Political Notes

October 27, 2018

The stigma at the NHIS

Usman Yusuf

Yusuf Usman

By Emmanuel Aziken

The sight of dozens of policemen escorting the executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf across protesting workers of the agency, into his office last Monday, may become a defining point for the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Indeed, if critics need any visual portrayal of a contradiction in the administration’s anti-corruption nuances it certainly may not find a better clip.

Usman Yusuf

Yusuf Usman

Yusuf has already etched a record in the administration’s checkered chronicle of fighting graft. Just after President Buhari travelled on medical vacation last year, Yusuf was suspended by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole following a report submitted to him by an investigative panel that indicted him of corruption, nepotism among other charges.

The man was, however, returned to office in February, 2018 by President Buhari. In returning him to office, the president asked him to learn to work with the minister. Perhaps the message that was conveyed to the president for the suspension of Yusuf was that he wasn’t working well with his minister.

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Eight months after he was returned by presidential fiat, Prof. Yusuf was last week suspended from office, yet again over allegations of corruption. The minister of health who had now learnt to work well with Yusuf was understandably not involved in the later suspension.

This time, the suspension was handed down by the governing council of the NHIS which acted upon petitions that alleged high-level corruption in Yusuf’s management of the agency. He was suspended by the board following two days of meeting.

Again, Yusuf refused to heed the board and on Monday forced himself over protesting staff of the agency who mounted a siege against his sustenance in office.

Prof. Yusuf’s has repeatedly claimed that his critics are being used as instruments of the corruption lobby that is against his reforms at the NHIS.

It is the same excuse that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on prosecution, Mr. Okoi Okono-Obla has given to demands on him to come clean on whether or not he forged his secondary school certificate!

One of the reforms Yusuf introduced in the NHIS is the ballooning of the departments of the agency. A check on the website would reveal that the NHIS has 23 general managers reporting to the executive secretary! Pray which organization would allow itself to be so loaded with top heavy officials as the NHIS has turned into?

It is so ridiculous that you have four general managers doing the work that ordinarily should be part of the brief of one General Manager. In this case, there is GM, Finance and Admin, there is a GM, Human Resource and Admin, there is also a GM, Finance and Account Department and yet another GM, Human Resource and Administration Department!

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These are parts of the reforms that Yusuf introduced that have apparently gotten him enamoured with the Presidential Villa that he has become untouchable despite indictments by the president’s appointees; notably, the minister and lately the governing council.

Why Prof. Yusuf and the NHIS are at the centre of what should ordinarily be an embarrassing circus is not surprising. Health insurance is a multi billion naira business. Given the observations of the minister and the governing board, Prof Yusuf may also be wanting in the management of the funds; and that is besides the allegations of nepotism and maladministration.

Yusuf must be a special man in Buhari’s court of integrity! His staff are up against him because of corruption. The governing board has found him wanting and even the minister had indicted him; yet the presidency can mobilise 50 policemen who ordinarily should be keeping us safe to protect him in office!

But why do Nigerian political office holders allow themselves to suffer these indignities?

Thirty three years ago, Prof. Adewole was the national president of the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, and led a nationwide strike against the foibles of the General Muhammadu Buhari regime at that time.

Now more than three decades after, and with Adewole working for Buhari, the paradox could not be further demonstrated.

When the president overruled him in February to foist Yusuf on him without as much as telling him before hand, Adewole missed an opportunity to make a statement. In many other climes that action would have caused a national outrage, but here, it was a storm in a tea cup!

governing council which issued the later suspension order could well have also made a bold statement. Imagine if either Adewole or the members of the board staged a collective protest by resigning from the board and abandoning the NHIS for Yusuf and Buhari.

But for whatever reason, they would not and hence they keep Nigeria chained to the demons that have stifled our national development!