Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Barring any contrary directive from the Federal Government, the management of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) may be compelled to pay its dismissed Executive Secretary, Professor Usman Yusuf, a huge severance package of N70 million, THISDAY has learnt.
A recommendation to this effect is presently before the current Executive Secretary for his sign off. In addition the sacked former boss has so far refused to relinquished several official cars belonging to NHIS still in his custody thereby depriving the current occupant cars to move around.
After being relieved of his job by President Muhammadu Buhari following the recommendations of two separate investigative panels, Yusuf was said to have demanded to be paid his severance package.
A panel set by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation had last December recommended his dismissal for alleged fraud and other misdemeanours.
Another panel set up by the Federal Ministry of Health had also in 2017 recommended his dismissal following findings that he allegedly mismanaged N919 million belonging to the NHIS, a federal agency.
A statement by the Director (Media) of the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs. Bolade Akinola, said Buhari had approved the appointment of Professor Mohammed Sambo as the new head of the NHIS.
The statement read, in part, “Following the recommendations of report by an independent fact-finding panel on the NHIS, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the termination of appointment of the Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf, who has been on administrative leave, and has approved the appointment of Professor Mohammed Sambo as the new Executive Secretary.
“Similarly, the President also approved the dissolution of the Governing Board of the NHIS and directed the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health to exercise full powers of the council pending the constitution of a new board.”
Although, under the civil service rules, any public servant dismissed from his job over wrongdoings is not entitled to retirement benefits, THISDAY gathered that the case of the ex-boss of the NHIS was being treated differently. It was learnt from a presidency source that what might have emboldened the former chief executive of NHIS to demand settlement was the manner his sack letter was couched.
The source, who claimed knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Yusuf’s travails, said the tone of his dismissal letter did not imply that he was removed for malpractice. He said the letter stated that the former executive secretary’s appointment was merely “terminated”, without stating reasons.
The source also said unlike what usually happens when an officer of that calibre is relieved of his job on corruption indictment, the case of the former NHIS boss was not handled as such.
“Let me tell you, contrary to the view that he was removed due to panels’ indictment, the former NHIS boss was asked to go and that his services were no longer needed. That is the tone of the termination letter and that may be why he is seeking payment of his entitlements,” the source said.
The source further said contrary to insinuations that Yusuf took unilateral decisions during his tenure, some of which were perceived as malpractice, he might have acted in cahoots with powerful forces and vested interests.
However, the new Executive Secretary of NHIS, Professor Mohammed Nadir Sambo, is said to be cautious in taking decisions, especially with regard to the payment of severance package to his embattled predecessor. Sambo was said to have referred the matter to the parent ministry and to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for their directives.
Regarding a report that the former NHIS boss took along with him several vehicles, a source at the agency said although he could not confirm it, he was aware that the sacked officer was a source of constant irritation in the organisation even after his removal.
The source, who said there was a lot of rot in the agency in the previous administration that needed to be cleared, explained that the new management was trying to re-organise and refocus the organisation.
Efforts speak with Sambo on the alleged severance package for his predecessor was not successful, as he was said to be bereaved.
An official of the agency, who did not want his name mentioned, told THISDAY that Sambo lost his wife last week’s Wednesday and had travelled to Kaduna.
At the public affairs unit, a senior official said they were in a mourning mood and would not want to speak to the media until next week.