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OPINION

In NHIS, corruption fights back even harder, By Suleiman Abdulaziz

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The Executive Secretary (ES) of the NHIS Professor Usman Yusuf’s effort to sanitise and rid the NHIS is being sabotaged and resisted every step of the way by Agents of the corrupt both within and outside the Scheme. When the scheme was created about 13 years ago, it was expected to provide affordable healthcare to all 180 million Nigerians and give them the comfort of reducing their out of pocket spending and a net of protection from huge bills associated with serious illnesses.

But several years after, the Scheme’s coverage is an embarrassing number of little above 3 million in-spite of the massive Federal Government’s contributions on behalf of its employees.

Billions of Naira have gone down the drain without any obvious benefit to majority of Nigerians who still have to pay for critical services from their pockets and are not treated well in hospitals.

This was the national embarrassment and injustice that no one had the courage to challenge until Prof. Usman Yusuf, a Bone Marrow Transplant Physician based in the United States of America was appointed the Executive Secretary in 2016. Prior to his appointments, no one was talking about the massive corruption perpetrated by Health Management Organizations (HMOs), the middle men paid by the NHIS to pay hospitals on behalf of contributors.

These HMOs were considered as untouchable sacred Cows because they are owned by strong and powerful politicians that are well connected to the corridors of power.

He was advised to tread carefully and not to “rock the boat” if he wanted to finish his tenure in peace. Little did they know the measure and resolve of this unassuming Patriot. He took time to do a thorough analysis of the situation. What he found shook him to the core and he vowed that he was not appointed to “rock the boat” but to “sink this boat of corruption “.

Prof. Yusuf started the cleansing process by reaching out to all stakeholders including Anticorruption and Security Agencies for help. He started cleaning the procurement, finance and ICT departments. He created a Department of Enforcement to go after defaulting HMOs. He started recovering NHIS funds from HMOs, Banks and Contractors.

At the time he came in, the State Security Services (SSS) was in the middle of an investigation of the Scheme’s corrupt practices. This investigation was completed and the report submitted to Prof. Yusuf in April 2017.

The report, which this writer was privileged to have seen at the time, indicted some top members of Management of the Scheme who colluded in compromising the database of NHIS by padding the number of enrollees to favour some HMOs.

The Management also paid over N1.5 billion to these HMOs in fraudulent financial transactions within a year. The scam is perpetrated by the insertion of non-existent hospitals and ghost beneficiaries in the database and using the corrupted data to release funds to HMOs who smile to their banks monthly. Of course, their accomplices at NHIS are carried along and adequately compensated.

This was the kind of work environment Prof Yusuf walked into and had to choose either to rock the boat or join the gang that had turned the NHIS into an automatic teller machine. Predictably, he chose to be a change agent and decided he was going to stop the rot, especially knowing very well the stand of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on corruption.

Out of the six recommendations for executive action, two turn out to be the reasons Prof Yusuf incurred the wrath of some powerful interest groups.

The first is the recommendation that the ES should place all staff of the ICT Department on suspension to allow for a thorough screening of the NHIS database and find out those culpable in the scam.

The second is that all payments to HMOs must be put on hold until all irregularities in the NHIS database were rectified.

While he did not suspend all the ICT staff as recommended, Prof Yusuf simply redeployed these staff and seconded new people from other Federal Government Agencies including the EFCC to clean the organization’s database. The new staff in the ICT department discovered thousands of ghost beneficiaries of the scheme. More than 23,000 names of ghost enrollees were flushed from the database in a moth by these seconded staff resulting in savings of N23m fraudulently paid to to HMOs monthly. Not only that, dozens of hospitals were also fraudulently listed among those offering services to enrollees of the scheme.

The discovery led to sanction of some top guns at the NHIS and further re-gig of the administrative organogram. The status quo was torpedoed to pave way for a sanitization of the scheme.

