We’ll do our job, EFCC says
ABUJA – Top officials in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari who are piqued by the suspension of Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, are revving efforts to frustrate two leading anti-corruption agencies that have indicated interest to probe activities of the embattled erstwhile head of the scheme.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had in separate letters informed Acting Executive Secretary of the scheme, Mallam Attahiru Ibrahim, that they were set to investigate Yusuf, five months after he was suspended and found guilty of allegations levelled against him by a panel of enquiry set up by the Federal Ministry of Health to probe him.
Yusuf was suspended by the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, in July this year, following allegations of gross abuse of office and sheer contraventions of extant laws guiding the administration of the scheme. His suspension came less than one year when he was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari to head the scheme.
People in the know of developments trailing his suspension said the cabal, whom they claimed brought him into the government, are doing everything possible to ensure president Buhari reinstate him.
A source in the EFCC who spoke with our correspondent at the weekend said “such a move (to frustrate the agency from investigating him) is unexpected, as we have had many of such in the past. We are investigating him. There is no going back. That is the recommendation of the panel of enquiry that found him guilty of accusations against him.”
An impeccable source in the presidency told this newspaper, Friday night, that the cabal is displeased that the anti-graft agencies would wade into such a matter “at this critical time.”
The source, who pleaded anonymity, and claimed to be displeased with “the manner the two top officials of the president are handling matters of corruption,” urged the president to be wary of some of the persons he appointed to help him run his government.
The source said: “The work (of convincing Buhari to reinstate him) was almost done, until the EFCC and ICPC waded in. They (the cabal) were actually shocked that such development would occur. If you understand the interplay of powers in the Buhari’s government, you will understand why the issue of EFCC and ICPC came up at that critical time. And, for me, the agencies acted rightly and promptly too.
“The next step, as I talk to you now, is for the agency under one of the members of the cabal to fight back. That is the plan. And, you know which of the two agencies that will have a bigger blow. You understand what I mean.
“Until the agencies stepped in, the cabal had been on the matter for weeks. They believe the ministry (Federal Ministry of Health) was able to have upper hand because the president was not in charge of government at the time the issue came up and festered. They believe they will have their way because the person in question is of the same tribe and religion with them and the president; and that it was not the president that suspended him.”
The source went on: “We don’t need the public to protest before the presidency does the needful this time around. The issues of sacked SGF, Babachir Lawal and DG NIA, Ayodele Oke, are still fresh in our memories. We know the president we have, no matter the political whirlwinds. Whatever any critic may say today, we know the president to be firmly against corruption. I know the president never has record of reinstating anyone investigated and found guilty of corruption and related practices in his government.”
The source furthered that even if the president would heed pleas of the cabals, the presidency is already worried by media and public outcry against the accused.
Senate, Directorate of State Services, DSS, and Federal Ministry of Health had been involved in probing the suspended official before EFCC and ICPC took over.
The Senate had in March 2017 constituted a five-member ad-hoc committee to investigate Yusuf over allegations of financial and administrative improprieties.
Panel by the ministry of health found Yusuf guilty of allegations levelled against him and recommended his investigation by the anti-graft agencies. Report of the panel was received by Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari in August 2017. However, the president is yet to act on the report, five months after.
In its letter dated December 21, 2017 and titled “Investigation into activities of prof. Usman Yusuf – suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme,” the EFCC said it was investigating suspected cases of fraud and misappropriation levelled against Yusuf while he held sway between July 2016 and July 2017 at the NHIS. The letter was addressed to Acting Executive Secretary of the scheme, Ibrahim.
Similarly, ICPC, in its letter dated December 11, 2017 and addressed to Acting Executive Secretary of the NHIS said it was investigating Yusuf alongside four other employees in the agency. The commission informed the NHIS leadership that the officers were being investigated for alleged violation of the provisions of the Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Act 2000.
The commission cited alleged staff trainings, trips, procurements, consultancy charges among others which gulped almost a billion naira under the leadership of Yusuf and directed the new NHIS management to recover such funds.
“Pursuant to Section 45 (3) of the cited Act, you are hereby directed to recover the money advanced to the five officer and two staff from the Ministry of Health for the aborted trip to the Netherlands. You are further required to furnish the commission with the evidence of compliance by each of the beneficiaries,” read part of the letter.
In its letter with reference number CR: 3000/EFCC/ABJ/CTF1.2/VOL.15/237, and signed by its Director of Operations, Umar Abba, for the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, the commission sought information on all necessary documents relating to local and international training programmes sponsored by the scheme from July 2016 to July 2017.
The commission demanded documents relating to the audit verification conducted within the tenure of Yusuf, and “all documents relating to payment made to Katamaya First Call Hospital; all procurement documents to the e-library project of the NHIS; all payments relating to the fuelling of the suspended Executive Secretary’s official vehicles; disbursement of NEED assessment funds between July 2016 and July 2017.”
The agency said it was making the requests pursuant to Section 38 (1) and (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004. It also asked for documents on all NHIS-sponsored foreign trips for the embattled professor.
The anti-graft agency also demanded that the NHIS management confirm if four other persons named in the letter were employees of the scheme. It also requested for their status, if they are. They are Nasir Shinkafi, Shuab Mohammed, Suleiman Ilu and Yusuf Abdullahi.
Meanwhile, probe committee of the health ministry had said in its report compiled by the Directorate of State Services (DSS)ICPC and the ministry’s officials that Yusuf “portrayed a holier than thou attitude but at the background, milked the agency dry,” including his (Yusuf’s) deceitful attitude coupled with ‘name dropping’ of Mr. President as having sent him to sanitise the NHIS, but he caused more harm than good to the scheme.”
When asked to step aside to allow investigation into myriads of allegations against him, Yusuf was adamant and resolved to engage in verbal war with the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who gave the directive.
President Muhammadu Buhari was in faraway London hospital for treatment at the time.
The Federal Government had to deploy armed security agents to Jabi headquarters of the NHIS and its annex office in Wuse 2, both in Abuja before the embattled former head of the scheme quit.
Yusuf’s sermons were always corruption when he assumed office. At his first three-day retreat for management staff of the scheme in Kaduna which kicked off on 30th August, 2016, Yusuf attacked health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in the country for corruptly enriching themselves with funds meant for enrolees care. He also lambasted his own staff for failing to discharge regulatory functions entrusted in the scheme, and for making the NHIS a conduit for “endemic corruption, inefficiency and political patronage.”
He decried poor coverage of the nation’s citizens under the scheme, as according to him, enrolees on the scheme were about three percent of the nation’s population when he took over mantle of leadership of the NHIS.
“Here, people die, people maim, and people suffer because of our inaction or action, including NHIS, HMOs and the health care providers. People suffer and people die. Mr President gave this job and he said “Go and make the NHIS work for all Nigerians. Is it working for all Nigerians now if we are honest to ourselves? No, it works very much for HMOs, it works very well for some health care providers, it works very well for some NHIS staff. We need to look within ourselves, we the NHIS that has been given this responsibility. Have we done a good job as a regulator? The answer is no.
“When the regulator is sleeping, how do you not expect the regulator to be partying with the regulated? I have heard of HMOs and health care providers that are dictating to NHIS. It is like a commercial bank dictating to Central Bank, or an oil marketer dictating to NNPC,” he had said.
He continued: “The President’s mandate is crystal clear: “Go and make the NHIS work for all Nigerians. You can only do that by cleansing yourself, the NHIS of endemic corruption, inefficiency and political patronage. You must be a good steward of that which you are entrusted, which is the commonwealth of our people…”