NHIS suspends Executive Secretary, Usman indefinitely

Usman Yusuf

Months after he was reinstated by President Mohammadu Buhari following his suspension by the minister of health, Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Usman Yusuf, has again been suspended, indefinitely, this time by the governing council of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

According to the council, his suspension followed allegations of infractions. It has, therefore, set up a panel to investigate the allegations.

The panel is expected to submit the report in three months.

Mr. Yusuf has immediately been replaced by Sadique Abubakar as the acting Executive Secretary of the scheme.

It would be recalled that Health Minister Isaac Adewole, had, through a July 6, 2017 memo, asked Usman to proceed on a three-month suspension to allow for an uninterrupted investigation over allegations of corruption and enrichment against him

Yusuf, however, while responding in a letter dated July 12,2017,insisted that “Except removed from office by the president under circumstances specified in the NHIS Act, my appointment is for a period of five years subject to further term of the same period at the discretion of the president.”

Although he acknowledged that section 47 of the NHIS Act empowers the Minister to “give directives of a general nature to the Governing Council of the scheme and in the absence of the council, you have presidential mandate to exercise the powers and functions of the council,” Yusuf  however declared that such powers and functions of the council do not include discipline, suspension or removal of the Executive Secretary of the scheme from office.

According to him, the suspension letter by the Minister at that time, “is not in accordance with the Public Service Rules as no prima facie case has been established against me in respect of the petitions referred to in the letter.

He went further to argue that, “The mere fact that there are pending petitions against a public officer, which is yet to be substantiated, does not constitute a ground for suspension under the Public Service Rules.

“Otherwise, with over 18,000 petitions pending against public officer holders before the EFCC and ICPC as at the end of June 2017, the total number of public officers who would have been on suspension by now, including honourable ministers, is left to be imagined.

“As you are aware, the petitions referred to in your letter are currently being investigated by the ICPC, which is yet to submit its report.

“In view of the criminal nature of most of the allegations in the petitions, security/investigative agencies like the ICPC are the appropriate agencies for the investigation contemplated in your letter; not a Ministerial Committee. I have cooperated fully with the investigations so far and will continue to do so.”

But in a swift response to Usman’s reply, the spokesperson for the Ministry​, Boade Akinola, at the time insisted that Usman, being a public officer, is bound by the regulations governing the Public Service.

“The NHIS is an agency supervised by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Administrative Panel of Inquiry raised by the ministry to investigate activities of the agency has commenced its assignment with specific terms of reference,” he said in a statement.

“The minister had directed the setting up of an investigative committee to look in the various allegations in accordance with the Public Service Rules.”

And true to Usman's boasting, he was reinstated following a directive of President Mohammadu Buhari. 

The question now is: Will the latest suspension stand? 

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