The Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, has told the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, that he is not proceeding on suspension as directed by the minister.
Yusuf said the minister lacks the power to discipline him and that only the President “by virtue of the NHIS Act particularly section 4 and 8 thereof” can remove him from office “whether by way of suspension or otherwise.”
The minister had, through a July 6, 2017 memo, asked the NHIS chief to proceed on a three- month suspension to allow for an uninterrupted investigation of petitions against him in accordance with Public Service Rules.
But Yusuf, responding in a letter dated July 12,2017 said : “Except removed from office by the President under circumstances specified in the NHIS Act, my appointment is for a period of five (5) years subject to further term of the same period at the discretion of the President.”
He said that although section 47 of the NHIS Act empowers the minister to “give directives of a general nature to the Governing Council of the Scheme and in the absence of the Council, you have Presidential mandate to exercise the powers and functions of the council. The powers and functions of the Council do not include discipline, suspension or removal of the Executive Secretary of the Scheme from office.”
Besides, he said the suspension letter “is not in accordance with Public Service Rules as no prima facie case has been established against me in respect of the petition referred to in the letter.”
“The mere fact that there are pending petitions against a public officer which is yet to be substantiated does not constitute a ground for suspension under the Public Service Rules. Otherwise, with over 18,000 petitions pending against public officer holders before the EFCC and ICPC as at the end of June 2017, the total number of public officers who would have been on suspension by now including honourable ministers is left to be imagined.”
“As you are aware, the petitions referred to in your letter are currently being investigated by the ICPC which is yet to submit its report. In view of the criminal nature of most of the allegations in the petitions, security/investigative agencies like ICPC are the appropriate agencies for investigation contemplated in your letter; not a Ministerial Committee. I have cooperated fully with the investigations so far and will continue to do so,” he added.
He asked the minister to allow “investigations of these petitions to follow due process.”
But in a swift response on Friday night, spokesperson for the ministry, Boade Akinola, said Yusuf, being a public officer, is bound by the regulations governing the Public Service.
Akinola, in a statement said: “The NHIS is an agency supervised by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Administrative Panel of Inquiry raised by the ministry to investigate activities of the agency has commenced its assignment with specific terms of reference.”