Embattled NHIS Boss Apologises for ‘Past Mistakes’

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  • PDP accuses APC, presidency of looting scheme’s funds

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja with agency report

The Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NIFS), Yusuf Usman, thursday offered a public apology over his alleged insubordination to the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, and “past mistakes’ over which he was suspended last year.

The minister set up a committee to investigate alleged misconduct by Usman, but he was later reinstated in February by President Muhammadu Buhari who has not made public the report of an investigation committee that was turned over to him.

Usman, according to Premium Times spoke in public for the first time on the saga in Abuja at a media briefing organised by the newly inaugurated 11-member governing council of the NHIS.

“My suspension in the past seven months was for me as the chief executive secretary of the scheme a time of sober reflection. Whatever is it I did not do right, I will correct,” he said.
“My relationship with the leadership in the Ministry of Health, to a very large extent, I will correct any mistake made. I make that pledge today,” he added.

There has been perceived tension between Usman and Adewole since the NHIS boss was suspended by the minister in July 2017 over allegations of gross misconduct.

The panel the minister set up after Usman suspension later indicted him of infractions that ranged from nepotism to mismanagement of public funds, although the report of the findings was not formally released.

President Buhari in February reinstated Usman, stirring a national furore and protest by some staff of the agency.

Some of the staff who protested at the premises of the agency when Usman reported back to his office complained of alleged highhandedness against the NHIS chief.

Usman, a paediatrician, also pledged to the management, staff and unions in the agency thursday that he would mend ways with them.

“My relationship with my management and staff will be corrected. We will sit down, we will fight and we will hug. It’s all because of our passion for the people and nothing else.
“I will do all I can to change our ways and put the enrollees at the centre. We have a duty and we are changing the name of the enrollees today to lives. Enrollee just sounds like a name for inmates.

“It’s a human being and I am an enrollee. I go to the hospital incognito and I see the suffering of the people, so we need to make a difference in the lives of the people.

“We have not done the right thing in the past and my pledge is that we will serve our people better this time,” Usman said.

In her remark, the chairperson of the governing council, Enyantu Ifenne, described Usman’s speech as ‘opulent’.
“This is very opulent,” she said.
Ms Ifenne, also a paediatrician, urged the staff and management of the scheme to “drop your guns and open your hearts so as to bring competence to the table.

“The organisation needs to heal. The board is here to hold it while it heals and we are not going to allow them to take too long to heal so people can rebuild their confidence in the scheme,” she pledged.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the “cabal in the presidency” have turned the NHIS into their ATM where funds are taken at their convenience.

The party said the nation was yet to recover from past revelations of an alleged withdrawal of N10billion when fresh plot by the APC federal government to loot another N25 billion from the coffers of the scheme was exposed.

Nigerians are still lamenting the N10 billion stolen earlier from the agency’s savings in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by presidency cabal.

The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, yesterday said the APC and the presidency had been bleeding the nation, adding that the very idea of stealing funds meant to provide health lifeline to the already impoverished Nigerians is agonising and shows that the ruling party has lost all scruples.

“Our nation is now faced with daily pillaging of our national patrimony by APC interests and a notorious cabal, who, operating under the cover and protection of the Buhari presidency, have turned our revenue agencies, particularly the NHIS into cash cows to painfully milk funds for APC’s ill-fated 2019 re-election bid.

When we say that this Buhari administration is debauched, many do not realise to what extent. This administration is so brazen in stealing in the NHIS that the presidency has to recall and reinstate the indicted Executive Secretary of the scheme, Usman, while he was still being quizzed by the EFCC for alleged corruption.

“Betraying its complicity in the NHIS racket, the Presidency has refused to speak out on allegations that it reinstated the suspended executive secretary to conceal the earlier looting and protect members of the cabal and has also refused to order any form of investigation in the exposed frauds.

“The magnitude of direct looting that is going on in revenue agencies, such as the NNPC, NPA, customs, Federal Inland Revenue Services, MDAs and even the TSA already infiltrated by the presidency cabal and APC interests, who hide under spurious investment portfolios, inflated concessions, allocations, jobs and other financial sleazes to siphon public funds are better imagined.

“In the last three years, the nation has witnessed unparalled impunity to the extent that the President could even unilaterally make approval of releases of public funds without recourse to the legislative instrument of the appropriation.

“We also want to remind Nigerians that this administration has refused to take any step to investigate the alleged stealing of N9 trillion ($25billion dollars) in NNPC through corrupt contracts, the alleged diverting of N1.1trillion worth of crude to service APC interests, the alleged stealing of N18 billion Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) funds among other grafts.
“This Buhari-led APC administration is fast looting our nation into an economic desert and we urge Nigerians not to spare any thought in voting them out come 2019.”