• No official letter from Health Minister to suspend me, he says
• NANS vows to sack him by Tuesday
• ‘We won’t work until he obeys Council,’ workers insist
• Suspended ES, Council chairperson meet Health Minister
Abuja – Dozens of policemen assisted the suspended Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Yusuf Usman, into office on Monday.
Angry workers had arrived the premises before 8 am, chanting “Yusuf is a fraud,” “Yusuf must go,” among others, until the ES arrived outside the gate of the premises around 9am.
While the workers blocked the road within with their union vehicles, the police and a few officials of the State Secret Police (Directorate of State Services) helped him in, as he abandoned his official vehicle outside the gate. The crowd of protesters soon fled as police shot teargas and pepper spray into the air.
The workers, many of who were dressed in Nigerian Labour Congress uniform, had been backed by Governing Council of the scheme who vowed last Friday that Yusuf would be would not be allowed in, if he dared to come to office.
The Governing Council had suspended him last Thursday for three months, over alleged fraud, insubordination, criminal breach of Procurement Act, self-aggrandizement, arbitrariness among other offences.
The Council, through its chairperson, Dr (Mrs.) Enyantu Ifenne, had said an administrative panel had been constituted to probe him. The panel was given three months to submit its report. The Council told journalists at a briefing at the NHIS headquarters in Abuja that it got the nod of Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, on the suspension.
Interestingly, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had suspended the ES in June 2018 over similar allegations.
He was being probed for N919 million fraud at the time.
President Muhammadu Buhari reinstated him in February this year. The action attracted condemnations from Nigerians who saw his reinstatement as a huge dent on the president’s anti-corruption crusade.
Nothing was later heard of the probe after his reinstatement. And, there are currently insinuations that the presidency might overrule the Governing Council.
At about 4:15pm yesterday, our correspondent saw the suspended ES leaving the office of the Minister of Health. He left the ministry in the convoy of three vehicles. Sources told this newspaper that a Permanent Secretary from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation had met with the Minister earlier. So also was the chairperson of the of the Council who had been with the Minister same day. Details of their meetings were not known at the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, an employee who spoke for the embattled ES, Mohammad Gajo, said the Governing Council failed to back up its claim that the minister of health gave nod to the suspension with a letter.
He however said only President Buhari could suspend or sack the suspended ES from office.
“A faction of the union couldn’t allow us to have peace at NHIS. Prof Usman has brought all his experience to bear to try and provide health care for all the people. The suspension, they claim they have the backing of the minister, but we have not seen any paper work. In public service, you need to see a paper work that says ‘I’m suspending you,’ we cannot work with the word of mouth,” he said.
Asked if the ES would quit if he receive a paper duly signed by the minister on his suspension, he said: “You see, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria appointed Yusuf, it is the president that will sack him. Suspension is relative to sack.”
He said corruption was fighting back at the Scheme. “People that were benefitting from the immediate past administration are the ones that are causing chaos. You see what I mean by corruption is fighting back? You don’t have the right to come and be creating havoc. They are the beneficiaries of corruption. That is it.
“The first letter that we wrote to the Council that they didn’t reply, it is our right to exist as a union. (He was speaking on his own faction of employees loyal to the ES) We formed this union out of the yearning and aspirations of our staff. The (other) union has derailed from the function of doing checks and balances.
“Their primary responsibility is to work for staff and protect the welfare of staff. But, they derailed. So, we formed this union because of that. At the time they were aggressive against us, we wrote to the Board, we never got invited. The Board never invited us. But, now, the Board will only hear allegation from a union, then, you suspend. No, it shouldn’t be done.
“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has given people right to associate. That is the basis. Secondly, the 2004 Trade Union Act also said everyone, every staff has right to join any union he chooses. So, we are exercising our fundamental right of joining the union we want,” he stated.
Theophilus Yiguda is Vice Chairman, National Association of Senior Civil Servants and one of the leaders of the protesters. He told our correspondent: “We are in full support of what the governing council has done. If it hadn’t been for his proactiveness in seeing to this matter, he (Yusuf) would have stolen about 30 billion of this. Surreptitiously, he has forced the management to sign under the guise of investment, until it got to the attention of the management. We as the union are in full support of this man being suspended by the Council , and he remains suspended. He is an appointee of the president.”
Director of Security Agency and Students Relations to the NANS president, Com Adeyeye Olugbenga, stormed the premises and gave the students union verdict.
”We are here to solidarize with the good people of Nigeria who are workers here, who have been under oppression, depression and mismanagement of NHIS. For record purpose, I was former National President of NAPS. And, under the former ES of this great agency, the scheme was running. We observed that since assumption of office of this corrupt element, there has been mismanagement of people’s fund.
“Unarguably, the voice of the people is the voice of God. People are calling for immediate removal or vacation of office of this man. At the same time, I want the presidency to be aware that his (president Muhammadu Buhari) is being called to question. If a man is corrupt, all accusing fingers are pointing at that person as a corrupt person.
“The minister in his wisdom in his objective evaluation suspended this man. When the president returned, he restored him under controversial circumstance. And, now, those issues, those misdemeanours, abuse of office, abuse of resources upon which this man was earlier suspended are still being perpetrated.
“Our position is this, if by tomorrow, this message is from the NANS president, this man has not vacated this office, we are going to mobile ourselves in thousands, barricade and paralyze this place.”
He added: “Since this man came on board, the Tertiary Insurance Social Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP) has not been running smoothly. Don’t forget that the money this man is spending is people’s money. People make contributions out of their resources to contribute to a pool in return upon which they enjoy services under NHIS. But, now that philosophy, that good idea is under a serious threat with the mismanagement, demeanour abuse of office of this current ES.
“Our own statement is very clear. By tomorrow, he should not even attempt to come here. We came here on a peaceful solidarity today, and to give a categorical statement, and we have left our impression,” he said.