The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, and the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Usman Yusuf, have continued to dare each other through letters and press statements over Yusuf’s suspension from office.
Adewole had last week slammed a three-month suspension on Yusuf to pave way for an independent probe of the ‘mountains’ of petitions against him.
However, the NHIS boss fired back at the Minister in a daring tone, pointedly telling him to his face that he could not proceed on the suspension as the minister lacks the power to sanction him.
Yusuf maintained that it was only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who appointed him, that could remove him from office, which has tenure of five years in the first instance and another five, if renewed.
The embattled NHIS boss further advanced five reasons why Adewole could not suspend him and why he would not leave his office to anyone else.
Yusuf said in a July 12 letter written to Adewole, “By virtue of the NHIS Act particularly section 4 and 8 thereof, my appointment and removal from office whether by way of suspension or otherwise is at the instance of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Except removed from office by the president under circumstances specified in the NHIS Act, my appointment is for a period of five years subject to further term of the same period at the discretion of the president.
“Although by virtue of section 47 of the NHIS Act, you are empowered to give directives of a general nature to the Governing Council of the Scheme and in the absence of the Council, you have Presidential mandate to exercise the powers and functions of the council, but since the powers and functions of the Council do not include discipline, suspension or removal of the Executive Secretary of the Scheme from office, the directive in your letter under reference cannot find comfort under the said section or presidential mandate; and
The letter of suspension is not in accordance with Public Service Rules as no prima facie case has been established against me in respect of the petition referred to in the letter. The mere fact that there are pending petitions against a public officer which is yet to be substantiated does not constitute a ground for suspension under the Public Service Rules. Otherwise, with over 18,000 petitions pending against public office holders before the EFCC and ICPC as at the end of June 2017, the total number of public officers who would have been on suspension by now including Honourable Ministers is left to be imagined.
“As you are aware, the petitions referred to in your letter are currently being investigated by the ICPC which is yet to submit its report. In view of the criminal nature of most of the allegations in the petitions, security/investigative agencies like ICPC are the appropriate agencies for investigation contemplated in your letter; not a Ministerial Committee. I have cooperated fully with the investigations so far and will continue to do so.”
Copies of the letter were sent to the Acting President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Katsina Governor, Attorney General of the Federation, Director of DSS, Head of Service of the Federation, the Chairman of the EFCC and the Chairman of the ICPC.
But in a swift reaction to Yusuf’s response, Adewole in a press statement on Friday said he dissociates himself and the ministry from Yusuf’s letter.
According to the statement signed by the health ministry’s spokesperson, Boade Akinola, Yusuf, being a public officer, is bound by the regulations governing the Public Service.
“The NHIS is an agency supervised by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Administrative Panel of Inquiry raised by the Ministry to investigate activities of the agency has commenced its assignment with specific terms of reference,” the spokesperson said.