The reinstated Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, resumed work thursday, only to be greeted with a massive staff demonstrations against his return.
The staff under the aegis of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) led by the branch Chairman, Mr. Razak Omomeji, according to Premium Times, called out his members to express their rejection of President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to return the ES to his seat.
Yusuf was suspended from office by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, following an indictment by an administrative panel which found him culpable of mismanaging NHIS funds, totaling N919 million and gross insubordination.
According to the workers, the reinstatement of Yusuf would impede his investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The protest began shortly after Yusuf resumed at the headquarters of the agency in Abuja.
“He has resumed work but has not held any management meeting,” Ayo Osinlu, Head, Media and Public Relations of NHIS said.
Buhari last Tuesday reinstated Yusuf exactly six months after he was suspended by Adewole following allegations of gross misconduct.
Yusuf, 54, took over the state-run health insurance provider on July 29, 2016.
But his reign at the agency has been fraught with alleged controversies.
Some staff described Yusuf’s leadership as causing disaffection and low morale in the system.
The chairman, association of senior civil servant NHIS chapter, Omomeji accused Yusuf of bringing someone born in 1984 to become an assistant director in the scheme.
Omomeji said Yusuf, a professor, has poor knowledge on the management of the scheme.
Alowuyi Kayode, Chairman Medical and Health Association Union, also accused Yusuf of using divide and rule system to transfer staff indiscriminately.
“We believe that this government came to fight corruption. We also believe that whoever must come to equity must come with clean hands. Yusuf’s reinstatement behooves much to be desired. Presently he is being investigated by the EFCC and ICPC, so we are appealing to Buhari to wait for the report of this investigation to be concluded before any further action,” Kayode said.
“If the man is giving a clean slate then he can return but as it is now, all his activities for the past one year have been that of ethnicity, tribalism, religiosity and nepotism. Imaging him transferring over 40 per cent of the staff outside Abuja and replacing them with 300 NYSC members. It leaves much to be desired, so we are appealing to this government as a union of NHIS to reverse this recall while investigation with EFCC and ICPC continues,” he added.
There has been a rash of reactions from Nigerians since the news of Yusuf’s reinstatement broke.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, explained that Yusuf’s recall would not stop any corruption investigation by anti-graft agencies.
Though the presidency has not spoken on the reinstatement, a source at the Presidential Villa said the suspended executive secretary was reinstated because the president believed the allegations against him are yet to be proven.
The source said the committee constituted by the minister to investigate Yusuf was neither independent nor free from bias.
“Barely one year into his assumption of office, Professor Usman was suspended by the Minister of Health on the strength of a petition by the United Youth Alliance Against Corruption, UYAC and Association of Senior Civil Servants.
“The minister, relying on the petition, constituted a 17-man committee under the headship of the Permanent Secretary of the ministry to look into the petition by this body of civil servants. Out of the 17 members of the committee, 16 of them were staff of the ministry while one member was from the Department of State Services (DSS). The request for a nomination from the ICPC was declined because they feared a conflict of interest.
“From the composition of the committee, it was obvious that the committee was neither independent nor free from biases.
“Some of the allegations brought against the Executive Secretary by the UYAC could not be substantiated in 20 of the 23 allegations as no evidence was brought forward. “Others were obviously concocted as there were evident alterations and mix-ups in dates on some of the petitions,” the source said.
He said it was clear from the investigation that the presidency identified an acute lack of capacity in the NHIS as an organisation and unless a new set of competent managers are found and recruited, the objectives of setting up of the NHIS might remain a mirage.
“This is why the minister was directed to work with the Executive Secretary to redress some of the identified shortcomings within the organisations to avoid a breakdown of one of the federal government’s flagship programmes and truncate the intention of government to expand the scope of beneficiaries of health insurance scheme and indeed broaden government’s efforts in repositioning the health sector.”
Meanwhile, the acting Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Attahiru Ibrahim, on Wednesday reportedly met with the senior officials of the agency during which he asked them to prepare handover notes for Yusuf.