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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

Tasks before Kyari in turning around NNPC, By Abba Dukawa

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ALL eyes are now on Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Male Kolo Kyari in turning around the fortunes of the Corporation and also need to make the company to be runs in very transparent ways.  In view the challenges before him in whirling the NNPC to practice the best norm in the world oil industries.  There is need for Kyari, to focus his attention on the implementation of the findings of the audit reports of the NEITI which has severally indicted the NNPC of operational maleficence. Nigerians were expected see that his nicked mane of Mr. Transparent really translated into the way he will tackle on poor transactional transparency, as NNPC had over time recorded differences in actual volume of crude oil lifted and actual volume of production NEITI stated.  

A recent World Bank report had shown that Nigeria spent N731 billion to subsidizes petrol consumption last year. The report had explained that within the year under review, Nigeria’s oil sector declined in productivity, ending on 1.9 million barrels a day (mbd) production mark as against the government’s hope of 2.3mbd.

In April 2019, Revenue Watch Institute (RWI) in its publication of National Oil Company Database, place NNPC as one of National Oil Companies (NOCs) with record challenges of transparency.   There is need for Kyari to initiate a see-through process in management of the corporation’s operations and also making it more profitable. It’s hardly and even became part of NNPC tradition not disclosed its net income from core revenues; capital and operational expenditures; cash flows from operations; total assets worth to public.

Saudi owned of National Oil Company ARAMCO raked in profits of £85 billion in 2018 as most profitable company making more than Apple and Google combine. Aramco raked in more cash than global ITC giant companies, Apple made roughly $60 billion, while Exxon Mobil made roughly $20 billion). The Wall Street Journal reported. ARAMCO revealed details of its finances for the first time since it was nationalized in the Seventies as part of a push ahead of its first bond sale.

Nigerians expected to see Kyari turning around the fortunes of NNPC into rakes profitable national oil company through openness, transparency and accountability. Establish a concrete economic Diversification plan with a concrete path to a post-oil future for Nigeria, based on emerging global trends.

This plan, akin to the Saudi Arabian government’s economic diversification plan, should include a clear strategy with interlinked policies – trade, industrial, fiscal – and far-reaching structural and governance reforms of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation that could include partial privatization (with share listed on the stock exchange for purchase by ordinary Nigerians and not by Government- Related cronies).

The uncanny tasks before GMD are to turn around the nation’s nation feeble refineries remained terribly poor in operation and mostly constituted a deficit to NNPC cash flow. This decades problems placed the NNPC as a mere trader in the oil industry as against its potentials as a national oil company capable of establishing and running profitable ventures in the Upstream  and Downstream sectors of the industry. Finding a lasting solution would in many ways be a plus to Kyari and his team.   Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation recorded losses in the region of N551.46bn between January 2015 and December 2018. The Corporation repeatedly failed to meet projected profits as its subsidiaries, particularly refineries, running cost at the headquarters and other arms left whopping deficits.

 

Things you need to know about Kyari

Male Kolo Kyari was appointed to head production sharing contracts management in the Crude Oil Marketing Division (COMD). Also led the team that proposed and managed the Direct Sales And Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement of petroleum products from 2016 till date replacing the Crude Swap Arrangement. Under his watch, the Crude Oil Marketing Division has recorded noticeable transformation in the management and sales of the various Nigeria’s crude oil grades via an infusion of transparency and automation of the processes.

He contributed to reconcile alleged loss of $48 billion and established actual status of transactions involving NNPC in 2014. Malam Kolo Kyari pursued the determination of the tenure of the Amenam/Kpono carry arrangement with potential savings of over $1 billion; he also revised and initiated the process for the redetermination of the Applicable Fiscal Regime for the Addax PSC with potential shortterm savings of $1.6 billion. As the group general manager, crude oil marketing division. He created systems to ensure maximum transparency and accountability of crude oil and gas sales in the industry. He was the supervisor of production sharing contract for the NNPC.

Mr. Transparent’ he was one of the major people that came up with the NNPC’s commodity trading initiative. This initiative makes it possible for the government to know those who are buying the country’s crude and at what prices, and how much has been made. Kyari led various teams in developing the petroleum industry bill (PIB) that redefined the government’s take in production sharing contracts with oil companies. He was the secretary of the FG INTER-AGENCY team that coordinated the creation of the current basis of the fiscal and regulatory framework of the PIB.

He  is  unionists, per excellent and he is  fearless  toward welfare of his follows members and Kyari popularly called ‘Grand Chairman or Mr Transparency by other  comrades in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) often refer to him as a comrade after he was group chairman of NNPC PENGASSAN.

