â€¢ ICPC grills cronies
By Senator Iroegbu and Paul Obi in Abuja
New details have emerged onÂ how the suspended Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, allegedly defied the federal character policyÂ that saw him illegally recruiting over 15 family members and friends into the top echelons of the agency.
Sources informed THISDAY yesterday that Yusuf, on assumption of office 11 months ago, showed a brazen act of nepotism and disdain for people that are Â not of his Hausa-Fulani ethnic stock or his family members by expelling them from the NHIS headquarters, of which over 90 perÂ cent of them were mostly southerners and Christians.
Â â€œThe executive secretary came and polarised the NHIS and turned it into a northern agenda. He has aÂ morbid hatred for Christians and non-northerners including detribalised and moderate northerners who opposed what he was doing were thrown under the bus. For example, one of those brilliant senior officersÂ who opposed him was the GM Human Resources, Mr. Lawal Tinau and he was exiled to Maiduguri as a result of that,â€ a source alleged.
One of the key allegations and grouse against the embattled executive secretary was the expulsion of some of the brilliant senior officers (mostly southerners) and their replacement with his relatives and cronies.
Â According to sources, one of the those recruited from outside the service was his brother as the General Manager Legal Services and his niece who is said not to be above Level-8 staff but was given a position above level 15 in the agency with humongous allowances and salaries.
Â â€œHe is today deceiving members of the public and whipping up ethnic sentiment. Who told him the NHIS money belonged to the North,â€ a concerned staff queried.
Speaking Â with THISDAY on a condition of anonymity, a staff of NHIS accused Yusuf of handpicking people, especially family, friends Â and cronies to do his bidding, including the current Head of Insurance Division as well as the General Manager ICT.
Â The staff explained that â€œwhen Yusuf came on board, he went outside the scheme to recruit 15 people in secondment without due process. All of them where from his constintuency. He hired his brother as the GM Legal as well as his niece, a very young girl, who should not be above level 8 was immediately jacked up to level 15 with allowances paid up front till December.â€
Â Also speaking to THISDAY on the matter, a whistle blower described the suspended NHIS boss â€œas a major ethnic bigot whose first mission on resumption was ethnic cleansing.
â€œHe unilaterally seconded 15 northerners inÂ a nepotistic and ethnic move. He single-handedly seconded 15 General managers to the scheme without due process. After government directed that he revert to the status quo, he flouted the instruction. After eventually letting go of the illegal secondment, he was still paying the ex GMs from NHIS purse. They have not refunded the upfront he paid them as we speak because he told them not to do so.â€
Â THISDAY also learnt from a union leader within the scheme, Omomeji Abdulrazaq, who admitted that some of the actions of Yusuf which bordered on abuse of office had been a contentious issue for a long time.
Â Abdulrazaq noted that while the union would not take side in the fight between the embattled NHIS Executive Secretary and his supervising Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, he must however answer to the allegations levelled against himÂ bordering on fraud, nepotism and outright abuse of office.
Meanwhile, a Coalition of Civil Society GroupsÂ (CCSG)Â has condemned actions of the suspended NHIS over his refusal to obey the suspension handed down to him by Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.
The group also frowned at the ethnic and biased intervention on the suspension of the Executive Secretary of the NHIS by the Northern youth groups and the House of Representatives.
In a communique issued at the end of their meeting in Abuja yesterdayÂ and signed byÂ the President, Bassey Etuk Williams and Secretary,Â Abubarkar Ibrahim, the group said it was imminent to respond â€œto correct the manner in which organizations engage or respond to national issues and to condemn the ethnic correlation attached to issues of governance.â€
They argued that â€œthe 48 hours ultimatum given to the Minister of Health to revert the suspension of Yusuf, or be sued by the Northern Youths Development Association and the biased call for his immediate reinstatement by the House of Representative formed the crux of the deliberation.Â Â
â€œWe the members of the Coalition of Civil Society Groups condemn in strong terms the use of ethnic platforms to intervene on national issue especially when it bothers down on corrupt practices.
â€œWe observed that the trend could escalate into ethnic rivalry and tension however, we support any objective interrogation on good governance and accountability and hence the issues emanating from the Ministry of Health and NHIS deserve public scrutiny.Â Â Â Â
â€œIt was observed that condemning the purchase of vehicle on loan for official use is improper as the engagement of vehicles for official use cannot be considered as a violation of civil service regulation on the relationship between ministries and parastatals.
â€œWe condemn the lawmakers biased conclusion and allegation that the suspension of the executive secretary of NHIS was due to his refusal to accede to series of demands for money by the Minister of Health.
â€œWe frown at the outcry over the manner in which the committee set up to investigate the NHIS was constituted and we condemn the assertion that the members of the committee are corrupt.â€
They maintained that â€œit is unfortunate to note that the said request of about five million naira for sponsorship of officials to the 70th World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva, Switzerland in May, 2017 was neither approved nor released by the NHIS Executive Secretary.
â€œWhile we as a group are for an egalitarian society and due process and at the same time ensure that the fight against corruption must be won, we however condemn in strong terms the flagrant abuse of privilege through arrogance and disrespect to constituted authority as all are equal before the law and we must ensure we build a strong institution and not personality.
â€œIt is sacrosanct for all Nigerians to note that a service to a nation of over 180 million citizens is an honor.
â€œWe believe that the investigation will avail Yusuf the opportunity to defend his reputation and clear himself of the allegations,â€ the group submitted.
Other members that attended the event include Mallam Musa Usman,Â Obiora Nwosu, Olayinka Tunde (South-west), Ogechi Akoma (South-east), Alhaji Sidi Ali (North-central), Nelson Osaise (South-south), Alhaji Shehu Dambata, Hajiya Binta Yakubu (North-east