Yusuf: The insolent child of impunity By Louis Odion, FNGE

Usman Yussuf….NHIS Executive Director…Right or Wrong?

Those tempted to view corruption
only in materialist terms, overlooking the abstract subversion of norms and
values, will perhaps be forced to have a rethink by simply following the
farcical drama currently unfolding at the National
Health
Insurance Scheme.

Equating his kinship with President Buhari to a talisman, Usman Yusuf was not content at only
breaking all extant service rules as the Executive Secretary; he went a step
further by daring constituted authorities at the health ministry to hold him to
account.

Directed by the Acting President to
examine a slew of petitions against the NHIS
Executive Secretary,

Minister Isaac Adewole….Suspended Yussuf

Minister Isaac
Adewole
had little or no difficulty in asking him to proceed on a
three-month suspension to enable an unimpeded investigation.

Unsatisfied with the defense made by
the embattled ES to the weighty charges, Adewole
wrote: “Consequently, you are directed to
proceed on three months suspension with immediate effect to pave way for an
uninterrupted investigation, in accordance with Public Service Rule.”
Tellingly, the workers’ union in the
agency were the first to applaud the minister’s action as the right step to
curtail what they described as the “primitive
stealing
going on”.

Yussuf….A Professor of Boldness?

But in a leaked memo dated July 12
addressed to the Minister responding to his suspension over alleged massive
graft among other actions unbecoming of a public officer, the Katsina-born
professor pointedly declared he was not answerable to anyone other than PMB,
casually hinting he would rather sit tight.
Drawing confidence apparently from a
mis-reading of sections of the NHIS
law, he claimed that only the man who appointed him on a renewable
term of five years was capable of questioning his actions or conduct. His
words: “By virtue of the NHIS Act particularly section 4 and 8
thereof, my appointment and removal from office whether by way of suspension or
otherwise is at the instance of the President of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria”.

What would President Buhari would have done if he was on sit?

The waters would be muddied further
following a counter-motion by the House of Reps ordering Yusuf’s reinstatement. According to the House, Yusuf’s suspension is prejudicial to an
ongoing investigation into the whereabouts of N351 Billion allocated to
the agency between 2005 and 2016. Well, let it be said that the freedom of
the House to issue express orders does not include the power to compel the
minister’s obedience in the circumstance.
In any case, when mighty logs fall
on each other in the bush, as they say, common sense dictates that evacuation
starts with the one on top.

Author, Louis Odion, FNGE…Illustrates Yussuf’s high level insubordination in his narratives 

Yusuf’s thinly disguised arrogance
surely bespeaks a mindset never seen in public service at that level in recent
history. By his academic standing, a man assumed to be professor can hardly be
accused of illiteracy and, therefore, cannot be excused for confusing the
meaning of delegated authority. By virtue of being a member of federal
executive council, a minister is the president’s agent and the principle of
agency

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo….Yussuf disobeyed his order, insisting only Mr. Buhari can remove or query him

therefore entitles him to exercise his principal’s authority in his
assigned station.

In the absence of PMB, an Acting
President is supposed to be in place, whose power the health minister would
seem to invoke in directing that Yusuf
proceed on suspension.
So, only sheer impunity and contempt
for everyone except PMB could have
led Yusuf to word his reply to the
minister in the insolent manner he did. Intoxicated by transient power, the
little wayfarer from Katsina seems
incapable of realizing yet that such indiscretion invariably does incalculable
damage to PMB, his benefactor. If
nothing at all, this will certainly be cited as another exhibit in the now
not-so-subtle protestation  against the lopsidedness in Buhari’s key appointments, seen as 
a form of sleaze on its own.

EFCC’s Chairman, Nuhu Ribau….He might be Yussuf’s next Landlord!

Obviously a product of nepotism, Yusuf instinctively has been feeding the
web as well. Among his first actions in office was said to be the appointment
of his younger brother as General Manager
(Legal) and his niece, a level 8 officer from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), catapulted to
grade level 13 at the NHIS.
Already, there are reports that the
suspended ES has been telling people that he was being “persecuted”
because of his refusal to meet an “illegal financial request” by the
minister. Well, we honestly cannot rule that out. But even if this were true,
it hardly absolves this clear case of mutiny.
Nor will that be sufficient immunity
not to answer the substantive charges of impropriety against him?. Therefore,
the relevant authorities had better ensured appropriate sanctions are meted to
him as restitution for this act of rank insubordination in the first place,
even if he was eventually found guiltless for the litany of sins he was
originally accused of.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara….Was he trying to pad Usman’s sins?

