All posts by Isine Ibanga

BREAKING: Suspected Herdsmen Massacre Two Catholic Priests, 13 Worshipers in Benue.

BREAKING: Suspected Herdsmen Massacre Two Catholic Priests, 13 Worshippers in Benue

Rampaging herdsmen on Wednesday slaughtered two priests and 14 worshipers at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayar-Mbalom in Gwer West Local Government of Benue State.

A source from the area, who pleaded not to be named, told this newspaper that the attacked occurred while the morning mass was underway.

He said the armed herdsmen invaded the church and murdered the priests and worshippers inside the church before torching down houses in the community.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Herdsmen kill 10 in fresh attack in Benue

“The armed herdsmen attacked St. Ignatius Catholic Church this morning in Ayar-Mbalom, where an early morning mass was in progress,” said the source.

“They also burnt down no fewer than 50 houses during the attack and sacked the entire Ayar-Mbalom community.”

He gave the names of the slain priests as Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, saying they both served in the local parish.

The current skirmish comes barely four days after a similar attack in Guma Local Government Area, where the herdsmen murdered 10 persons while persons suspected to be Nigerian soldiers razed down over 300 houses in Naka, Gwer West Local Government Area of the state

Attempts to speak with the state Police Commissioner Fatai Owoseni and the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Moses Yamu were unsuccessful as they would not pick calls or respond to text messages.

BREAKING: Court Strikes Case against Patience Jonathan, Berates EFCC for Media Trial of Suspects

BREAKING: Court Strikes Case against Patience Jonathan, Berates EFCC for Media Trial of Suspects

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday lost an attempt to forfeit funds belonging to former Nigerian First Lady, Patience Jonathan and her firm, Lawari Furniture Limited.

The EFCC had approached Justice Cecilia Olateregun of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court and sought an interim order to forfeit monies belonging to Mrs. Jonathan.

But in her ruling, Justice Olateregun struck out the application by the anti-graft agency and lambasted it for engaging in media trial of suspects.

The judge held that instead of carrying out water-tight investigations and diligent prosecution of suspects, the commission goes from one court to another and making noise in the media.

READ ALSO: No state exempted from obeying FoI law –Court

Justice Olateregun said the agency is fond of engaging in what she described as “act of forum shopping and running from one court to another.”

She also attacked the commission for constantly denigrating and maligning suspects without putting its acts together.

The judge held that it is an abuse of the court process for the anti-graft agency to file a similar case in different courts of coordinate jurisdiction.

She argued that the case before her court has also been filed by the EFCC before Justice Binta Nyako and John Tosho of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

“Fighting corruption does not equate with not respecting citizens’ rights,” the judge had told counsel to the EFCC.

Details coming….

INVESTIGATION: How Buhari Overruled VP Osinbajo, Top Aides, EFCC, ICPC to Reinstate NHIS Chief

INVESTIGATION: How Buhari Overruled VP Osinbajo, Top Aides, EFCC, ICPC to Reinstate NHIS boss
Embattled NHIS boss Yusuf Usman and Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari brazenly sidelined Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, ignored government’s corruption investigators, brushed aside disapproval from his closest aides in implementing a controversial reinstatement of the head of the National Health Insurance Scheme, The NEXT EDITION can authoritatively report today.

New details obtained by this newspaper show that in recalling Usman Yusuf as the executive secretary of the agency, the president did far more his well-known overruling of the Ministry of Health’s suspension of the man.

What was not made public before now by the government is that Mr. Yusuf was actively being investigated by the EFCC and the ICPC for alleged corruption for over a month before Mr. Buhari reinstated him.

Trouble started for Mr. Yusuf when Mr. Osinbajo while serving as acting president,  ordered for his suspension on the receipt of series of petitions detailing gross abuse of office; stealing and misappropriation of funds.

Now, anti-corruption activists say the latest findings, detailing a deliberate presidential decision to ignore, not only the suspension of an indicted staff but his ongoing investigation by the nation’s foremost anti-corruption bodies, provide the clearest indication of Mr. Buhari’s lack of seriousness about taming corruption.

Fiery Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, strongly criticised Mr. Buhari for reinstating the embattled NHIS boss, saying the action has seriously dented the government’s much-talked-about anti-corruption initiatives.

“It is totally wrong for President Buhari to reinstate the suspended executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, who is being investigated by the anti-corruption agencies,” Mr. Falana said while speaking to this newspaper.

“It is even very questionable when the said public officer has already been indicted by an administrative panel constituted by the same government. It shows that the government is not serious about fighting corruption.

“The action of the president shows that he is indeed not fighting corruption but promoting it and such action should be seriously condemned,” Mr. Falana said.

Uche Durueke, national president of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) also condemned Mr. Buhari for reinstating the executive secretary of the national health insurance agency.

“It is very shameful for a president that has consistently boasted about his government’s unwavering commitment to eradicating corruption and was honoured by the African Union in January. This means he is indeed promoting corruption in Nigeria,” Mr. Durueke said.

In an earlier report, this newspaper showed how Mr. Yusuf misappropriated over a one billion naira in suspicious training scheme and pocketed millions in illegal estacodes and allowances.

A separate report also uncovered how the Buhari government illegally withdrew billions from the NHIS funds in a move that violates the law establishing the scheme.

Click to read previous reports here: INVESTIGATION: How Reinstated NHIS Boss Misappropriated over N1bn

INVESTIGATION: How NHIS boss Yusuf pocketed millions of naira in illegal estacodes, allowances

The NEXT EDITION has now obtained proofs the EFCC and the ICPC had been investigating alleged crimes committed by the reinstated NHIS since December 2017.

He was reinstated in February 2018.

