As Police, staff clash
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA — Operatives of FCT Police Command and aggrieved workers of National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, yesterday, clashed over attempt by the suspended Executive Secretary of the scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, to gain access into the scheme’s premises in Abuja.
The workers, acting under the aegis of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, had vowed to stop Yusuf from entering his office, pending the outcome of investigation into allegations of corruption and administrative infractions brought against him before the scheme’s Governing Council.
Consequently, they converged on the headquarters of the scheme as early as 7am, locked up the gates and barricaded other entrance points into the premises, insisting they would not work under the leadership of the suspended executive secretary.
However, when Yusuf arrived a few hours later, the workers attempted to stop him but were overpowered by the police, who later broke through the gates and accompanied him to his office unhurt.
Speaking to Vanguard on the sidelines of the melee that ensued, branch chairman of ASCSN, Comrade Abdulrazak Omomeji, said the workers would continue the struggle to compel Yusuf to vacate his office until he cleared his name.
He said: “The suspended Executive Secretary came to bulldoze his way into the scheme, forcing the gate open and harassing the female members of our association against the laws and statutes guiding the affairs of the scheme. This is impunity of the highest order. Must we continue like this?
“We have made it clear that we cannot work with him. He cannot be more powerful than the (governing) council and the entire staff of NHIS. The struggle must continue. To us, the suspension handed him remains because of the allegations of corruption hanging on his neck.
“We are doing this to let the government know that it is harbouring corruption and we will not take it.”
Meanwhile, Head, Special Services at the office of the Executive Secretary, Dr Uchenna Uwaleke, disagreed with the workers, insisting that the issue behind the protest was the recent workers’ transfers authorised by the executive secretary.
He described the suspension of the executive secretary as minor issue that will soon be resolved by the executive secretary and the governing council.
He said: “What is just playing out here is the transfer that has just been done. Let’s make it clear, the issue of nepotism has come up, people have accused the executive secretary of nepotism in terms of the recent transfer that was done. That is the real issue.
“Let us make it clear, the confidential secretary in the office of the executive secretary is a Christian, there are two divisions under the ES office and I am heading one. The two heads of divisions are Christians, the head of audit is a Christian, the head of Finance and Accounts is a Christian, the head of procurement is a Christian, the head of formal sector is a Christian, the head of informal sector is also a Christian.
“There is no issue of religion or state of origin. It is purely an issue of people who feel that they have fallen out with the control they used to have. That hegemonic control where they use unionism to perpetrate crisis, we are saying we will put an end to it.”
Recall that the Governing Council of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, had last week suspended the Executive Secretary of the scheme, Prof Usman Yusuf, indefinitely to pave way for investigation into allegations of corruption leveled against him.
Chairman of the Governing Council, Dr Eyantu Ifenne, had at a briefing in the scheme headquarters last Thursday, said, based on the review of various documents on allegations leveled against him, they had resolved to constitute an administrative panel to investigate and submit its report in the next three months.
She said: “The ES is suspended indefinitely to pave unfettered space for the committee to do thorough investigations into the matter.”
Dr Efene added that approval was got from the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole.
“The council has also resolved that Dr Abubakar Sadiq Adamu immediately step into the acting capacity of the executive secretary to allow activities run smoothly.”
Prof Yusuf was suspended by the Minister of Health in July, 2017 but was reinstated by the Presidency in February, 2018.