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
NNPC and the fuss over staff re-deployment, By Gbenga Adeleke
It’s hardly tenable that any enlightened interest could question the rationale for the announcement of staff retirement and re-deployment at a public institution the way the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) did last week.
The NNPC last week announced the retirement of 11 senior management staff and redeployment of 19 others in an exercise it described as statutory. Most of those redeployed are to replace those exiting the Corporation into retirement by end of May and early June.
But there have been insinuations about the exercise in the media, and some have questioned while the GMD did it at a time of transition for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Some have even read ethnic interests into the exercise.
I am sure the Group Managing Direction, GMD, of the Corporation, Maikanti Baru, who must have initially felt relief being able to get the approval for the retirements and redeployments at once(considering his busy schedule), must be bewildered by grumblings in the media over the exercise. The frustration was almost palpable in a press statement issued by NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, explaining the exercise.
He described the staff movement as “normal replacement and backfill exercise” to bridge the gap occasioned by impending retirement of some management staff of the corporation, among others. He stressed that the process followed extant rules and that such replacements were always effected before the final exit of the concerned staff.
The NNPC spokesman said it was usual for the corporation to obtain approval on replacements of retiring staff ahead of schedule. He said this was the case with the recent exercise that takes effect as at when the retiring staff departs at various times within the period. Ughamadu said the exercise was effected to ensure uninterrupted operations of the corporation in achieving its mandate and urged members of the public to disregard any insinuations.
It certainly beats the imagination that some vested interests would not see the exercise for what it was- an administrative effort to promote efficiency and prevent lethargy. While it is not always a surprise that some Nigerians would be skeptical about NNPC figures or operational efficiency due largely to the unsavory history of the Corporation, it must be the height of pessimism(or even mischief) to ask questions about an administrative action that did not breach any law or public service rules.
It is quite obvious that the retirement of these officers will open up gaps in the management of some important Strategic Business Units and Commercial Strategic Units of the corporation. This undoubtedly calls for urgency in proposing competent staff within the corporation for promotion to fill up those vacancies. Only an indolent management would allow a vacuum to be created at such strategic units of the Corporation.
It is quite instructive that the faceless critics of the NNPC action are not concerned about those retired.
The grumbling, as is to be expected, must be coming from those whose sense of entitlement had been hurt by the exercise. These are NNPC senior staff who had hoped to reap from the retirement of others, but who were, in the wisdom of those at the helm at NNPC, not suitable yet for the offices.
This is why there is such desperation to discredit the exercise as a promotion of cronyism and ethnic interest by those who had waited in the wings, and perhaps lobbied to no avail for those positions.
It is almost a rehash of the sentiments usually expressed by mischief makers anytime the Nigerian military announced new promotions and posting. The military often found itself having to explain that its exercise was a routine activity which carried no sentiments.
While the NNPC is not the military, those who alleged the exercise did not follow due process have not stated what rules were breached. And those who claimed the redeployment favoured only a section of the country have not mentioned those who were suitable for the appointments but were bye-passed.
It is pathetic that a promotion exercise at a profit-driven public institution such as the NNPC would be viewed as if it were political appointments. Anyone who has cared to look through the list of those recently redeployed would appreciate the thoroughness of the selection process. These are positions requiring special technical and administrative skills. No one has said any of those redeployed was not suitable for the position appointed.
While one cannot claim to know the level of competence of those appointed, we must have faith that those who carried out the exercise knew what they were doing. The NNPC has only one group managing director and the bucks stops at his table. If the GMD has to respond to queries on simple administrative actions from his table like staff redeployment, what right have we to demand efficiency from NNPC?
The fuss over the redeployment is a storm in a tea- cup. It is simply noise making, and it helps no one. The question any serious-minded Nigerian must ask on the exercise are few and simple. First, did the exercise follow extant corporate guidelines of the Corporation? Two, are those retired due for retirement within the month or two or three as required by the rules? Three, are those redeployed to fill the expected vacancies qualified and competent? Is the approval for the redeployments beneficial to the efficiency of NNPC or not?
So far from what is available in the media, the answers to these questions are positive. If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, it goes without saying that any insinuation about other ulterior or exterior motives must be what it is: mischief!
The NNPC under Baru has earned our confidence, even if it’s in a small way, and we must give him the benefit of doubt. In a first of its kind in recent times, the NNPC was able to detect fraud in its operations and stop it. Through fraud and forensic investigations of activities of its subsidiary groups, the NNPC was able to save $1.6bn that could have gone to the Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Nigeria Limited. This is already in the public domain.
The companies were fleecing NNPC’s flagship Upstream subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and the Corporation got an award against them to refund 1.6 billion dollars to the NPDC. Incidentally, the NPDC is among companies affected by last week’s redeployments.