In a letter addressed to the acting executive secretary of the health insurance agency dated December 11, 2017, with reference number: ICPC/SDD/TB/53/2017, the ICPC indicated it was investigating the activities of the embattled NHIS boss, who was then under suspension.

With the subject, “Investigative Activities,” part of the letter reads, “You may recall the ongoing investigation on alleged violation of the provision of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Act 2000 in your establishment.

“Pursuant to section 45(5) of the cited Act, you are hereby directed to recover the money advanced to the five officers and two staff from the Ministry of Health for the aborted trip to the Netherlands.

“You are further required to furnish the commission with evidence of compliance by each of the beneficiaries,” the letter stated.

Those directed by the commission to return monies include the reinstated NHIS boss, Yusuf, Nasiru Shinkafi, Shuaibu Muhammad, Naima Ilu and Yusuf Abdullahi.

This newspaper could not confirm whether the indicted officials returned the funds they got for a trip to the Netherlands, which they did not go.

INVESTIGATION: How Buhari Overruled VP Osinbajo, Top Aides, EFCC, ICPC to Reinstate NHIS Chief
ICPC’s letter

 

The EFCC sent its letter 10 days after the ICPC’s on December 21, 2017, with reference number: CR:300/EFCC/ABJ/CTGI.2/Vol.15/234, and requested information on Mr. Yusuf’s tenure.

The letter was titled, “Investigative Activities: Prof. Usman Yusuf – Suspended Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).”

In it, the anti-graft agency said it was investigating a suspected case of misappropriation of funds, fraud and abuse of office against the embattled NHIS boss.

“This commission (EFCC) is investigating a suspected case of misappropriation of funds, fraud and abuse of office against the above-mentioned person (Mr. Yusuf) during his tenure as executive secretary of NHIS between July 2016 to July 2017 and the need to obtain information from your office has become pertinent,” the letter reads in part.

Some of the information requested from the management of the scheme included document relating to local and international training programmes sponsored by the scheme from July 2016 to July 2017, a document relating to payments made to Katamaya First Call Hospital and document relating to the scheme’s e-library project.

Other information requested by the EFCC included document involving NHIS’ sponsored foreign trips embarked by Mr. Yusuf, vouchers on the fueling the official vehicles of the embattled executive secretary and document on the disbursement of NEEDS Assessment funds between July 2016 to July 2017.

Investigations by this newspaper showed that the NHIS supplied all the information requested within two weeks of receipt of the EFCC’s letter.

INVESTIGATION: How Buhari Overruled VP Osinbajo, Top Aides, EFCC, ICPC to Reinstate NHIS Chief
EFCC’s letter dated December 21, 2017
INVESTIGATION: How Buhari Overruled VP Osinbajo, Top Aides, EFCC, ICPC to Reinstate NHIS Chief
Conclusion page

 

Overruled and ignored

Shockingly, while the EFCC and ICPC were quizzing Mr. Yusuf and many key officials of the national health insurance agency, President Buhari in February ordered the reinstatement of the suspended executive secretary.

Multiple officials within the Presidency said the order to reinstate Mr. Yusuf was discussed and opposed by some of the president’s close aides who argued that doing do will hurt the administration’s anti-corruption war.

The aides’ discontentment significantly caused the recall of Mr. Yusuf to be delayed, our sources said.

One source, who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak on the matter, said the president was not convinced.

On February 6, Mr. Buhari directed the immediate reinstatement of Mr. Yusuf.

The action instantly sparked harsh criticisms from many Nigerians, including the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Itse Sagay, who insisted that Mr. Yusuf should remain under suspension until he was cleared by the anti-graft agencies and or the court.

Some staff of the NHIS, who pleaded not to be named, told The NEXT EDITION that they had long been invited for questioning by the EFCC.

“Even on the day his reinstatement was announced, I can tell you that Mr. Yusuf was being quizzed at the headquarters of the EFCC. He had spent hours answering questions from EFCC officials when suddenly, the Presidency announced his reinstatement,” one of the sources told this newspaper.

“Two days after he resumed duties after he was reinstated, the EFCC invited some of our staff to their headquarters where they quizzed them for hours concerning some of the activities of Mr. Yusuf.

“Our people told the EFCC officials everything we know about issues they raised and confirmed some of the internal memos and vouchers which were presented to them but our fear is that the government is not serious about fighting corruption,” the source concluded.

 

Closing in

However, ongoing investigation by this newspaper shows the EFCC and the ICPC appear to be closing in on Mr. Yusuf.

A letter from the EFCC dated February 28, with reference No: CR:300/EFCC/ABJ/CMIFS/Vol.8/0.30, shows the agency may be concluding its investigation on Mr. Yusuf.

The letter, which was obtained by this newspaper, was signed on behalf of the EFCC chairman by the agency’s Head of Operations, Ishaq Salihu, and addressed to the permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Health.

Titled, “Investigative Activities,” the letter sought clarification on some of the deals which were sealed by the embattled NHIS boss.

“This commission is investigating a case in which the need to obtain certain clarifications from you has become imperative,” the letter from the EFCC reads.

Some of the information requested by the permanent secretary include: a copy of the letter seeking the approval of the minister of health to second staff from other ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to the NHIS in 2016 and a copy of the letter conveying the minister’s approval to the scheme;

A copy of the minister’s directive stopping the salaries of the seconded staff to the NHIS; Copies of the NHIS Tenders Board resolutions on the awards of Lot 1 contract for consultancy services for Risk Management, Lot 4 contract for consultancy services for media and special public relations, Lot 8 contract for half hour radio magazine programme in Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo and pidgin.

Other information requested from the permanent secretary were copies of the Tenders Board resolution on Lot 18 contract for the purchase of NHIS project vehicle, Lot 19 contract for the replacement of window blinds with wooden Venetian-type and procurement of e-books and periodicals communicated to the office of the health minister for implementation.

