Following a presidential directive, the embattled Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme, Professor Yusuf Usman, is proceeding on administrative leave.
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari, who gave the order on Wednesday, also approved the establishment of an independent fact-finding panel to investigate allegations of infractions against the NHIS boss.
Yusuf was suspended by the NHIS Governing Council over alleged corrupt allegations.
Among others, he was accused of diverting staff allowances to the tune of N919million.
Upon his suspension, the NHIS chief forcefully returned to the office with over 50 gun-wielding policemen.
Both the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu faulted the board’s decision.
But in a quick response, President Buhari asked the NHIS boss to proceed on administrative leave, and also asked a panel to probe the alleged malfeasance against Yusuf.
Permanent Secretary (General Services Office) in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Olusegun A. Adekunle, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja.
According to the statement, the panel, headed by a retired Permanent Secretary, Dr Bukar Hassan would be inaugurated by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Gida Mustapha, on Thursday.
Members of the committee are Director of HPRS in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole; Director of Audit in the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Adewale Owolo; and the Deputy Director of Expenditure in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Shamsuddeen Bello.
Others are the Director of Certification and Compliance, Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Mr. Ishaq Yahaya; and the Director of Science in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr. Ekanem John Udoh, while the Director of Administration in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mrs. Jummai Idakwo, would serve as secretary.
The committee would investigate the alleged infractions listed by the NHIS Governing Council in letter dated October 18, 2018, and determine the extent of culpability or otherwise of the ES with regards to the allegations.
The committee is also empowered to make appropriate recommendations based on its findings and to identify, investigate and make recommendations with regards to issues that led to the unhealthy relationship between the board and the scribe.
Another term of reference is to investigate and make recommendations on the extent of involvement of staff unions’ within the institution as to the current impasse between the governing board and the executive secretary; and to examine all governance challenges in the NHIS and make appropriate recommendations.
Yusuf seeks legal redress
Meanwhile, Professor Yusuf has filed a suit before a Federal High Court in Abuja against the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), challenging his suspension.
Yusuf, in the suit is asking the court to hold that the governing council of the NHIS had no powers under Sections 6 and 7 of the NHIS Act to discipline him or to investigate allegations made against him as they did, and his consequent suspension on October 19, 2018.
In the suit filed by his counsel, Uchechukwu Obi (SAN), Yusuf is contending that “only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and no other, upon the recommendation of the Minister of Health can discipline, investigate, suspend or remove him from office.”
He further asked the court to set aside his purported suspension from the NHIS by the board of the agency was null and void.
No date has been fixed for hearing of the matter.