The Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, has described his suspension by the Governing Board as “a coup against transparency’’.
He said that the suspension was ordered to prevent him from exposing high-level corruption at the agency.
Yusuf stated this while taking his turn at the ongoing investigation into the NHIS crisis by a House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee, on Friday in Abuja.
He said that he was suspended on Oct. 18, 2018 because it was the day he was due to present to the Board a report of the violation of the public procurement processes at the agency.
He also alleged that he was suspended because he refused to release N975 million to the Ministry of Health.
According to him, this led to the setting up of a panel to probe me and the panel delivered as the panelists were given N19 million and even the security too, were given money.
Yusuf insisted that his suspension was preemptive and stopped him from also presenting forensic result on the activities of Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) under the NHIS.
“Why was I suspended on Oct. 18 and not Oct. 19? Oct. 18 was the day I was going to present a result of the forensic audit of the activities of HMOs.
“The 18th of October was nothing but preemptive coup at the NHIS. It was a gang up to stop my fight against corruption,” he said.
Yusuf challenged the committee to invite the Independent Corruption Practices and Allied Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), saying both agencies cleared him on allegations against him.
“All the allegations were recycled. Due to the criminal nature of these allegations, there are anti-graft agencies such as the EFCC and the ICPC and I would like this honourable committee to invite them.
“These are all allegations that have been recycled. They were all investigated by the ICPC and EFCC and they found nothing and I was cleared. They wrote to me clearing me,” he said.
On whether he awarded contracts to his cronies and associates and whether there was conflict of interest in the award, he said there were no such contracts.
Yusuf said that procurement process in the award of contract was transparent as about 28 companies were involved in the tendering and contact selection process before a preferred contractor, Lubek Nigeria Ltd, was chosen.
In his submission, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Abdulaziz Abdullahi, insisted that Yusuf was suspended for his financial recklessness and refusal to follow due process.
He listed more than ten infractions, including approval of N210 million contract for electronic media and how he “single-handedly made his brother, the media consultant to NHIS’’.
“All the allegations leveled against him are 100 per cent correct as all the recommendations of the panel were perpetuated.
“The suspended ES did not carry out his statutory functions as an accounting officer pursuant to 20(1) and (2) of PPA 2007,” he said.
But, in his presentation, Chairman, National Civil Service Union (NCSU), NHIS, Shehu Gajo, said “the ES was not given fair hearing as the Association of Senior Civil Servants was fond of frustrating all executive secretaries of the agency.
“Right from the days of Femi Thomas when the agency was created, once management fails to meet up to its bidding, the association crushes such management.”
At that point, Chairman of the probe committee, Rep. Nicholas Ossai, countered the union chairman saying “I warned earlier that I do not want biased papers here; your paper on this issue is biased.”
Meanwhile, the committee has invited Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, “to give account of all they know about the agency.”