The commission also sought a copy of the letter notifying the health minister’s approval of the NHIS Executive Management Meeting which authorised the appointment of Guinea Insurance Plc and Northlink Insurance Brokers Plc for an initial period of three years against the two years stipulated in the NHIS operational guidelines.

It also requested a copy of the letter from the NHIS seeking approval of the minister to remove the scheme’s Insurance Division from the Department of Planning, Research and Monitoring to the office of the executive secretary.

The letter was, however, received in the office of the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health on March 1 and forwarded to the Acting Head, Hospital Services of the ministry, O. J. Amedu, for immediate action.

Mr. Amedu in a fresh letter addressed to the embattled NHIS boss dated March 2 with reference number DHS/876/1/T1/68, directed him to respond to the issues raised by the EFCC.

“I am directed to refer you to the attached letter from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and to direct you to respond as requested in paragraph 2(a-f) of the letter.

“Your response to reach the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health on or before the close of work on Monday, the 5th March 2018,” the letter reads.

INVESTIGATION: How Buhari Overruled VP Osinbajo, Top Aides, EFCC, ICPC to Reinstate NHIS Chief
Mr. Amedu’s letter
INVESTIGATION: How Buhari Overruled VP Osinbajo, Top Aides, EFCC, ICPC to Reinstate NHIS Chief
EFCC letter of February 28, 2018

INVESTIGATION: How Buhari Overruled VP Osinbajo, Top Aides, EFCC, ICPC to Reinstate NHIS Chief

 

 

No response

Findings by this newspaper show Mr. Yusuf is yet to respond to the memo over one month after it was delivered to his office.

However, when contacted on the telephone, Mr. Yusuf initially denied receipt of any letter from the office of the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health.

But when pressed further, he asked this newspaper to go and ask the permanent secretary whether he has responded to the said letter.

“I don’t even know the letter you are talking about. Why don’t you go and ask the person who sent me the letter whether I have responded?

“Are you listening? Go and ask the person who sent me the letter, ‘Oh has this guy responded to your letter,” he said before cutting the call.

Attempts to speak with the spokesperson of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, failed as calls to his phone would not connect and he would not respond to text messages from our correspondent.

INVESTIGATION: Buhari Govt Violates Federal Law, Illegally Spends over N84 billion Health Insurance Funds

INVESTIGATION: Buhari Govt Violates Federal Law, Illegally Spends over N84 billion Health Insurance Funds

The Buhari administration has spent a whopping N84 billion from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), in an illegal move that violates a federal law, The NEXT EDITION can authoritatively report today.

The funds are part of the 10 percent monthly deductions on salaries of workers’ who enrolled in the insurance scheme with the hope of accessing healthcare services for themselves and family members.

In the last three years, the administration has illegally appropriated a total of N47.5 billion from the scheme and withheld another N37.2 billion.

This newspaper could not ascertain what the government has done with the withheld funds but document shows the amount represents a part of the deductions made on workers’ salary between 2012 -2017 and not remitted to the scheme’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The illegal practice started in 2015 with the government’s introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) a common pool of all government funds. It lasted well into 2017, documents reviewed this newspaper show.

The TSA was to bolster the then new government’s plan to combat rampant corruption by mopping up loose funds.

Under the TSA rule, all government revenues were transferred into a single account, a break from the past when different government agencies operated different accounts.

As part of that initiative, the Buhari administration compelled the NHIS to transfer its total deposit of N146 billion into account No. 0020163661013 with the CBN.

However, one of the bankers to the scheme, Guarantee Trust Bank, in the course of complying with the new policy, somehow transferred N11.5 billion into the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account of the Federation in error.

The amount was supposed to have been sent to the scheme’s TSA account with the CBN.

Transferred to the wrong account, the GTB money was promptly confiscated by the government, and has not been refunded despite entreaties by the former leadership of the scheme and leaders of organised labour.

Instead, the government went a step further and made direct withdrawals from the NHIS account.

The first withdrawal was made a few months after the appointment of the reinstated Executive Secretary of the scheme, Usman Yusuf.

Under Mr. Yusuf’s watch, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, authorised the withdrawal of N5 billion from the scheme’s TSA account to an unknown account on December 28, 2016.

The deduction automatically generated a multiple debit entry No. MDC163630008 and a transfer alert: FD/LP2016/51/T/292/DF.

Sources who know about the matter said the embattled NHIS boss pretended to make effort for the withdrawals to be reversed but nothing ever came out of it.

The violations continued.

While preparing the 2017 budget for the Federal Ministry of Health, the government allocated N17 billion from the NHIS funds for intervention in tertiary institutions, another N8 billion for revitalisation of 1,000 primary health centres and N1 billion for the procurement of “HIV commodities.”

However, the leadership of organised labour rejected the move and warned the government to desist from the planned deployment of NHIS contributions to fund part of the budget of the federal health ministry.

This newspaper has obtained a copy of the letter to President Buhari dated October 12, 2016, in which leaders of the organised labour warned against attempts to illegally appropriate the NHIS funds.

The letter was jointly signed by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Waba, and his counterpart in the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Bobboi Kaigama.

Labour drew Mr. Buhari’s attention to the fact that the scheme was established following government’s poor funding of healthcare delivery system in the country.

“Like the pension fund, we demand that government must resist the temptation of rushing to draw from it in times of budgetary difficulties. All previous governments since 1999 have refrained from interfering with the NHIS funds.

“We urge the government to stop the on-going plot to divert this fund as it not only constitutes a violation of the NHIS Act but even morally reprehensible on the part of government to tinker with insurance premium paid by workers for their medical wellbeing.

