The crisis rocking the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) over the reinstatement of the suspended erstwhile, Executive Secretary, Professor Usman Yusuf, should be resolved forthwith. The matter should be handled in such a way that it will not dent the anti-corruption war of the present administration.
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Established in 2006 during the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, the NHIS has had about six different helmsmen, until the appointment of Yusuf. Since then, allegations of financial malfeasance have dogged its activities.
We welcome the interrogation of its activities and hope that it would resolve the problems of the beleaguered agency with a view to refocusing it to achieve its mandate. From available reports, the NHIS has not covered more than five per cent of its envisaged mandate, yet the agency is riddled with allegations of financial corruption.
In the latest case, however, the Chairman of the Governing Council of the NHIS, Professor Ifenne Enyanatu, announced on October 18 that Professor Yusuf has been suspended indefinitely to allow for a proper investigation of the allegations leveled against him. To this end, she said, a panel had been constituted after obtaining the permission of the supervisory Minister of Health.
This was curious because the same Yusuf had been investigated previously for similar allegations. Even if he put up a resistance then claiming that only the President, as the appointing authority, could suspend or discipline him, he was forced to proceed on suspension nonetheless. But Yusuf was recalled when President Muhammadu Buhari returned from his medical vacation abroad. Although President Buhari pleaded that due process was not thoroughly followed, he agreed that investigations could still go on.
The development did not augur well with many Nigerians. They believe that Yusuf would have remained suspended until the probe is concluded. This would have been the case, especially for a government that has made the war against corruption its cardinal programme. We believe that nothing should be done to undermine the fight against graft.
The NHIS is planned to ameliorate the health challenges of Nigerian workers in both private and public sectors. Under the contributory saving model involving employers and employees, some money is put aside to take care of the health needs of the workers and their dependents.
It is very disturbing that most of the workers, who had contributed to the NHIS over the years, are not being allowed to enjoy the benefits. While the embattled NHIS boss says the protection of the resources of NHIS is the reason for his alleged persecution, the workers insist that he has a case to answer. Besides, Yusuf has claimed that the Governing Council does not have the power to suspend him and has forcefully resumed office with the backing of some security agents.
His position appears to have received the backing of the Presidency. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, recently affirmed that indeed the boards of government agencies and parastatals do not have the power to suspend appointees of the president. According to him, the boards can “articulate infractions, investigate wrongdoing and make recommendations to government through the supervisory ministry.” Interestingly, the House of Representatives has set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the matter. There is no doubt that the crisis in the NHIS is of urgent national importance.
Therefore, we call on the House Committee to handle the matter dispassionately. It must put the interest of the NHIS and the nation foremost in its probe. It must also work within the four weeks time frame it has set for itself to resolve the matter.
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