‘My suspension was nothing but preemptive strike and a coup,’ embattled NHIS boss speaks

USMAN Yusuf, the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), says his suspension was the handiwork of some fraudulent Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) partnering with the agency.

Yusuf made this allegation in a video he shared via his Twitter handle @ProfUsmanYusuf on Thursday to tell his side of the story on the corruption allegations leveled against him.

He said that the day he was suspended was the exact day he was to present a report on the HMOs that had qualified to be licensed by the NHIS.

Yusuf said Nigerians should ask why he suspended on that Thursday, October 18th and not on the 20th.

“Thursday was the day I was supposed to present to the council the number of HMOs that have qualified for licenses. My suspension was nothing but preemptive strike and a coup,” he said.

Yusuf explained that the HMOs in Nigeria usually get paid by the NHIS but would not pay the hospitals they serve. He said that was the problem he met when he was made the Executive Secretary in July 2016.

He said there are 57 HMOs in Nigeria which are in three classifications, the defense, police and civilian HMOs. The defense and police have one each, while the other 55 HMOs are for the civilians. Yusuf said he had solved the first two HMOs crises, but the civilian HMOs have lots of impunity.

“We pay HMOs in Nigeria three months in advance to pay hospitals but they will not pay the hospitals,” he said. “And Nigerians  are not treated well because HMOs have not paid hospitals.” Rather, Yusuf said the HMOs fix the NHIS money in banks to generate interests or be used as a collateral for bank loans.

According to him, HMOs are non-licensed entities, and the only contract that is in existence between the them and the NHIS was the one of 13 years ago, when it was created. “This is what I met: non-license entities that are paid three months advance but not paying hospitals,” he said.

Yusuf said he found it offensive that billions of naira are going to non-licensed HMOs, hence, he established a forensic audit that looked into the affairs of the HMOs. Subsequently, he directed that all HMOs be licensed. And to be licensed, he said, non-indebtedness forms signed by the Chief Medical Directors of all the hospitals the HMOs serve must be presented to the NHIS.

“On the day I want to present the report that would give out the numbers of HMOs that are qualified to work with NHIS was the day I was suspended,” he said.

Yusuf said another thing he wanted to achieve was that the HMOs return all the N1.025 billion that was given to them illegally between 2013-2015, as revealed by an investigation conducted by the Department of Security Services (DSS).

He said his administration had recovered 75 percent of the money, and that he had threatened that by December this year, if the monies were not fully paid, he would delist the affected HMOs and hand them over to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The HMOs, Yusuf said, are looking for means to maintain the existing state of affairs. “They are the ones that are inciting the rancor in the NHIS boardroom,” he said. “If I was stealing money, Nigerians would not hear anything about it. It would be done quietly as it is being done.”

While the suspended Executive Secretary maintains his innocence, the NHIS governing council, as well as the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, think otherwise.

Enyantu Ifenne, Chairman of the NHIS Council, said the Executive Secretary refused to carry out the board’s decisions on critical issues and noted that there was institutionalized corruption at the agency. She said Yusuf was “fraudulently inflating the cost of biometric capturing machines,” and had “attempted to illegally execute N30 billion in federal government bonds”.

A report of the investigative panel set up by the Ministry of Health to probe Yusuf indicted him of high-handedness, budget distortion, fraudulent cost manipulation, illegal investments and unprofessional manipulation of the human resources of the agency.

According to the panel, Yusuf oversaw the siphoning of up to N919 million from the coffers of the agency in the name of payment to consultants for staff training.

    The report stated that in some instances, the number of purported trainees was far more than the entire number of employees at the NHIS, while in some other instances, some employees were registered for the same training in two different states at the same time, with the facilitators charging as high as N250,000 per participant.

    Yusuf, a professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation in the United States prior to his appointment in July 2016, had earlier been suspended in July 2017 by Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Health, over similar allegations and petitions against him. But he was reinstated in February this year by President Muhammadu Buhari.

    In the video he shared on Thursday, Yusuf said the allegations against him had been investigated by the EFCC and ICPC and he was cleared before he was reinstated. He, however, said that if there are fresh allegations, he is willing to present himself to the appropriate authorities for further investigation.

    Yusuf said he was not guilty because “the allegations against him are unproven.”

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