“We wish to restate our conviction that the plan by the minister is against the provisions of the NHIS Act No. 35 of 1999. We, therefore, request that you immediately halt this move to safeguard the NHIS from being endangered.

“We were convinced to accept the NHIS in the first place because of the necessity to continually have available funding for workers’ healthcare. The positive and immediate intervention of Your Excellency will foster industrial harmony in the public service,” the labour leaders stated.

Mr. Buhari neither stopped the transfer of the NHIS funds to the TSA or the minister from including a part of it in the 2017 Appropriation Act.

Acting on the proposal presented to it by the Presidency, the National Assembly illegally appropriated a total of N26 billion of the NHIS funds to the Federal Ministry of Health under the 2017 Appropriation Act.

It was not only the Buhari Government that was taking money illegally from the scheme; Mr. Yusuf, the head of the insurance agency was also accused of stealing millions through questionable training programmes and foreign trips.

Following series of petitions and complaints by concerned workers, labour and civil society groups, Femi Osinbajo, who was acting president when Mr. Buhari went on medical vacation to the United Kingdom had directed an investigation into the allegations.

He also approved Mr. Yusuf’s suspension to allow room for investigators to look into his activities in the health insurance agency.

Read also: 10bn NHIS scam: Buhari’s government has lost honour –PDP

Based on Mr. Osinbajo’s directive, Mr. Adewole, promptly suspended the NHIS boss and set up a panel headed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Binta Bello, to investigate allegations made against Mr. Yusuf.

The panel which was inaugurated on July 11, 2017, went into work and submitted its report in August of the same year.

Investigations by this newspaper and the report of the panel showed Mr. Yusuf committed serial violations of federal procurement laws, stole millions in illegal estacode and allowances and entrenched nepotism in the NHIS.

INVESTIGATION: How Reinstated NHIS Boss Misappropriated over N1bn

INVESTIGATION: How NHIS boss Yusuf pocketed millions of naira in illegal estacodes, allowances

The NHIS boss was not only indicted by the ministerial panel, he is also being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

Despite these, President Buhari had in December, 2017, ordered his reinstatement in a move that has seriously tainted the anti-corruption credential of the government.

Barely a week after Mr. Yusuf was ordered to be reinstated, N5 billion was again withdrawn from the NHIS account with the CBN.

It was Mr. Idris, the Accountant General of the Federation, who approved the withdrawal on January 11, with reference No. AGF FD/OAGF/ADC/2016/194/T/168/DF.

This brings to N47.5 billion the total amount taken by the government from the NHIS account.

It is not clear whether there were other deductions, or how much the National Assembly illegally appropriated from the NHIS money.

However, none of the withdrawals was requested by the NHIS management and neither was it informed before the monies were illegally taken.

Breaking the law

But the breaches were clear enough. The directive that health insurance funds be sent to the TSA violated the provisions of the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, 1999, which prescribes how funds accruing to the agency should be handled.

NHIS Act 

Apparently, to draw attention to this, the leadership of the NHIS on September 14, 2015, wrote to the AGF, Mr. Idris, complaining about the new policy.

The letter referenced: NHIS/ES/354/1/2, and signed by the then Acting Executive Secretary of the scheme, Olufemi Akingbade, said the scheme is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) directed at providing assessable, affordable and qualitative healthcare for all Nigerians.

Under the arrangement, funds for the scheme are obtained through deductions from salaries of Federal, states and local government employees, organised private sector workers, international donor, voluntary contributions, dividends and interest on investments and stocks.

Mr. Akingbade argued that Part IV, section II (4) of the Act empowers the scheme to establish and maintain funds from which expenditure shall be defrayed.

As an insurance scheme, the then NHIS boss argued that the pooled contributions needed to be grown through investment, not only to sustain the programme but also raise more funds to finance other commitments including community-based social health insurance programme which requires between 80 – 100 percent subsidy.

“In consideration of the above, the AGF may wish to kindly agree that the NHIS has peculiarities which are worthy of consideration to waive the application of the Federal Government’s TSA policy as anything short of this could lead to the system failure that would not be in the interest of the Federal Government.

“In the light of the above, we are requesting that the AGF graciously consider and waive/exempt NHIS from the present policy,” a part of the letter reads.

When it became apparent the AGF would not reverse the directive to pay enrollees funds into the TSA, Mr. Akingbade wrote to President Buhari through the permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health.

The letter which requested for a presidential waiver was obtained by this newspaper in the course of its investigation.

Dated November 5, 2015, the letter with reference No: NHIS/ES/254/1/122, read in part, “While we wish to kindly and most respectfully bring to the notice of Mr. President that NHIS is proud to be among the MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies) that have complied with the (TSA) directive, our compliance, notwithstanding, has teething effects on the operations of NHIS healthcare services, due to foundational, life and operational peculiarities that distinguish NHIS from most MDAs.”

Going by the principles of insurance, the NHIS had argued the pooled contributions needed to be grown through investment activities not only for the purpose of ensuring sustainability but also to raise more funds to finance other programmes including community-based health insurance scheme which required subsidy of between 80 – 100 percent.

Part IV, section II (4) of the Act empowers the scheme to invest any money not immediately required by it in Federal Government securities or in such other securities as the Council may with the approval of the health minister, from time to time determine.

Part IV also empowers the scheme to establish and maintain a fund from which shall be defrayed

It was based on the provisions of the Act that the leadership of the scheme begged the president to exempt the NHIS from the TSA policy of the government.

“The president may wish to kindly agree that NHIS funds are not payments due to the Federal Government as contained in the circular issued by the Federal Government concerning TSA policy, as the funds are deductions from federal government public servants under the Formal Sector Social Health Insurance Programme, Public-Private contributions, organised private sector contributions, international donations and voluntary contributions,” the letter read.

