Niyi Odebode, John Ameh, Eniola Akinkuotu and Friday Olokor
The Federal Ministry of Health, on Monday, announced the suspension of eight officials of the National Health Insurance Scheme following more facts uncovered by the committee set up by the minister to investigate the suspended NHIS Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf.
It was learnt that some of the suspended officials also had pending petitions written against them dating back to 2015.
The ministry, in a statement by the Director of Media and Public Affairs, Mrs. Boade Akinola, said the General Manager and Zonal Coordinator (South-South) of the NHIS, Mr. Olufemi Akingbade, was one of the suspended persons.
Akingbade was accused of fraud while he was in charge of the ICT Department and was indicted by security agencies but was never charged.
Others suspended by the ministry are General Manager (Finance), Mr. John Okon; General Manager (Human Resources and Administration) Mr. Yusuf Fatika; Assistant General Manager in charge of Audit, Mr. Shehu Adamu; and Assistant General Manager, Head Insurance, Mr. Vincent Mamdam.
The Senior Assistant Officer, Marketing, Mr. Safiyanu Attah; Senior Manager, Contribution Management, Owen Udo-Udoma; and Mr. Innocent Abbah who is the Senior Assistant Officer, Planning Research and Monitoring, were also suspended.
The statement added, “In furtherance of the activities of the investigative panel of inquiry and the desire to have an uninterrupted and robust investigation of all petitions at the NHIS, including security reports on maladministration and mismanagement by officials of the agency, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has approved the suspensions.”
Also on Monday, the Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria challenged the suspended executive secretary to expose any of its members that was corrupt.
The National Publicity Secretary of HMCAN, Mr. Lekan Ewenla, who stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, attributed the crisis in the NHIS to regulation failure.
He absolved members of HMCAN, which is an umbrella body of health maintenance organisations, of corruption.
Ewenla stated, “There is no established case of corruption against any HMO by the suspended executive secretary. Now that he has been suspended for three months, he should come out with facts and figures of any HMO that is found corrupt.”
The national publicity secretary said 90 per cent of the N351bn, which Yusuf said was paid to the HMOs, went to hospitals, adding that if enrollees were treated shabbily, it was due to the failure of the regulator (the NHIS).
He said the NHIS had failed to embark on systematic redistribution of enrollees from teaching hospitals to primary facilities with lower volume of enrollees.
“Immediately the public fund was given to the NHIS to manage, it (the NHIS) jettisoned regulation and focus its intention on fund management.
“Whatever the challenge we have in this industry today, it is not the fault of anybody. It is the fault of the NHIS. It is the fault of regulation,” Ewenla stated.
The publicity secretary accused Yusuf of disrupting the health insurance scheme, adding that instead of being pre-paid, he made it post-paid.
“He singlehandedly appointed an insurance broker for all HMOs. We said no to that; that is not the practice. In addition, he negotiated premium to be paid by the HMOs. We said that it was an illegality,” he added.
Meanwhile, sources within the ministry denied media reports that Akingbade was a member of the 12-member investigative committee.
A list of the members of the committee, made available to one of our correspondents on Monday, showed that no member of the NHIS was a member of the committee.
According to the document, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Binta Bello, is the chairperson of the committee while seven directors at the ministry as well as representatives of the Department of State Services and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission.
Apart from Bello, other officials of the health ministry on the committee are the Director of Hospital Services, Wapada Balami; Director, Finance and Accounts, Anthony Hassan; Director of ICT, Olayemi Sotanmi; Director of Procurement, Alhaji Muazu Gambo; Director of Legal Services, Laura Elayo; and Director of Human Resources, Alhaji Keana.
Others are the Special Adviser to the minister, Mr. Segilola Araoye; a special adviser to the permanent secretary and the Head of the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit of the ministry.
FG deploys police in NHIS
In a related development, the Federal Government, on Monday, deployed policemen and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in the NHIS office in Abuja.
It was learnt that the security agents were deployed in the agency following a statement by the suspended NHIS boss that he would disregard his suspension and resume this week.
Yusuf, who was suspended last week for an alleged N960m scam, was expected to resume at the NHIS on Monday in company with his supporters.
Some union members of the agency had threatened a showdown if Yusuf resumed.
When The PUNCH visited the headquarters of the agency in Utako, Abuja, about 25 policemen and six NSCDC officials were sighted in front of the building.
The policemen, it was learnt, were drawn from the Jabi and Utako police divisions and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit.
A yellow tape was also used to cordon off a portion of the gate.
Also, a group of over 30 civil rights organisations, under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Society Groups, on Monday, condemned what it described as “ethnic correlation” being given to the face-off between the Ministry of Health and the suspended executive secretary.
The position of COCSGs, obtained by The PUNCH, was contained in a communique issued at the end of its emergency meeting.
The communique was signed by the President of COCSGs, Bassey Williams; the Secretary, Abubakar Ibrahim; Chairman, Communique Drafting Committee, Mallam Musa Usman, and the Secretary, Obiora Nwosu.
Attempts to speak with the suspended NHIS boss proved abortive as he did not return calls to his mobile, neither did he respond to a text message sent to him.
Recall NHIS boss, Reps insist
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives said on Monday that its resolution on the suspended NHIS boss did not change, irrespective of “whatever pronouncements or actions taken after our resolution.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, told The PUNCH that there had been no formal contact between the House and the Minister of Health, Adewole, after the legislature summoned him last week.
Namdas stated, “That resolution stands; nothing has changed. If there is any other thing going, we are not aware officially.
“The position of the House is that we are investigating the rot in the implementation of the NHIS. So, the decision of the minister to suspend the Executive Secretary while this investigation is ongoing, we don’t accept it.
“We directed that the ES should be recalled and that the minister should appear before the House to speak on the actions he has taken so far, particularly, the suspension of the ES.”
The Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Mr. Chike Okafor, who has been probing the NHIS implementation, also said the House would not reverse it directive to the minister.
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