Indeed, legion and weighty are the
charges against Yusuf. The last straw
that apparently broke the camel’s back was his decision to buy himself a N58m SUV from NHIS funds way above his N2.5m approval limit without the
knowledge nor the concurrence of the supervising ministry despite that his
office already had a number of serviceable SUVs.
Before he landed the
“juicy” appointment last year, very little was known of Yusuf beside his stint at an obscure
medical address in the U.K. and later
being found around one influential Kaduna-based contractor. Considering the
nature of the operations of NHIS, not a few industry experts had expected
someone with managerial or financial bias would be appointed.
When the professor of “hematology, pediatrics and
oncology”
was eventually named the new NHIS boss, many were inclined
to assume that his kinship with President
Buhari
largely influenced the appointment more than merit.
But no sooner had he assumed office
than alarm bells started chiming literally all over at NHIS, the same way domestic fire alarm is triggered by whiff of
smoke. He seemed in a great hurry to turn the office into a vending machine for
contracts often grossly inflated and incestuous.

Minister of Justice, Mr. Malami watches from afar

First was a phony N400m training contract allegedly
awarded to his “benefactor and confidant” with a view to decimating
the N860m set aside for
“training” in NHIS’ 2016 budget.
But in reality, according to one
of the petitioners, “In one of the training, a course fee of
N520,000 per staff for three days was approved without recourse to diligent
planning but with the mindset to profiteer (sic) his cronies. After a lot of
hue and cry from the general staff the fee was cut to N270,000 under suspicious
circumstances.
“Thus the fraud began, most of these
trainings which were scheduled to hold across the 36 states and the FCT never
held, while those that held was incomparable to the funds which had all been
released for the training events. There was absence of training materials in most of
the designated venues of the trainings.
“Multiples
of payment vouchers ranging (from) N19 million, N18 million (to) N21 million
were raised to cover up for the payment of over N400 million for these
trainings”.

Senate President Bukola Saraki….Does his integrity warrant his say on this matter?

“All
these spendings he carried out were above his approval limit, but he was always
heard to claim that he has the ears of the president, they being from the same
state, and whatever your complaints, they will go nowhere”.
There is another allegation that the
contract for supply of e-library equipment to a company (Promatrix Global
Resources Ltd) to the tune of N28 million was pre-paid before execution against
procurement rules.
In another deal, a princely N150
million was allegedly paid to a consultant “in the training of report
writing”. The beneficiary? Yusuf’s
own brother.
For now, we can only hope the
administrative panel will carry out a forensic investigation and ensure justice
is served.
But while awaiting the outcome, we
can at least take solace in being provided yet another aperture onto why output
never really measures up to input in Nigeria.
Sleaze or “job for the boys” certainly was not part of the
promises made to the nation when the NHIS
was first unveiled in 1999. Rather, the mission statement outlined its goal as
a quest to bridge the deficit in the nation’s healthcare, targeting government
employees, the organized private sector, the informal sector, children under
age 5, disabled persons and prison inmates.

Justice is the final bus stop

Between then and now, a whopping N351b
has been expended on NHIS with little or no impact felt by the citizenry. In
fact, eighteen years after, national coverage is today put at an abysmal 1.5
percent. In the current year, revitalization of over 10,000 primary healthcare
centers (PHC) was listed among NHIS’ priorities, targeted at the most
vulnerable in the society including rural women and children. But the funds
earmarked for essential drugs for the people are rather diverted into providing
luxury and comfort for officials. Life expectancy remains at 52 years. Malaria
prevalence rate is still around 11 percent. Maternal mortality rate is still
high. Under 5 mortality rate is still over 10 percent.
Meanwhile, as things continue to
fall apart in public hospitals on account of stolen budgets, more and more
Nigerians now resort to churches and shrines in search of healing.

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