“Mr. President, Sir, while we were pondering on the impact of the policy on NHIS healthcare service delivery, the Department of State Services (DSS) wrote us, and the contents read in part, ‘this development (TSA) has ushered unprecedented distress in the administration of the scheme in our facilities nationwide.’”

“In addition, the Defence Health Maintenance Limited which is in charge of the Armed Forces has conveyed their difficulty with the TSA policy.

“Their letter reads in part, ‘Some banks keeping the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) accounts of the Defence Health Maintenance Limited (DHML) healthcare providing facilities in the Armed Forces have transferred those accounts to the Central Bank of Nigeria TSA policy. The bank’s actions have made the rendition of medical services in the Armed Forces difficult.’

“It is, therefore, on the strength of these peculiarities which are worthy of consideration that NHIS is making a case for Mr. President to waive the implementation of the TSA policy for the scheme in particular, as this could affect the realisation of the mandate of providing easy and affordable access to healthcare for all Nigerians and by extension the universal health coverage embarked upon by the Federal Government through the scheme.”

In a single prayer, the scheme urged Mr. Buhari to exempt it from the TSA policy so as not to erode the confidence of the enrollees in the operations of the NHIS.

The president had turned down the request and ordered the NHIS to transfer all its funds to the TSA from where billions have been withdrawn through illegal appropriation and suspicious authorisations.

You Are Talking Rubbish

For the first time since this newspaper started investigating the operations of the national health insurance agency, the Executive Secretary, Mr. Yusuf, responded to questions from our correspondent on Tuesday.

However, the conversation was anything but courteous as Mr. Yusuf hurled insult on our correspondent.

“Who told you that story? All right! Why don’t you go ahead and publish it? Go ahead and publish your lie,” he began.

“Did you say I should go ahead and publish the lie?” our reporter asked.

“Absolutely,” he replied.

Continuing, our reporter said, “That’s not civil at all.”

“Are you guys civil? Do you know what you are doing? You are not a journalist and that’s why you guys don’t know what you are doing.

“What rubbish are you publishing? I have been in the NHIS and I know all the data. What rubbish are you talking about? Go ahead and publish your rubbish if you think you have some documents,” Mr. Yusuf blurted.

“Permit me to educate you, Sir, our correspondent interjected.

“You don’t insult someone who calls you politely to ask for an explanation on an issue involving the public office you occupy. It speaks so much about the quality of your character,” our reporter said before Mr. Yusuf dropped the call.

Attempts to speak with the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole and his counterpart in the Ministry of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, failed as they would neither pick calls nor respond to text messages.

The spokesperson to the Minister of National Planning, Akpandem James, told this newspaper his principal is not responsible for generating budget proposals for MDAs and directed our correspondent to speak to Mr. Adewole on the matter.

When contacted, the spokesperson to the Accountant General of the Federation, Kene Offie, requested us to send her an email concerning the issues in contention.

However, on getting the mail, she requested us to send a formal letter to her to forward to the relevant official in the AGF office who would be in a better position to respond to the issues raised by this newspaper.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request was, therefore, sent through Ms Offie to the officer in charge in the AGF’s office on February 15.

The AGF’s spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the letter on February 20 but till the time of filling this report, we are yet to receive a response to our request.

Under the FIO Act, relevant officials in the MDAs are expected to respond within seven days of receipt of requests.

INVESTIGATION: How NHIS boss Yusuf pocketed millions of naira in illegal estacodes, allowances

INVESTIGATION: How NHIS boss Yusuf pocketed millions of naira in illegal estacodes, allowances
NHIS BOSS USMAN YUSUF

Just six months after Usman Yusuf was appointed head of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), he received an exciting invitation from the World Bank: attend our workshop in Washington DC and we will pay all your expenses.

Meaningful as the offer seemed, Mr. Yusuf was anything but satisfied.

While he accepted the all-expense paid invitation to the five-day February 2017 event, he nonetheless dipped his hands into the insurance agency’s purse and took N3.5 million for himself.

He claimed the money covered a business class ticket and an outrageous per diem for himself.

For months that followed, that illegal practice continued not only to Mr. Yusuf, but to several other staffers who also received millions of naira for events already financed by external sponsors.

In all cases, Mr. Yusuf or the affected staff would accept the external offers of free transportation, accommodation and feeding, yet, claim lavish rates of travel allowances per day from the NHIS.

An ongoing investigation by The NEXT EDITION shows how that practice was entrenched in an organization with a core mandate to help provide health insurance to Nigerians.

The new findings come a week after this newspaper published a report showing how Mr. Yusuf, who was suspended by the Health Minister, Isaac Oyewole, spent a staggering N1 billion within 90 days in questionable training programmes.

Click here to read: INVESTIGATION: How Reinstated NHIS Boss Misappropriated over N1bn

While he remained under investigation, President Muhammadu Buhari overruled the minister and ordered his reinstatement.

Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Buhari are from Katsina State; however, it is not clear whether their shared roots had a role in his reinstatement.

But while Nigerian workers who contribute 10 percent of their monthly wages to the scheme scarcely get badly-needed health cover, Mr. Yusuf has for years lived large with the resources of the NHIS, documents obtained by this newspaper, and corroborated by a report by the health ministry, show.

INVESTIGATION: How NHIS boss Yusuf pocketed millions of naira in illegal estacodes, allowances
NHIS headquarters building in Abuja

 

Illegal estacode and per diem

Under Mr. Yusuf, the NHIS has operated an illegal estacode and per diem rates for management and staff members of the scheme.

Multiple times, Mr. Yusuf paid himself $900 as estacode on all foreign trips and N50,000 per diem, while members of the NHIS governing council got $750 as estacode and N40,000 as per diem.

