Resolving The NHIS Imbroglio


As if the litany of crises currently plaguing Nigeria is not enough, the country was a couple of weeks ago assaulted with reports of the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf refusing to step aside after being suspended from office by the NHIS Governing Council.
The Executive Secretary was reportedly suspended by the Dr Ifenne Enyanatu-led Governing Council over allegations of corruption, mismanagement of funds and infringement on procurement process, including unlawful staff posting, willful defiance of the council’s directives and violation of the Federal Government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy, among others.
In fact, Prof Yusuf was said to have illegally procured N30million worth of Federal Government’s bond among other actions that pitted him against the NHIS authorities. However, in a dramatic turn of events, the embattled Yusuf had refused to abide by the decisions of the council.
Apparently backed by powerful elements in the Presidency, the Executive Secretary, a forth night ago stormed the headquarters of NHIS in Abuja in company of about 50 heavily armed policemen and forced his way into his office to resume duty.
Prof Yusuf’s executive rascality, impunity and obvious tacit support from the powers that be have heated up the environment and made Nigerians and bodies of stakeholders restive. Workers under the aegis of Association of Civil Servants of Nigeria, Medical and Health Union of NHIS and the Nigeria Civil Service Union have already mobilised and protested against the continued stay in office of the Executive Secretary.
Also, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had equally urged Yusuf to vacate office for a thorough investigation of the case against him to be carried out by a panel.
The Tide thinks that the Federal Government with its avowed and much-vaunted fight against corruption would have nipped the crisis in the bud by ensuring that order and due process were respected while attempting to confirm the veracity of the allegations.
However, we are assuaged by the recent setting up of a seven-man panel by the Presidency to investigate the allegations against the former NHIS Executive Secretary.
It is instructive that the Federal Government eased out Yusuf from office on Wednesday by sending him on administrative leave and appointed someone else in his stead.
In a swift reaction, Yusuf headed to the Federal High Court in Abuja where he sued the Minister of Health and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as well as NHIS.
We believe that in a saner clime, that is the right thing Prof Yusuf, who has always claimed that the NHIS’ Governing Council lacked the powers to sanction him, would have done before now.
This is because the NHIS imbroglio needs urgent intervention by the Federal Government and permanent solution to save the health sector from imminent disaster. The NHIS quagmire has lingered for long and Nigerians, especially workers are losing confidence, thereby jeopardising the vision and mission of the scheme.
The allegations against Prof. Yusuf are grave and serious. We expect the seven-man panel to do the needful and get to the root of the matter. Similarly, the Federal Government must stand up for integrity and zero tolerance for corruption, two cardinal points in the administration’s change mantra. Now should not be the time to play the ostrich, sweep the panel’s findings under the carpet or pander to sentiments.
It is unfortunate that the crisis was allowed to get to the level where it became a national embarrassment. Nobody no matter how highly placed should be above the law, thus, this NHIS crisis must be dealt with decisively in order to restore the confidence of Nigerians and stakeholders.
Whether the NHIS Governing Council acted in error and over-reached itself, as being claimed in certain quarters or not, there is urgent need to end the imbroglio, reassure stakeholders and ensure peace. However, anything short of ascertaining the veracity of the allegations and dishing out appropriate sanctions where necessary would not only further demystify President Buhari’s fight against corruption but would further dent the country’s image before the comity of nations.
We also expect the current NHIS crisis to be an opportunity to evolve better run and managed health maintenance organisations in order to reduce the rate at which average Nigerians suffer to access quality medicare, while the privilege ones embark on foreign medical tourism.