Male Kolo Kyari won four awards, namely: GMD Prize for the Overall Best Performance for NNPC Management Development Program; GED CS Award for Best Performance in Leadership; GM Group Learning Division award for Best Project work, NNPC Management Development Programme; and Examiners award for 1st Runner-up for Effective Presentation.

Dukawa a public commentator and can be reached at abbahydukawa@gmail.com

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OPINION

Yobe governor, R3 and other tasks, By Abba Dukawa

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All eyes are now on Mai Mala Buni to consolidate on the achievements of Gaidam and equally expand the frontiers of development in Yobe State. The state had its own bitter taste of the Boko Haram insurgency, which practically stalled development in areas that have direct impact on human capital development indices.

Even with these mountainous challenges, former Governor Gaidam has performed greatly in provision of infrastructure and social services ranging from health care delivery to schools, roads, agriculture and building the confidence of the citizenry in the government.

According to Albert, the purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will that will help others.
Described by most people as gentle, generous, humble, trustworthy, extremely loyal and down-to-earth, Gaidam no doubt, displayed high and esteemed leadership qualities which endeared to the people of the state.

He has made exceptional strides in special intervention in the areas of education, health, agriculture, and women/youth empowerment among others.

Indeed, he perfectly fitted into the postulation by John C Maxwell when he said: “Success knows your purpose in life, growing maximum potential and sowing seeds that will benefit others.”

Based on the purpose of the administration to achieve great tasks, it needs to implement far-reaching policies and programmes toward making the state to realise its full potentials to greatness through the policy of continuity and consolidation of legacies or achievements recorded by the former administration.

Governor Mala reiterated his administration readiness to explore and exploit new avenues and opportunities locally, nationally and internationally, to improve and expand the existing structured policies and programmes for delivering maximum dividends of democracy to the people.

In his inaugural speech, Governor Mala unveiled his administration’s readiness to partner with North East Development Commission, local and international humanitarian organizations toward the implementation of his ambitious Resettlement, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (R3), for the people affected by insurgency to live a life of honor and dignity. He also proffers to create employment opportunities to stimulate the economy for improved revenue generation and industrialize the state for the greater wealth creation.

The state’s economy is largely dependent on the federal allocation with very low Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), however Governor Buni is set to change this trend of the state dependency on the monthly federal allocation because the state is blessed with economic trees and massively housed by plants such as sesame seeds; while the product is in high industrial demand for pharmaceuticals and confectionary use in Europe, America, Middle East and Asia.

To support his vision for making the state economically improved, the governor sees it deem to exploit the state solid mineral potentials and its rich agricultural lands which can turn around its economic fortunes for better.

If the administration puts to use the state numerous solid mineral deposits that are in commercial quantities which were being verified of high quality including Limestone, Kaolin, and Gypsum among others, this vision can turn around the economic fortunes of the state, which has huge potential.

Livestock farmers would be supported and provided with incentives to boost production accordingly. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s record shows there is estimated livestock population of three million goats being the highest in the country with over 2.7 million herds of cattle and 2.1 million sheep. Farmers in the state are also not left behind as the administration is set to provide tractors to farmers at the beginning of every rainy season across the 17 local government areas of the state.

To achieve his economic and human development, Buni assured people of the state that his administration would intensify efforts to put into better economic use by reviving and putting back to production of the government-owned companies like, Gujba Fertiliser Blending Plant, Polythene, Woven Sacks Factory, and the Yobe Flour and Feed Mills and the Sahel Aluminium Company in order to create employment opportunities and boost internal revenue.

Already the governor has directed the State Ministry of Commerce and Investment to undertake comprehensive analyses and submit report on what might be needed to revive, resuscitate or replace and upgrade the equipments in these respective companies.

On infrastructural development, Buni is posed to construct new roads, among others and set to construct modern markets in major towns and provide befitting trailer park in Potiskum and some other towns and guaranteeing peoples of the state to complete all projects inherited from the former administration.

His administration also pledged to provide one healthcare centre in each of the 178 political wards in the state, and considered it necessary to upgrade the capacities of health institutions in the state by providing state-of-the-art medical facilities and equipments to provide the best services to the people. All these will enhance healthcare delivery to the people of the state.

In his efforts to align his manifesto, campaign promises and the vision and mission outlined, a committee will be formed to set out implementation priorities and strategies in the short, medium and long term basis covering each sector for government intervention after proper assessment.