Similarly, levels 13 – 15 officers of the scheme are paid $750 estacode and N32, 000 per diem and levels 6- 12 get $600 estacode and N24, 000 per diem

Also, staff from Grade Level 3-5 get $350 estacode and N10, 000 per diem.

The estacode and per diem rates are clearly in the breach of the Federal Government’s circular with Ref: HCSF/CSO/HRM/Pol.1402/1, which was issued on January 2015 by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation.

A copy of the circular obtained by this newspaper showed Mr. Yusuf overpaid himself and staffers of the health insurance scheme.

Being an equivalent of a director in the public service, his estacode as prescribed by the extant circular is pecked at $425 per night and a per diem of N16, 000.

Only Ministers, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Head of Service of the Federation (HOSF) are entitled to $9000 estacode and N35, 000.

Even when ministers, SGF and HOSF get N35, 000 in per diem, Mr. Yusuf got N50, 000 instead of N16, 000 he is entitled to under the public service rule.

The Nigerian Public Service Rule in Section 130108 provides as follows: “(a) Officers shall be eligible for estacode allowance subject to the approval of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, on therecommendation of the Permanent Secretary/Head of the Extra-ministerial Office. In the case of the other Public Officers, approval shall be obtained from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

“Estacode allowance shall be payable at the rates specified in the extant circular;

“Where a Minister, SGF, HOS, Perm See or DG who is on official assignment, outside the country decides that the ministry, extra ministerial department or agency should arrange for his/her accommodation and feeding, he/she shall be paid 25 percent of the entitled estacode allowance.”

Continuing, section 130110  states, “Where the cost of accommodation or hotel expenses of an officer travelling abroad is met by the host Government or institution, such officer shall be entitled to estacode supplementation allowance as follows:

“Where the donor providing the training as a form of technical assistance to Nigeria also provides free boarding and lodging, the officer concerned shall be entitled to 10 per cent of his/her appropriate estacode for the whole duration of his course; in other words, no full estacode for the first 28 days is payable.”

This newspaper found that Mr. Yusuf was clearly in the breach of the rules and was operating an illegal estacode and per diem regime for the health insurance agency.

INVESTIGATION: How NHIS boss Yusuf pocketed millions of naira in illegal estacodes, allowances
Head of Service Circular

 

Between June 2016 to July 2017,however, investigation shows the NHIS spent a total of N82.3 million on estacode and related costs.

What Mr. Yusuf and other officials received are shown in the table below:

Conferences, Workshops and Symposiums

S/N NAME OF STAFF COUNTRY AMOUNT           DATE
1.  Usman Yusuf Kenya N3,025,000 27-28/8/16
2. Usman Yusuf Cuba N4,561, 689 5-9/12/16
3. Usman Yusuf USA N3, 585,600 7-12/2/17
4. Usman Yusuf Prague, Chech N5,196, 260 28-30/3/17
5. Usman Yusuf Namibia N3, 618, 870 26-28/4/17
6. Usman Yusuf Dubai N3, 699,558 22-23/11/17
7. AgadaAmade Canada N976, 250 14-18/11/16
8. Mohammed Balarabe Canada N976, 250 14-18/11/16
9 Stanley Effah Canada N785,000 14-18/11/16
TOTAL N26, 424, 477

 Source: Vouchers and internal memos from NHIS

 

Pre-Retirement Planning And Management Training

S/N NAME OF STAFF COUNTRY AMOUNT DATE
1. Hamza Aliyu Dubai N6, 674, 000 28/3 &7/4/17
2. Abdu Ma’aji Dubai N5, 691, 200 12-23/6/17
3. KaitaIsmaila Dubai N6, 674, 000 20-31/3/17
4. Evelyn Olokun Dubai N5, 102, 500 27/2-31/3/17
TOTAL N24, 141, 700

 Source: Vouchers and internal memos from NHIS

 

Inspection Visits to Oracle Facilities in Netherlands

S/N NAME OF STAFF COUNTRY AMOUNT DATE
1. Usman Yusuf Netherlands N4, 360, 890 20-23/9/16
2. KaitaIsmaila Netherlands 2N2, 544, 400 20-23/9/16
3. Usman Yusuf Netherlands N3, 870, 000 21-23/3/17
4. Nasir Shinkafi Netherlands N2, 415, 000 21-23/3/17
5. Shuaibu Mohammed Netherlands N2, 386, 000 21-23/3/17
6. Naima Suleiman Ilu Netherlands N2, 386, 000 21-23/3/17
7. Yusuf Abdullahi Netherlands N2, 041, 000 21-23/3/17
8. NasiruIkharo Netherlands N140, 000 20-23/9/16
9. Ohuakanwa Emmanuel Netherlands N149, 000 21-23/9/16
10. Joseph Amakurugbonwo Netherlands N149, 000 21-23/9/16
11. Sidi Gloria Khun Netherlands N149, 000 21-23/9/16
12. KaitaIsmaila Netherlands N2, 299, 400 5-8/7/16
13. NasiruIkharo Netherlands N2, 299, 400 5-8/7/16
14. Ohuakanwa Emmanuel Netherlands N2, 299, 400 5-8/7/16
15. Joseph Amakurugbonwo Netherlands N2, 299, 400 5-8/7/16
16. Sidi Gloria Khun Netherlands N1, 979, 900 5-8/7/16
TOTAL   N37, 776, 790

Source: Vouchers and internal memos from NHIS

 

It appears the first illegal travel allowance Mr. Yusuf pocketed after being appointed to the agency, was in August 2016 – just three weeks after his appointment.

Despite not receiving ministerial approval for a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, to attend the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, he paid himself N3.025 million on voucher No. NHIS/1474.

On October 26, 2016 – just three weeks later – the Garki Hospital invited Mr. Yusuf for a conference on “Controlling Diabetes and its more Severe Complications,” in Cuba.

