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NHIS chief, Attahiru, pledges robust services

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Primary Health Care

As the crisis rocking the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) simmers, its new acting Executive Secretary, Ibrahim Attahiru, has pledged a robust national healthcare coverage.

Attahiru, who spoke exclusively to The Guardian through one of his aides, said he was committed to repositioning the scheme to meet the yearnings of Nigerians.

“We have been able to bring stability to the scheme. Our focus now is to create more access for Nigerians to enjoy affordable, quality and hi-tech medicare,” he said.

Until his appointment last July, Attahiru was Director, Funds Management. He took over from suspended former chief executive, Usman Yusuf, who was at loggerheads with the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.

Sources disclosed that Attahiru, generally seen as a cool-headed team player with uncanny ability to listen, has rekindled hope in the health insurance scheme after many years of crisis.

Insiders noted that while the battle of supremacy lasted, the over N130 billion contributed between 2014 and 2017, was stuck in the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and had been included in the Single Treasury Account (TSA) regime of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Although, the development is said to be having an adverse effect on the implementation of the health scheme which has a direct bearing on the lives of Nigerians from birth to death, Attahiru had been quoted to be working round the clock to reverse the trend.

The NHIS funds, even bigger than that of the National Pension Scheme, it was reliably learnt that the CBN currently pays residual interest on the money instead of the higher interest it could have attracted from commercial banks.

During the tenure of former acting Executive Secretary, Abdulrahman Sambo, the scheme was said to have attracted about N5.7 million life coverage from the private, public and informal sectors.

The crisis became a public knowledge when erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan sacked Prof. Femi Thomas in 2015. Thomas, who was appointed in 2013, allegedly retired many of the directors and appointed their deputies instead with the hope of gaining control only to retire them within six months.

He was to later lose his job after he was accused of hobnobbing with Buhari who had won the elections.

In 2013, Femi Akingbade, the seventh director of the scheme, was appointed acting Executive Secretary, but was later suspended.

An Act for the establishment of the NHIS was mooted in 1995 but was formally launched in 2005. The law establishing the scheme provided for a board but it has largely operated without one, resulting in frequent bickering between its executive secretaries and the health minister.



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