House C’ttee Embargoes NHIS Budget Pending Appearance of Health Minister

0

• Threatens to issue bench warrant

James Emejo in Abuja

The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Health Services, Hon. Chike Okafor, yesterday disclosed the resolve of the committee and the position of the House to suspend budget consideration for the National Insurance Health Scheme (NHIS) pending the appearance of the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.

Adewole was recently summoned by the lower chamber in respect of the controversial suspension of the erstwhile Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf.

Okafor told THISDAY that until the minister appears before the committee as mandated by the House and explain the reason for the suspension of the former Executive Secretary, there would be no consideration of the budget of the NHIS.
The newly appointed acting Executive Secretary of the agency, Ibrahim Attahiru, was before the committee to defend its 2017 budget but was turned down by the committee.

He said the committee in a unanimous decision discharged Attahiru with the proviso that the lawmakers would treat the NHIS budget as soon as the minister appears before it to resolve the NHIS issue at hand.

Okafor said: “The House resolution was communicated to the health minister and if you look through our proceedings, you will see that we were expecting the minister to come tomorrow (today) to give us an update on the crisis rocking the NHIS.

“But incidentally, I got a letter from him about an hour ago, saying he will not be available to appear before this committee. He gave a couple of reasons, which I would still relate to the committee when we disolve into an executive session.

“Suffice to say, that the reasons are not acceptable to me. I was going to direct that we send a letter back to him as he claimed in his letter that he has engagements that will take him out of Abuja or that he is already out of Abuja.”
After a closed door session, Okafor said members equally agreed that should Adewole fail to appear on a new date, the committee should issue a bench warrant to compel his appearance.

The lawmakers had invited Adewole “to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt of the House as the suspension of the Executive Secretary of NHIS, appears to be intended to intimidate him, punish him for testifying before the House and silence him for further testifying before the House in its constitutional duties of investigation of issues of corruption, inefficiency and waste in governance.”