The hospital paid fully for the trip which was billed for December 5 to 9, 2016. Still, the NHIS boss via voucher NHIS/1847, dated December 1, 2016, approved for himself, N2.99 million as estacode at $900 per day for seven days at the exchange rate of N475 per dollar.

He also approved N1.57 million for the upgrading of his air ticket from economy class to business class via payment voucher No. NHIS/1885.

Curiously, the voucher for the upgrading was raised in the name of one David Oche. In all, Mr. Yusuf spent a total of N4.6 million for a trip that was fully paid for.

 

The illegal favours trickled down to other staff

Using payment voucher No. NHIS/1739 dated November 20, 2016, the NHIS paid AgadaYakubu and two other staff to travel to Canada for a symposium on “health system research” under the auspices of Joint Learning Network.

The group, investigation shows, provided return ticket, accommodation and feeding for the entire duration of the programme. But NHIS still approved three days estacode allowances to the officers in the sum of N2.67 million.

Also, a retired General Manager Human Resource, KaitaIsmaila, got approval in the sum of N2, 299, 400 on voucher No. NHIS/1068, dated June 22, 2016 to travel to Netherlands to inspect Oracle facilities. Four other staff also got huge sums as indicated on the table above.

Barely three months later, Mr. Ismaila again applied to Mr. Yusuf to approve the sum of N2.5 million so he could embark on a similar trip to Netherlands and got approval and payment on voucher No. NHIS1549 on September 16, 2016.

When questioned by the ministerial panel on his role in the Oracle training, Mr. Ismaila said he and Mr. Yusuf visited the company in Netherlands and found that the proposed training facility did not fit the calendar and needs of the scheme.

In spite of their findings, he said the embattled NHIS boss sidelined him and went ahead and approved the training in violations of government regulations.

Mr. Ismaila said he resigned due to Mr. Yusuf’s lack of understanding of operational procedure, refusal to take advice, lying, operating official business with external think-tank, misapplication of resources and non-adherence to rules.

Asked by the panel to describe the NHIS boss, he said, “He is an egocentric person, someone who feels he knows everything and someone who does not take advice.”

Mr. Ismaila gave an instance when he advised Mr. Yusuf against making approvals above his statutory threshold and how the embattled NHIS boss pointedly told him he was the scheme’s chief accounting officer.

He is quoted to have said that Mr. Yusuf’s claim of repositioning the scheme is “deceitful and a mere portrayal of a holier-than-thou attitude, because at the background, he was milking the agency dry.”

 

Corruption fights back

Attempts by this newspaper to speak with Mr. Yusuf failed. The embattled NHIS boss neither takes calls or reply to short service messages sent to his mobile telephone.

But speaking on his travails shortly after he was reinstated, he described his experience as an example of “corruption fighting back.”

He, however, said he would not be discouraged from discharging his duty which he said was in the best interest of the Nigerian populace.

Mr. Yusuf, who spoke in Sokoto at a public hearing on a bill to provide for Contributory Health Care Management scheme organised by the state’s House of Assembly urged Nigerians not to be dissuaded by the negative press he had suffered.

His words:  “Don’t be distracted by what you are hearing on the media. The real thing, it is corruption fighting us and we will fight back to keep faith with our responsibilities to Nigerians.

“We are here to work for our people and the country, and anybody who thinks we are doing it for ourselves or our office that person is missing the point.”

Mr. Yusuf said he would not in any way be discouraged in his efforts at providing the required services to Nigerians.

Planned since 1962, it was the military administration of Abdulsalami Abubakar that finally created the first national health insurance scheme for the military on May 10, 1999. In 2004, former President Olusegun Obasanjo signed into law the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, and also became its first enrollee in 2006.

While its goal is to provide universal health care coverage to Nigerians, the scheme currently covers only five percent of the population. The beneficiaries are mostly federal, states and local government workers.

The scheme has suffered from bad leadership from its inception, and even President Goodluck Jonathan, who was accused of condoning corruption, sacked an Executive Secretary of the scheme, Femi Thomas, over allegations of fraud.

Mr. Yusuf was appointed in August 2016 by President Buhari. But just about a year after, Mr. Yusuf seemed yet another chapter of the agency’s jinxed corrupt leadership.

By July 2017, the NHIS boss had done enough to warrant the intervention of the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, who promptly suspended him and ordered an investigation.

The decision came after the minister had received several petitions and threats of industrial action by workers, the ministry said.

BREAKING: How Catholic Bishop of Kafanchang, Bagobiri Died

BREAKING: How Catholic Bishop of Kafanchang, Bagobiri Died

The Catholic Bishop of Kafanchang Diocese, Joseph Bagobiri, in the early hours on Monday slumped and died during a visit to the Archbishop of Kaduna, Matthew Ndagoso.

Bishop Bagobiri, who had been battling with a kidney problem was said to have arrived the archbishop’s court in Kaduna on Sunday shortly after service.

He was billed to have an appointment with his doctor in Kaduna but slumped while preparing to leave for the hospital.

The clergyman, who died at the age of 61, was born on November 8. 1957 and was ordained Catholic priest on June 11, 1983.

He was, however, ordained Bishop of the Kafanchang Diocese on October 21, 1995.

The passing of the clergyman has already been confirmed by the Chancellor of the Diocese, Emmanuel Okolo.

Meanwhile, the Senator for Kaduna South Senatorial Zone, Danjuma Laah has expressed shock over the death of the amiable bishop.

In a statement, Mr. Laah said he is devastated and described the passage of Bishop Bagobiri as “untimely.”

“I am aware that the great man of God has been battling a kidney condition for sometimes now, but the grace of God and his strong will had seen him carry on the burden of his congregation without complaints despite the pains and suffering he has had to endure.

