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Suspension of NHIS ES: Is Professor Isaac Adewole Blackmailing PMB – By Emeka Oraetoka

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That it took PMB’s absence for the petitioner(s) or the minister of health to summit petitions against NHIS ES to the Acting President as he then was, speaks volumes of the reason behind the suspension in the first place-Anonymous

The unexpected happed on July 8, 2017 when the minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole unilaterally suspended the Executive Secretary (ES) of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Professor Yusuf Usman. The reason the minister gave for the illegal suspension was to allow for unimpeded investigation of corruption allegation against Professor Yusuf, to which he, the minister setup a panel. Incidentally, the allegation, according to the ES which has not been disputed is being investigated by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The question remains, why setup investigative panel, when the corruption allegation is being investigated by relevant anti-corruption agency?

Informed Nigerians have long reasoned that the suspension of the ES was never to ensure smooth investigation as claimed by the minister, rather, it was to intimidate and humiliate the ES because there was a sinister belief in some quarters that the President was not going to return from medical trip alive. The holders of this view are quick to back up their claim by instating that, were the President to be  around then, the minister would not have suspended the ES as PMB will never condone illegality. Further, considering the fact that the allegation against the ES is being investigated by the EFCC, PMB would have reversed it immediately. They are also quick to point to some instances where public office holders are being investigated or tried in the law court, yet, they were not suspended. For instance, it is a kwon fact that the investigation of serving Senators and ministers in the current administration by EFCC is still ongoing.

Another troubling issue in the suspension of Professor Yusuf is the background information from the minister’s camp that he was dropping the name of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB). If we carefully juxtapose the name dropping allegation with the belief by informed Nigerians that the thinking in the ministry of health, which was that, PMB would not come back alive from medical trip, one will begin to see a very sharp nexus. The name dropping allegation was probably responsible for the grave yard silence by those at the helm of affairs then. Lovers of rule of law and constitutional democracy had expected Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, and Acting President (AP) as he then was, to quickly reverse the suspension order immediately, but that never happened. Instead, unconfirmed report had it that one Ade Ikpaye, who am sure was not the spokesman of the AP, confirmed that his principal was in receipt of the petition against the ES of NHIS, apparently to justify the suspension. Whichever way one views the suspension of the ES, a lot of scenarios and interpretations will be available. Someone will not be too wrong if he thinks nepotism was responsible for the deaf silence in Aso Rock over the illegal suspension. Since it has been established that if PMB were around, nobody would have been allowed to assault rule of law and constitutionalism the way the minister of health had done. It follows that crass nepotism played a significant role, at least in the absence of definitive stand on the part of the Acting President as he then was.

Yet, another troubling fact beffore the unconstitutional suspension was the issue coercions of the ES by the minister to finance the health ministry with the money of the agency, which the law clearly frowns at. The report by Daily Trust of July 10, 2017, with the caption: INVESTIGATION: Suspension of NHIS boss: The untold story, says it all. The minister reportedly ordered the ES to fund some activities of the ministry to which the ES refused. The report further says that the ES took time to explain to the minister why NHIS will not be able to fund the ministry. The minister probably felt insulted that his “junior” who has no right to talk, challenged his authority, hence the need to deal with him; regardless of what the law says. Similarly, the House of Representatives accused the minister of demanding N 197 million from the suspended Executive Secretary, according to report in Sun newspaper of July 13, 2017.

As if the assault on the rule of law and constitutionalism is not enough, the minister elected to BLACKMAIL the President when he told the suspended ES that he has extended his suspension until PMB acts on the report of the investigative panel. The Thinking of the minister, according to informed Nigerians is that “since PMB claims he is fighting corruption; let me see how he will allow his brother escape this indictment”.  This comment from Professor Adewole on Professor Yusuf suspension extension, clearly supports the theory of blackmail :—“Please refer to my earlier letter ref C.405/1/132, dated 6th July 2017, suspending you from office for three months to allow for an interrupted administrative, investigative committee to look into the various allegations against you including that of monumental fraud, gross abuse of office and nepotism inimical to the NHIS scheme under your leadership,” “While awaiting Mr President’s directive and considering that the committee found you culpable in many areas of your performance as the executive secretary of the NHIS, I am further extending your suspension from office pending the decision of his Excellency Mr President C-in-C on the report,”‎  It will be recalled that those around the minister  had earlier accused the ES of  dropping the name of PMB.. Informed Nigerians are quick to ask the minister this question: how come the panel you setup ended up perpetrating corruption by spending a whopping N19 million of NHIS money? Blueprint newspaper of October 11, 2017 it thus: Controversy trails N19 million allowances for 21-member probe committee. This has further shown that the ES was shoved aside for unfettered access to NHIS funds.

It is obvious that the minister of health suspended the ES of NHIS to blackmail the President in the first place. He could have equally suspended him to show that he is in charge etc. what PMB MUST avoid is Senate/ Babachir Lawal scenario playing out in his cabinet. Never pander to a blackmailer, otherwise he always come back. Although the suspension of the DG of Security should be a welcome development provided PMB did that; otherwise, the report that the DG has been fighting major trillion naira battle with OANDO/BGL etc should not be swept under the carpet. Professor Isaac Adewole cannot hold the President to ransom! To allow the minister this opportunity is invitation to anarchy.

In a related development, the recent suspension of the DG of Security and Exchange Commission over corruption allegation, should be a welcome development, provided PMB dully approved it; otherwise, the report that the DG has been fighting major trillion naira battle with OANDO/BGL etc should not be swept under the carpet as it may be the main reason for the suspension after all.

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