By Levinus Nwabughiogu
For suspending the Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Professor Usman Yusuf, members of House of Representatives are up arms against the Presidency.
•Osinbajo and Usman, NHIS boss
It was either a function of generosity or that of miraculous upsurge or even both that he survived in office beyond June 22, 2017. Not many people had expected it.
To say that he ruffled a few feathers on that day is to be tacit with words. In fact, to many people, Professor Usman Yusuf, the hitherto Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Service, NHIS, did not only show hate to a skewed health system in Nigeria, he also stepped on big, big toes, presumably, the toes of the cabals in high places whom he alleged had failed the system.
The fire-spitting NHIS boss
Consciously or unconsciously, Usman on that day launched himself into a tirade with the Hospital Maintenance Organizations, HMOs who are the recipient of the NHIS largess for medicare.
The event was a two day investigative public hearing organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Health Services.
Tagged “Compliance rate of the Health Management Organisations (HMOs), to the NHIS Contributions and Utilisation of funds by the Health Care Providers and Inhumane Treatment of Enrollees”, the exercise conducted between June 21 and 22 was sequel to mountainous complaints and petitions of poor healthcare delivery by the hospitals under the NHIS and HMOs from Nigerians.
The hearing was very explosive. Although no one went physical with each other, there were however a cacophony of verbal fisticuffs that eventually exposed many alleged clandestine activities of HMOs which in direct language had stalled progress in healthcare delivery under the Scheme in Nigeria.
Established 12 years ago, the HMOs, currently 59 of them had only covered 450,000 persons out of Nigeria’s 180 population. Yet they had pocked over N60 billion, still counting.
And so, to Professor Yusuf who only assumed office July last year, the public hearing was a day of reckoning for the HMOs.
Understandably, there had been a running battle between him and HMOs and amid “threats”, he had audaciously stood his grounds, warning the Organizations to pay the healthcare providers with the money paid to them by NHIS, otherwise face severe sanctions.
At the event, Yusuf called them a cartel, blood-sucking maggots. He made scary revelations of the HMOs’ activities and in the end threatened not to renew their operational licenses due this July.
Through out his period of his speech, he maintained an eye-contact with the HMOs who were seated, reeling out their “sins” in the public.
Done, he went down to shake hands with them but some of them wouldn’t oblige him.
But unknown to the Professor, that was the beginning of his dilemma. To an American returnee who probably had the fire in his belly, Nigerian environment could still be alien.
For those who do not know Yusuf, he was before his appointment a Professor of Paediatrics at St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, United States of America. He graduated in medicine from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and worked in the University Teaching Hospital from 1984 – 1989.
He worked in the United Kingdom from 1990 – 1995 from where he moved first to South Carolina, USA, where he rose to become a fellow in Paediatric Hematology/Oncology in 1998.
In July, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him the Executive Secretary of the NHIS.
His suspension and Reps’ intervention
While the House Committee headed by Hon. Chike Okafor is yet to lay its report, news filtered last week that Yusuf had been suspended from office for a period of 3 months by the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole on allegations of fraud and corruption.
But that was one development members of the House of Representatives wouldn’t tolerate. To them, it was witch hunt and an act of intimidation to cow the Professor from divulging more helpful information to them through the Committee investigating the activities of the HMOs and other stakeholders.
In quick succession, the Chairman of the Committee, Okafor and 35 others on Wednesday moved a motion, asking for the protection and the recall of the NHIS boss.
Fortunately, the motion scaled through. But would Professor Yusuf be recalled? Everyone’s guess is almost the same as all eyes are now on Acting President Yemi Osinbajo who has reportedly ordered the probe of Yusuf.