It is worthy to note that Buni’s administration will pursue every opportunity with high sense of responsibility to ensure that what rightly belongs to the state in terms of appointments, projects and programmes are given to it.

According to him, the administration would partner with our national legislators to pursue their entitlements with vigour vis-à-vis pledging that the state’s quota in federal appointments are fully accessed and occupied by his people while vivacious desk officers would be established at the Abuja Liaison Office to monitor and pursue their dues and entitlements.

He affirms that the era of short changing the state is over.

Dukawa public affairs commentator, can be reached at abbahydukawa@gmail.com

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OPINION

Is MultiChoice Nigeria above the law?

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By Adewole Kehinde

 

MultiChoice Africa was born on the African continent and its history can be traced back to 1986 when a number of South African media companies formed Africa’s first pay TV channel, M-Net.

From humble beginnings, M-Net grew much faster than anticipated. In 1990 it became the first television company to be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and in 1992 the company first used satellite transmission to reach more than 20 African countries with an analogue service.

In 1995, MultiChoice launched its premium DStv bouquet on a newly-constructed digital platform, which has since grown to cover nearly 50 countries in Africa and adjacent Indian Ocean islands, offering a range of pay-television services with a variety of language options and excellent quality viewing.

Millions of Nigerians are subscribed to DStv; at least a household in Nigeria has DStv or GOtv installed.

The subscription rates have been an issue in recent times as Multichoice Nigeria increases the subscription without putting the consumers into consideration.

One of the major complains from many interviewed is that films are been repeated several times despite the subscription; they rarely introduced news films among their movies.

Another concern was why is DStv not operating Pay As You Watch instead of the monthly subscription whether your decoder is active or not, your subscription is always reading.

Recently, a judge, Nnamdi Dimgba, in Abuja has rejected an appeal by Multichoice Nigeria against an interim order prohibiting any increase in its DStv or GOtv subscription rates.

Multichoice Nigeria had on August 24 filed an appeal against the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja stopping it from increasing the subscription rates to its cable television services. The order was given on August 20.

The restraining order was issued in respect of Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/894/18 brought before the court by the Federal Competition Consumer Protection Council (FCCPC) in the light of the public outcry raised.

In his order, Mr Dimgba said the interim injunction restrains Multichoice Nigeria or its agents and representatives from “continuing the implementation of any increase in subscription rates or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on the consumers pending the determination of the motion on notice.”

Besides, the court also restrained DSTV from “further carrying on or continuing any conduct or activity which interferes with or has effect of circumventing the outcome of ongoing investigations by the FCCPC into the company’s compliance or non-compliance with the February 16, 2016 order pending the determination of the motion on notice”.

When the appeal was made, the FCCPC explained that the order stopping implementation of the new tariffs will subsist till the appeal has been heard and ruling given by the court.

This means that the subscription tariffs for Dstv and Gotv ought not to have increased but consumers have been paying the increased tariffs since August.

Under the new price regime, the company said the Premium package subscribers pay about 7.5 per cent more (about N15,800) from about N14,700 every month.

Also, their Compact Plus customers still pay N10,650, from N9,900; Compact bouquets, N6,800, from N6,300, while the family package was increased from N3,800 to N4,000, with Access from N1,900 to N2,000

On Monday, during the court hearing, the judge also refused the application by MultiChoice to adjourn the matter indefinitely.

When asked of the measures taken to ensure Multichoice’s compliance, FCCPC Director General Babatunde Irukera said CPC still holds the position that consumers should be paying the old tariff.

“However, the council’s understanding is that Multichoice is not complying with that order of court so that’s why it was important for the court to agree to clarify the situation,” he said.

I can authoritatively say that Multichoice is not complying with the order of court as people are made to pay the new Premium package subscribers pay N15,800 instead of N14,700 every month.

Also, their Compact Plus customers still pay N10,650, from N9,900; Compact bouquets, N6,800, from N6,300, while the family package was increased from N3,800 to N4,000, with Access from N1,900 to N2,000

From available records, Multichoice Nigeria has not vacated Justice Nnamdi Dimgba interim injunction restrains Multichoice Nigeria or its agents and representatives from “continuing the implementation of any increase in subscription rates or price review policy imposing increased charges and costs on the consumers pending the determination of the motion on notice.”

Is Multichoice Nigeria really above Nigeria’s Law? Who are the people in Government backing Multichoice Nigeria to disobey Court order? Who are the major backers of Multichoice Nigeria that is making them reaping consumers openly? So many questions begging for answers.

 

Adewole Kehinde is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja. @kennyadewole kennyadewole@gmail.com

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