But entrenched interests were determined to fight back, and they have been fighting back throwing spurious allegations at the NHIS boss and mobilizing workers to protest in their interest. Redeployment of new staff to hitherto ‘lucrative’ departments, especially ICT led to allegations of nepotism against Prof Yusuf. In the minds of his adversaries, he must have brought his own men to continue the milking of NHIS funds.

This explains all the recent unsubstantiated allegations by Unions who are merely foot soldiers of the corrupt. They accused him of seconding his ‘brother’ to the procurement department “so that he can prepare the ground for him to award contracts” to his brother’s company. How can you read only such a sinister meaning into a redeployment made to correct long-standing irregularities in the operations of NHIS? In any case, how can someone be found guilty of an offence he has not yet committed?

It is sad that labour unionism is today is bereft of all vestiges of patriotism and people-interest. Whether at the levels of national, state or organizations, labour activism has been reduced to promoting narrow interests of leaders and paymasters, and not the interest of the majority of workers. The welfare of workers and their families is no longer the motivation for protests, but the threat to the interests of a few.

Why has the labour union of NHIS not hold any demonstrations calling for the delisting and prosecution of HMOs that have fed fat on people’s Contributions?Why would a patriotic and worker-centered Union not call for the sack of any staff implicated in the corruption of NHIS database?

Why is the focus of the Union on the Executive Secretary who has come to clean the system?

Who are the people that have turned the NHIS into automatic teller machines? Workers must start asking the leaders of their Unions questions and demanding answers.

I call on all well meaning Nigerian to speak up and support Prof. Yusuf in his quest to rid the NHIS of corruption.

Nigeria needs more of this fearless patriot.

LONG LIVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.

Abdulaziz wrote in from Abuja

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OPINION

Hammed Olamijuwon to youths: Vote wisely, shun violence and don’t sell your vote

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Young and dynamic, Hammed Solomon Olamijuwon has urged youths across the country to vote massively for young and vibrant candidates into respective position that would represent their interest in different level of government in the forthcoming general elections.

Olamijuwon in a statement issued at the weekend, implored Nigerian youths to be an active participants in the February 16 and March 2 elections.

His words: “In few days to this time, we shall be taking a major decision concerning our nation by electing leaders that will steer the affairs of this country. Our decision in the next few days will determine our next four years. The people we decide to elect to the position of power will determine a lot concerning you and I.

“I argue youths to go out and vote during the general election. If we all sit in our homes claiming that our votes won’t count, remember that some persons go out on that day and vote. If they vote-in the wrong people; we will have no choice than to be bound by their decisions over this nation for the next few years to come.

“If you have your PVC, kindly makes sure you go out to vote. Vote wisely. Vote credible and responsible candidates. Do not sell your vote. We must ensure that the right people are elected this time.”

Olamijuwon, a Real Estate developer and Managing Director of HSO Global Limited, while stressing the need for Nigerian youths to play active roles in the forthcoming elections, said the youth votes has the potential to be extremely influential in Nigeria.

“I believe the youth vote has the potential to be extremely influential in this country. Young voters notoriously neglect the importance of voting, but their voice is an important one on both sides of the aisle. Key issues in every election increasingly relate to the concerns of students and professionals between the ages of 18 and 35, making it essential for members within that age group to educate themselves on political issues and take to the polls,” he said.

On his political ambition; the Ijesha man who hail from Ilesa East Local Government Area of Osun State and founder of a Non-Governmental Organisation, HSO Foundation whose youthful political pedigree has endeared him to young and old in the town especially those in the grassroots, disclosed that: “I am taking my time and consulting political stakeholders across the country and my state to know the next step regarding my ambition of serving my people. By 2023 I believe the youth is taken over full time and I can assure my people I am ready to serve them.”

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OPINION

This is what next level means, By Tunde Ajose

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When the news hit the media that the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, gave a press release, calling the attention of the federal government to his fears towards the 2019 presidential election and beyond, it is not surprising that the media took a mere advice out of proportion.

Right to free speech is a fundamental human right and well recognised by the Nigerian constitution.

