An interesting drama is unfolding as the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Usman Yusuf, has told Health Minister Isaac Adewole that he lacks the capacity to discipline him and therefore, he is not proceeding on suspension as directed by the minister.
Mr. Yusuf claimed 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.”
Recall that the minister had, through a July 6, 2017 memo, asked Yusuf to proceed on a three- month suspension to allow for an uninterrupted investigation of petitions against him in accordance with the Public Service Rules.
However, Yusuf, emboldened by an unnecessary support from the House of Representatives, 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 years subject to further term of the same period at the discretion of the president.”
He argued 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.
This apart, Yusuf pointed out that the suspension letter “is not in accordance with the Public Service Rules as no prima facie case has been established against me in respect of the petitions 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.”
He added: “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 the ICPC are the appropriate agencies for the investigation contemplated in your letter; not a Ministerial Committee. I have cooperated fully with the investigations so far and will continue to do so.”
Yusuf pleaded with the minister to allow “investigations of these petitions to follow due process.”
However, spokesperson for the ministry, Boade Akinola, quickly responded on Fiday night by saying that 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.”