Security operatives take over NHIS
• Health minister suspends additional 8 key officers
ABUJA – A Combined team of security operatives have taken over the headquarters and annex office of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Abuja.
Both offices are located at Jabi (oppose RCCG Regional Headquarters, Master’s Place) and Wuse ll (beside the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC) respectively.
Two employees of the organization, each from the two offices, spoke to Nigeria Health Online, Monday evening, shortly after a press release from the ministry informed of suspension of additional eight management staff of the institution. The staff included former Acting Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Mr Olufemi Akingbade.
Deployment of security officers by government followed the failure of suspended Executive Secretary of the scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, to hand over to his successor two weeks after he was suspended by Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole. Adewole July 6.
Similarly, one of our sources at the scheme hinted that the invasion of “truckloads of Civil Defence personnel at the NHIS” indicated that there might some of the eight suspended chiefs who might want to flout the minister’s order, “as government seems to be ready to crush any act of lawlessness in the organization.”
It was the first time the Minister of Health would suspend any head of Ministry of Health MDAs since he was sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari 20 months ago.
Yusuf has spent barely 11 months at the scheme. He was appointed by Buhari in July 2016.
The affected eight officials are: Mr. Olufemi Akingbade, General Manger, Zonal Coordinator South- South Zone; Mr. John Okon, General Manager, Finance Account; Mr. Yusuf Fatika, General Manger, Human Resources and Administration; and Mr. Shehu Adamu – Assistant General Manager, Audit.
Others are: Mr. Vincent Mamdam, Assistant General Manager, Head Insurance; Mr. Safiyanu Attah, Senior Assistant Officer, Marketing; Mr. Owen Udo Udoma, Senior Manager, Contribution Management; and Mr. Innocent Abbah, Senior Assistant Officer, Planning Research and Monitoring.
Since he was suspended, Yusuf has not resumed in office, neither has he handed over to the most senior official in the organization, Mr Attahiru Ibrahim, who was directed to take over in acting capacity by the minister. Yusuf only replied the minister, giving five reasons he would not step aside.
Adewole had suspended Yusuf after series of allegations of corrupt practices, highhandedness among others leveled against him by various groups in the country, including the National Assembly.
Staff of the NHIS have kicked against him for hiring and recruiting his allies from outside the scheme to allegedly take juicy positions in the organization.
Yusuf has also allegedly moved some staff he thought could oppose his decisions at the scheme outside Abuja.
He has also been variously accused of awarding contracts to his relations and friends, which were never, or poorly implemented.
Kicking against the minister’s directive, the suspended boss had in his letter dated July 12, acknowledged receiving the suspension order, but gave five reasons why he would not comply with the suspension.
According to Adewole, the suspension was “to pave way for uninterrupted investigation of petitions against him in accordance with Public Service Rules.”
Five reasons Yusuf said he would not honour the minister’s directives are: “1. By virtue of the NHIS Act particularly section 4 and 8 thereof, my appointment and removal from office whether by way of suspension or otherwise is at the instance of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“2. Except removed from office by the president under circumstances specified in the NHIS Act, my appointment is for a period of five (5) years subject to further term of the same period at the discretion of the president.
“3. Although by virtue of section 47 of the NHIS Act, you are empowered to give directives of a general nature to the Governing Council of the Scheme and in the absence of the Council, you have Presidential mandate to exercise the powers and functions of the council, but since the powers and functions of the Council do not include discipline, suspension or removal of the Executive Secretary of the Scheme from office, the directive in your letter under reference cannot find comfort under the said section or presidential mandate; and
“4. The letter of suspension is not in accordance with Public Service Rules as no prima facie case has been established against me in respect of the petition referred to in the letter. The mere fact that there are pending petitions against a public officer which is yet to be substantiated does not constitute a ground for suspension under the Public Service Rules. otherwise, with over 18,000 petitions pending against public officer holders before the EFCC and ICPC as at the end of June 2017, the total number of public officers who would have been on suspension by now including Honourable Ministers is left to be imagined.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the minister charged the Acting Executive Secretary to ensure the immediate implementation of the suspension order.
He also urged the committee to ‘’ to remain focused, fair and transparent in the discharge of this National task despite the sensation this development has generated.
He said his actions were in furtherance to the activities of the investigative panel of inquiry and the desire to have an uninterrupted and robust investigation of all petitions at the NHIS)=, including Security reports on alleged maladministration and mismanagement by officials of the agency.