House of Reps orders health minister to reinstate suspected NHIS boss

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Nigeria’s health minister, Prof Isaac Adewole, has been ordered by lawmakers to reinstate suspended Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Prof Yusuf Usman within seven days.

Last week, HealthNewsNG broke the news of the suspension of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof Yusuf Usman, by the health minister in order to allow for investigation of allegations submitted against Usman. However, the House has directed the minister to reinstate the ES within seven days and to halt the re-accreditation of Health Maintenance Organisations pending the outcome of the intervention by the House.

Usman had appeared before the committee investigating the NHIS. The head of the committee, Chike Okafor, from Imo state, moved a motion on the floor on Wednesday to draw the attention of the House to Usman’s suspension. According to Okafor, it would appear that Usman was being punished for exposing corruption in the NHIS during his speech at the committee hearing.

He said: “The House was shocked by the testimony and revelations by the ES during the hearing, where he decried the corruption being perpetrated by the HMOs. He likened it to the fraud in the fuel subsidy scheme, stressing that they were padding figures of enrolees so that they could get paid. He said that none of the 57 HMOs had a valid licence as most of their accreditation had expired and vowed to ensure that any HMO owing health providers would not be re-accredited.”

The committee chairman also informed the House that Usman had turned down a March 28, 2017 request by the minister that the NHIS should pay the “sum of N197.072m for rehabilitation works in some federal medical centres for contracts awarded in 2016.”

Okafor added that Usman turned down the request on the grounds that there was no budgetary provision for it.

He stated that the chief medical directors of the affected hospitals denied knowledge of the quoted projects being executed by the ministry.

PUNCH reported Okafor referred to another May 12, 2017 circular, where he said the ministry wrote the ES, “directing him to pay the sum of 37,838 US dollars to six employees of the ministry to attend a World Health Organisation conference in Geneva, and the NHIS has no budgetary provision for such.”

The House resolution read in part, “Invite the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt of the House as the suspension of the Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, appears to be intended to intimidate him, punish him for testifying before the House and silence him from further testifying before the House of Representatives, in its constitutional duties of investigation of issues of corruption, inefficiency and waste in governance.

“Request the minister and the acting Executive Secretary to stop henceforth every process of HMOs re-accreditation, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation mandated by the House.

“Request the minister to recall ES of NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, from suspension forthwith and allow him to continue with his sanitisation programme in the agency.”

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Paul is a university lecturer, medical researcher, extensively published author and freelance contributor. He holds a MSc degree in cell biology and genetics, and is a PhD candidate of the University of Ibadan.

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