Buhari ignores health minister, reinstates suspended NHIS Executive Secretary who is under probe for alleged N919m fraud
President Muhammadu Buhari has reinstated the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Usman Yusuf.
Yusuf was suspended by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, in June 2017, following allegations of gross misconduct.
A panel commissioned by the minister after Yusuf’s suspension later found him culpable of infractions that ranged from nepotism to theft of public funds.
An administration official familiar with the development told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday evening that Buhari did not consider Mr. Yusuf’s indictment by a ministerial panel before asking him to return to work.
According to the source, the letter of reinstatement was sent to Adewole on Tuesday evening.
Adewole confirmed receipt of the reinstatement letter, but did not elaborate on when Yusuf would resume or under which terms.
“It is true that the president has reinstated him,” Adewole said.
The reinstatement letter urged Yusuf to work closely with the minister upon resumption.
For the minister to cooperate with Mr. Yusuf will not be easy, said Eluma Asogwa, a legal practitioner.
“This is a humiliation of the minister,” Mr. Asogwa told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Tuesday night. “He has sent a wrong signal and encouraged insubordination amongst heads of agencies against ministers.”
“This has now become a growing trend that does not portend well for our polity, it does not even augur well for the anti-corruption war of the president,” he said.
Yusuf, who is being probed by the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, was accused of perpetrating fraud to the tune of N919m.
A committee set up by the minister had submitted a probe report to the President last September accusing Yusuf of abuse of office.
In the report which was compiled by senior officials of the health ministry, the Department of State Services and the ICPC, the panel described Yusuf as a public servant who “portrayed a holier than thou attitude but at the background, milked the agency dry” by conniving with others to perpetrate fraud to the tune of over N919m.
According to the panel, the N919m was dubiously given as payment to consultants for staff training.
According to the report, “His (Yusuf’s) deceitful attitude coupled with ‘name dropping’ of Mr. President as having sent him to sanitise the NHIS but he caused more harm than good to the scheme.”
The committee, therefore, recommended that the EFCC probe the agency for diversion of funds and contravention of the Procurement Act of 2007.
The report stated that Yusuf contravened the Procurement Act of 2007 through nepotism and other irregular award of contracts and should be sanctioned in line with the provision of the Act.
Explaining how the alleged staff training scam took place, the committee said in some instances, the number of trainees was far more than the entire number of employees at the agency while in some other instances, some employees were registered for the same training in two different states at the same time.
Most of the consultants were said to have charged about N250, 000 per participant.
When Punch correspondent reached out to him to respond to the allegations levelled against him last December, Yusuf had said, “F*ck you, and f*ck the minister.”
Meanwhile, it was learnt that Yusuf was grilled for over 12 hours at the EFCC on Monday and Tuesday.
A source at the EFCC said, “The NHIS boss was with us all through Monday and returned on Tuesday for more questioning. His passport was also seized. He will return on another day for more questioning.”
Yusuf, 54, took over the state-run health insurance provider on July 29, 2016.
But his reign at the agency has been fraught with graft controversies.
The suspension came weeks after the Senate launched investigations into his activities as the NHIS chief.