Baru was the second Chairman of the NNPC Anti-Corruption Committee in 2004, and as GMD he’s ensured all staff of the corporation and its various stakeholders were educated about NNPC’s corporate policies and the various anti-corruption acts in the country in order to avoid fraudulent transaction.
This is why the frenzy over the redeployments is meaningless.
Adeleke writes from Lagos
Babatunde Fowler: The zero sum game in political appointments, By Abubakar Ismail
9th Senate Presidency race: Why Danjuma Goje is the man to beat
At no time since 1999 has the race for the senate presidency been so competitive in a robustly healthy manner. Unlike in 2015 when some ambitious senators-elect ignored the ruling party’s zoning arrangement for the National Assembly, this time senators-elect are sticking with the party.
Barely a month before the inauguration of the 9th Senate, the race for the senate presidency is too close to call. Although the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, had zoned the seat to the North East and anointed Ahmed Lawan from Yobe State, returning and new senators are yet to officially endorse hm.
If the APC expect a coronation for Lawan when the next senate is inaugurated, it may be in for another shocker as it was in 2015. This is because whether the APC admits it or not, the emergence of Bukola Saraki as senate president in 2015 showed that legislators want to choose their own leaders and may not tolerate a third party doing that for them.
This is why in my opinion, despite the choice of Lawan by the party, forces in the National Assembly and outside of it have thrown up other candidates for the throne. Alli Ndume, the senator representing Borno Central was the first to challenge the choice of Lawan as soon as it became public knowledge after senators-elect met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa shortly after the general elections.
Ndume, as expected, boasted he was the most qualified person for the position and that he enjoined the support of his colleagues. But a few days after he declared interest, some senators and groups started calling on Danjuma Goje, a senator from Gombe, to declare interest in the senate presidency. These senators worked underground to sell the candidacy of Goje to all the senators-elect.
Goje was a two- term governor of Gombe State who transformed the infrastructure of the state. He put Gombe State in the national limelight with his aggressive performance as governor. His cool-headed, progressive leadership style endeared him to the electorate who fondly called him “Limamu Change” (leader of change).
Among leaders of the APC in the north, no one did more for the party than Goje. Despite the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,was in power in his state, he staked everything to ensure the people voted APC in the presidential election of 2015 and 2019. It is a mark of high he is in the estimation of his people that he has won re=election to the senate twice.
The fact that he is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation is a strong indication that his colleagues in the senate hold him in high esteem. Unlike Ndume who has remained a controversial member of the senate, Goje has remained focused on his legislative duties and keeps a clean record. It is incredibly admirable that Goje has also managed to avoid getting involved in any legislative scandal despite heading a critical committee.
This is why it is not surprising that he is the only senator from the north east that has been endorsed by different groups and individuals who are not in the national assembly. The support he has enjoyed from people and groups outside the national assembly clearly show that the people strongly believe he is the only one among the three contenders who could properly represent their interest in national affairs.
If the APC is smart, it should give Goje all the necessary support to ensure he becomes the senate president in June. The party should be thinking of 2023 and the leaders who could ensure victory for the party in all zones of the country. Clearly, none of the three contenders have the political clout of Goje in the north east zone. Given him the senate presidency would help APC consolidate when Buhari is no longer in the equation. This is what smart parties do to keep their party in power.
Several groups including the North East Consultative Forum (NESF) and five other groups in the geo-political zone, had endorsed Goje and asked him to declare his intention to contest for the office of the Senate president.
The groups including North East Elders Mobilization Forum, APC national youth caucus, Borno Discussion Circle, Gombe Political Associations and North East Youth Awareness for good governance, urged Goje to run.
The group followed up with a letter to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on their endorsement of Goje. In the letter, dated 17th April, titled: “North East stakeholders endorse Goje,” the conveners, Barrister Mustapha Saidu and Alhaji Bello Ambo, commended APC for zoning the Senate Presidency to the North East.
They said the zoning of the position to the geopolitical zone was a confirmation of the party’s commitment to reward hard work, following the zone’s contribution to the party’s victory in the just concluded general elections.
“Following very wide consultations among stakeholders, party members and North East Consultative Forum and after careful assessment of his contribution to the party and Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration, we hereby present to you, Senator Muhammad Danjuma Goje as the choice of the people of the North East for the Senate President of the 9th Assembly.”
Since that letter became public knowledge, no group or individuals in the north east has contradicted the claims contained in it.
Feelers from lobby groups in the national assembly show that Goje is the man to beat in the race for the senate leadership. More and more legislators are said to be jumping on the Goje train. His admirers are impressed that he has an unblemished administrative and legislative record after so many years in governance. Not many are able to pull this off.
Compared to Lawan or Ndume, Goje would undoubtedly bring prestige and integrity to the office of the senate president. These are the attributes the next senate president must bring to the office if the national assembly wants to be taken seriously by Nigerians and the world.
-Mr. Anufor writes from Abuja
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