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CSOs attack Buhari over delay in releasing NHIS probe report

The delay by the Federal Government to act on the investigative report on the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, has been questioned by civil society organisations and human rights activists.

They wondered why the Federal Government had failed to take action on the investigative report which was submitted by the probe panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari since December 25, 2018. Yusuf’s trouble began when the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, suspended him in July 2017 over an alleged N919m fraud.

President Buhari, however, overruled the health minister and reinstated Yusuf in February, 2018.

In reinstating Yusuf, the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, said the NHIS boss had been “admonished to work harmoniously with the minister.”

However, the Governing Board of the NHIS on October 18, 2018 announced the indefinite suspension of Yusuf and appointed Sadiq Abubakar as the acting Executive Secretary.

Yusuf, however, spurned his suspension by the NHIS Governing Board and went to office in the morning of October 22, 2018 accompanied by about 50 policemen, who fired tear gas canister at staff members that attempted to stop him from entering the NHIS premises.

Intervening, President Buhari converted Yusuf’s suspension to an administrative leave and set up a probe panel on November 2, 2018, to look into the allegations against Yusuf.

The President gave the probe panel two weeks to submit its report, but the report was not submitted until December 24, 2018.

Over a month after the report was submitted, the Federal Government has not spoken on Yusuf’s case.

An anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre, had on Sunday commended the Federal Government for the speed with which it treated the corruption allegations against the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.

The group, however, called on the Attorney General of the Federation to apply the same speed to the cases of the sacked Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and the sacked Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke, who were also indicted of corruption.

In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Monday, HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, said, “In the case of Babachir and Oke, the reports were already submitted by the panel headed by the Vice-President, which indicated that they were indicted in those allegations and by now the anti-corruption agencies are supposed to have taken up the cases. For us, the unnecessary delay is a major concern.

“We are using the dispatch with which the Onnoghen case was treated to assess the sincerity of the government and benchmark what is going to be happening to other cases of alleged corruption.”

Also, the Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, said Yusuf’s case ought to be treated with equal passion by the President. Adeniran said, “What we believe is that government should treat all cases with equal passion and whenever they don’t do that they owe the public an explanation. Double standard application of rules and regulations is not good for the interest of the populace. There is hardly anything we can do when the panel report is in the hands of those who should execute it and they have not.”

In the same vein, the Executive Director, Civil Society and Legislative Advocacy Centre, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, warned against the use of double standard in the prosecution of corruption cases.

He said, “Compared to the case of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, it is creating an impression that the anti-corruption fight is targeted at people that the government is not comfortable with. The corruption fight has to be fought in a holistic manner, no matter who is involved. The failure to do this will be tantamount to an abuse of the anti-corruption war and it will encourage impunity.”

Also speaking, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Monday Ubani, said, “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you do it for A, extend it also to B. If that report has been submitted over a month ago and nothing has been done about it, it doesn’t speak well. Let’s get a nation that is working; whatever you are applying to A, apply it to B. It is when you do this that everybody will believe in the anti-corruption fight and support it.”

When contacted, the Assistant Director of Communication, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun Adetola, told one of our correspondents that the report of the NHIS investigation panel, which was submitted to the SGF, Boss Mustapha, on December 24, 2018 had yet to be made public. He promised that at the appropriate time, the FG would do so.

“The report was submitted in December a few days before 2018 ended and the SGF said that it would be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari after which it would be made public. There is no other update more that what we have. The NHIS board meeting did not hold in December probably because the probe panel had not concluded its assignment at the time,” he said.

Meanwhile, NHIS spokesman, Ayo Osinlu, said the board overseeing the affairs of the scheme had not been dissolved.

“The board still exists. There is no directive from the Federal Government that the NHIS board should be dissolved even though it did not hold its meeting in December,” he said.

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