A Presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, says the presidency has stepped into the crisis rocking the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) following the purported suspension of its Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Governing Council of the NHIS had on Oct. 18 suspended Yusuf over alleged gross misconduct.
But, Yusuf resumed work on Friday, a day after his fresh suspension by the council.
Some workers acting under the aegis of Association of Civil Servants of Nigeria, and Medical and Health Workers Union of NHIS, almost prevented him from gaining entrance to the office on Monday.
Their colleagues of the Nigeria Civil Service Union in support of Yusuf mobilised themselves and countered the protest.
The situation that almost degenerated into security breach was however contained with the intervention of a combined team of police, civil defence and state security operatives.
However, the presidential aide, who featured on Channels TV Sunrise Daily on Tuesday in Abuja, said Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, and the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had intervened in the NHIS crisis with a view to finding lasting solutions.
Shehu, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, noted with regret that the NHIS crisis had been ethnicised and politicised by some interest groups within and outside the agency.
“Did the board follow due process in suspending this gentleman? There are opinions that said `no they haven’t’.
“Again we all have to do the right thing all of the times. I don’t deny the fact that there is a lot of work to do – (the crisis) is complicated by the fact that the whole thing about the NHIS has been ethnicised and politicised.
“Even a political party was issuing a statement on matters that are unknown to it.
“I’ll tell you one thing, as we speak now, you know that no matter whatever mistakes this gentleman may have made, and that is to be proven because I don’t have the records to say yes or no, he has launched a major reform in that institution which had blocked access to public resources.
“Money from the NHIS is not money belonging to government, is money taken from your salary, from my salary.
“If we have been enlisted, we are supposed to get treatments when we fall ill then you should ask the question in 13 years of the NHIS how many Nigerians have received the treatments.
“Yet you have HMOs, these vendors, taking N5 billion every month, money that is just being shared and somebody came and said, `look, this can’t go on’ and with strong support from this administration the N5 billion has been reduced to N1.3 billion.
“And even at then, the administration is not satisfied. We want to see healthcare delivered to the citizens of this country. So there is a lot of work to do,’’ he said.
The presidential aide stated that he was not in the position to challenge the allegations of wrong doings levelled against the executive secretary in some quarters.
Shehu, however, maintained that the two chambers of the National Assembly had previously cleared the Executive Secretary of the allegations against him.
He also dismissed the accusation of `double standard’ by the Buhari administration while dealing with cases of corruption being levelled against public servants or political office holders in the country.
He said it was wrong to compare the case of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal, and that of the NHIS scribe.
“Well, there is no double standard there either than to say that the pictures that the government is looking at many Nigerians perhaps may not be seeing those pictures,’’ he added.
NAN also recalls that the minister of health (Adewole) had earlier suspended Yusuf over similar allegations on July 6, 2017.
But the Federal Government reinstated him on Feb. 6, 2018, after an administrative panel found him not guilty of the allegations of abuse of office and maladministration.
Yusuf officially resumed work on Feb. 8, 2018, after he was given the clean bill.
Shehu, who also spoke extensively on the security efforts of the federal government in combating the menace of Boko Haram insurgency, said Nigeria had earned international commendations for suppressing the terrorist group.