinstated Executive Secretary of NHIS. But if that is the case, I don’t think his reinstatement is a barrier to any investigation,” ‎he said.

Asked why he claimed he was not aware the NHIS boss was under investigation, the minister said: “I didn’t say I’m not aware of his investigation. I said EFCC. I was precise. I said I am not aware that the EFCC is investigating him. And if it is true, then the fact that he has been reinstated does not mean a stop to it. That is what I said. 

“I am not saying I’m not aware that he was suspended or any investigation is going on. The fact that he has been reinstated does not mean that the EFCC will not continue with its investigation. That is what I said.”

A rights activist and lawyer, Francis Moneke, meanwhile, has sued Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation for allegedly violating the federal character principle in the appointment of key security chiefs.At a Federal High Court in Abuja, Moneke, through his counsel, Ikenna Okoli, is contending that the pattern of appointments shows favouritism and nepotism on the part of the first respondent.

The applicant wants the court to declare that the people of the South-East are bona fide citizens of Nigeria and cannot be subjected to restrictions that exempt citizens from the North.

 


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