In the release, OBJ as he’s popularly called while stating his desire for a change of government, insisted that Nigerians must vote in his preferred candidate to replace the incumbent, President Mohammadu Buhari, and send the country back to the dark days better forgotten.

The question that one would have expected to be asked should have been whether this was because he loved Nigeria or there was a selfish motive behind it all. Why?

It is not coincidental that his preferred candidate happens to be the same person he once ruled the country with. This same preferred candidate is the one same OBJ had rubbished severally in the media as unreliable and even went to the extent of writing a book; dedicating substantial pages to why Alhaji Atiku Abubakar must never be allowed to smell power again.

I could remember an interview Chief Obasanjo gave a long time ago, when he was also faced with cries of non performance. He was asked why it was taking like forever to fix Nigeria based on his promise. Obasanjo answered, “As a farmer, I know where I can hit a storey building with a caterpillar and it would all collapse within few minutes. But it takes months to build the same without changing its specification.”

Obasanjo believed that many years of military misrule can’t just be undone with few years of democracy as it would take time.

This is the same belief of the Buhari led government. That 16years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s rule, where money meant for national projects were shared by the privileged few. The insurgency caused by Boko Haram which has been greatly decimated by our gallant men of armed forces would have been a thing of the past if PDP 16 year rule has not diverted the fund meant for standard arm procurement into few pockets.

President Mohammadu Buhari came into power with the believe that even though the corrupt elements had already done havoc to the national treasury, he could not comprehend extent of rot he eventually met.

So with the believe that you can’t build a solid house on a rotten foundation, Buhari, despite enormous expectations placed on him, decided to start rebuilding the foundation into a stronger institution for the country in his first term and hope to consolidate and erect a befitting edifice, where corrupt elements, insurgency, unemployment and many social vices would be things of the past.

And this is the next level.

 

– Ajose, wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.

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OPINION

Atiku’s US Trip: So much ado about nothing, By Tunde Ajose

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For good watchers of the Nigerian politics, one thing has come to stay in our political experiment at getting it right in this country and that is the ability for smart politicians to easily sway the electorates with mundane issues.

The campaigns are no longer issue based but media sensationalism.

Latest of such was the sudden appearance of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the United States of America! Then one begins to wonder why the opposition would think such is the needed magic wand to win the election.

And the euphoria may not be unconnected with the report that Atiku was barred from entering the States because of his fraudulent nature but the question is, why would any serious opposition believes such action would immediately translate into winning the Aso Rock.

One would have wondered why Atiku has chosen to travel with the current senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki? Could it be that he actually traveled under the diplomatic immunity of Saraki’s official delegation?

Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity that ensures diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country’s laws, but they can still be expelled.

We need to be circumspect as we move forward as a nation and be more discerning. The current government of Nigeria is focused more than before in ensuring that Nigerians, regardless of the class or status has a befitting country they could fall back to and call a home.

It is quite obvious that while the opposition are playing to the gallery, the presidential campaign organisation of president Mohammad Buhari is busy rolling up its sleeves and getting down to fields where the real electorates are and connecting with them.

This past week especially has been full of activities for the president despite his age. Within a spate of two weeks, Buhari had sat down to two interviews in-between journeying from the length and breadth of the country in getting the message of hope down to the people.

The president does not rely on his privilege as an incumbent, but insisted on talking to his people and ensuring that Nigerians are united as they go to polls come February.

No one is in doubt that his message also resonates well with the citizens as they troop out en masse to welcome and listen to what he has to say. With the multitude of crowd recorded today as he presented the gubernatorial flagbearer of the party to the good people of Delta State and the ovation that greeted it, there is no doubt that Buhari is truly loved.

As we count down to the elections, Nigerians need to bear it in mind that the 2019 election is about building on a new foundation which the present government has been able to achieve in the first four years and giving the solid foundation out to the marauders to destroy along with the better forgotten 16years in power.

If Atiku is in the United States today, there is no way the intelligence agencies of the federal government of Nigeria would not know about it.

 

Tunde Ajose, a political commentator, writes from Lagos.

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