Security agents on Monday in Abuja controlled counter protests staged to enable Prof. Usman Yusuf, the embattled Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), resume work after his purported indefinite suspension by the Governing Council of the agency.
The unions are the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and Nigeria Civil Service Union.
Yusuf was suspended by the Governing Council over alleged gross misconduct.
Yusuf resumed work a day after his fresh suspension by the council.
But some workers acting the aegis of Association of Civil Servants of Nigeria, and Medical and Health Workers Union of NHIS, almost prevented him from gaining entrance to the office.
Their colleagues of the Nigeria Civil Service Union in support of Yusuf mobilised themselves and countered the protest.
The situation that almost degenerated into security breach was, however, contained with the intervention of a combined team of police, civil defence and state security operatives.
Mr Abdulrazak Omomaji, the Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, who led the protest by the unions on Monday in Abuja, said Yusuf remained suspended.
“NHIS is guided and governed by an established Act with a constituted governing council, the council resolved using powers and available evidence of alleged corruption to suspend Yusuf.
“Presently there are a lot of allegations against him involving the 2018 budget crisis which include removal of the N264 million padding discovered in the budget.
“He engaged in nepotism in November 2016 by fraudulently awarding contract to Lubekh Nigeria Limited for the training of NHIS staff members who were his relatives, among other allegations.
“He has been suspended, but if he insists on resuming work, then he will be scoring the present government very low in the fight against corruption.
“We stand against his resumption because he resumed with armed policemen and intimidated us,’’ he said.
On his part, Mr Olawuyi Kayode, the Chairman Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, noted the present government’s stand on integrity with zero tolerance for corruption.
He explained that the governing council carried out its mandate to suspend Yusuf due to infractions discovered in the system with several petitions against him, which the union supported.
However, Mr Mohammed Gajo, a Principal Manager and Chairman, Nigeria Civil Service Union, criticised the protest, saying the executive secretary was working with a very articulate and robust plan to sanitise the scheme.
He added that the protest by the joint union was an indication that the members wanted to resist positive changes by the executive secretary.
“The ES has recovered a lot of money since his assumption of office; he remitted about N1.2 billion to the TSA account; he insisted that the Health Management Organisations paid back funds meant for health facilities.
“What is playing out today is that those benefiting from these funds and the past administration are fighting, causing crisis and resisting the positive change,’’ he said.
Similarly, Mr Abubakar Mohammad, the Assistant General Manager, Planning, NHIS, noted that the governing council chairman suspended Yusuf with approval of the minister without any form of paper evidence.
“We cannot work with words of mouth, this is a government establishment, there has to be a proof of evidence on paper showing the Minister of Health’s approval for the suspension,
“The last time he was suspended, the president reinstated him because he was not found guilty of all the corruption allegations.
“He was appointed by the President and can only be sacked by the President; we have the backing and the full support of Nigerians that are expected to benefit from the scheme,’’ he said.
Minister of Health, Prof. Adewole Isaac, had earlier suspended Yusuf over similar allegations on July 6, 2017, but the Federal Government reinstated him on February 6, 2018, after an administrative panel found him not guilty of the allegations of abuse of office and maladministration.
Yusuf officially resumed work on February 8, 2018, after he was given the clean bill.