“Bishop Bagobiri had not only been of great spiritual guidance to me, he had been a major support to me in the pursuit of peace, justice and development of Southern Kaduna.

“Endowed with high intelligence which was reinforced with great concerns for the downtrodden, Bishop Bagobiri became a true father to all.

“To the millions of us who saw him as our shield, leader and mentor, his death has left us as orphans.”

He said the deceased has finished his missionary duty assigned him by his creator and has only gone to back to enjoy eternity with God.

On behalf of the people of the senatorial district, Mr. Laah prayed God to condole all the parishioners of the departed priest, the people of Kaduna State and Nigerians.

“May the good Lord console us and may his death also lead to the realisation of all he had struggled for his people and mankind,” he concluded.

Exclusive: Witnesses Open Up on Why Port Harcourt-Bound Dana Aircraft Almost Crashed

Exclusive: Witnesses Open Up on Why Port Harcourt-Bound Dana Aircraft Almost Crashed

Fresh information has emerged on why the Dana Airline flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt almost crashed last Tuesday after it overshot the runway at the Port Harcourt International Airport.

A passenger who was at the airport at the time of the incident, Godspower Orji (not his real name) told this newspaper a pilot error caused the near-mishap.

Mr. Orji who was waiting to board an Aero Airline flight to Lagos said two other aircrafts had approached the airport but could not land due to what he described as “very bad weather.”

According to him, Arik Air and Aero Contractors’ flights had earlier appeared in the airport vicinity when a terrible windstorm swept through the facility.

“Even those of us who were at the departure hall could feel the vibration of the wind and heavy downpour. It was becoming impossible to see from afar,” he said.

“The rain started shortly after an announcement was made about the expected time of arrival of Arik, Aero Contractors and Dana Air.

“With the fierceness of the wind and the heavy downpour, it was predictable that none of the aircraft could land.

“But suddenly, Dana came in and dangerously hit the runway and skidded into the bush.”

However, an angry staff of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) told this newspaper the near-crash incident was caused by the pilot.

The staff who said she witnessed the crash of the Sosoliso Airline at the airport said she was speaking up to avoid a situation where the public would be fed with lies about what happened.

“I saw what happened on December 10, 2005, when Sosoliso Airline rammed into the runway of this airport and busted into flames with 110 persons on board,” the source said.

“Till today, a lot of Nigerians do not know exactly what happened. Many are not also aware of the report of the (AIB) Accident Investigation Bureau.

“I am speaking out because Nigerians need to know what happened. No law should stop people from telling the truth especially when it has to do with overriding public interest,” the source said.

She said while the weather was partly responsible for the near-mishap, the pilot greatly contributed to the situation.

According to her, four aircrafts had approached the airport at the time windstorm and heavy rains swept through the facility.

She listed the airlines as Arik Air, Aero Contractors, Dana Air and Air France.

Continuing, she said, “Before Dana approached, Arik had already come but could not land because the weather was below the state minima level as prescribed by NCAA (Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority).

“Aero Contractor aircraft also approached but could not land. Then Dana came in from Abuja and wanted to land despite the very bad weather.

“From the control tower, we learnt that Arik pilot called his Dana counterpart and warned him not to attempt a landing. We also learnt the pilot on the Aero Contractor flight also advised the Dana pilot not to attempt a landing. The two aircraft were still holding up hoping for the weather to improve.

“At the same time, Air France approached the airspace but could not land and had to pick a hold for the weather to improve.

“Suddenly, the Dana pilot announced he was going to land. The approach controller immediately transferred him to the control tower. But he failed to call the tower or get back to the approach controller.

“Not getting communication from the pilot, we learnt the tower called the Dana pilot several times and he refused to answer.

“At that point, the air traffic controller at the tower reported back to the approach controller that the Dana pilot had failed to establish contact.

“Meanwhile, NIMET immediately issued a short report to the effect that there was a wind-shear at the station, meaning no landing clearance should be given as an attempt to land could turn fatal.

“It was only then that the Dana pilot called the tower saying, ‘I have your field in sight,’ meaning he had sighted the runway.

“The tower advised him about the NIMET report but seconds later, the aircraft landed almost three-quarters of the length of the runway.

“That means instead of landing from the beginning of the runway, it landed almost after half of the runway.

“Because of the speed of the wind and the slippery nature of the runway, the aircraft skidded into the clearway.

“There were 44 passengers on board the airline and five crew members, making it a total of 49 persons,” the source said.

The management of Dana had blamed “inclement weather” for the incident, saying the pilots encountered “very stormy weather and strong winds upon landing”.

It assured its customers of their safety saying, “We shall continue to adhere strictly to high standards and recommended practices as required by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority.”

“We commend the pilot-in-command who was able to control the aircraft to a complete stop, before passengers and crew disembarked,” Dana spokesperson, Kinsley Ezenwa said.

FAAN had also blamed the incident on bad weather occasioned by torrential rain at the time of landing.

When confronted with fresh revelations by this news, Mr. Ezenwa said the incident is already being investigated by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).

“We are already cooperating with the AIB in its investigation apart from the internal investigation we are carrying out to determine what actually happened,” he said.

The AIB spokesperson, Tunji Oketunbi, has also confirmed the agency has dispatched investigators to Port Harcourt to look into the incident.

Mr. Oketunbi, made this known on Wednesday while speaking to journalists in Lagos.

Dana’s Many Troubles in 2018

On January 27, the airline ran into a fence at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja shortly after landing.

The flight with registration number 5N-DEV from Port Harcourt was said to have brushed a fence while trying to park.

Sources at the airport and passengers on the flight blamed the aircraft’s pilot for the incident.

They claimed the pilot hit the steel fence when he failed to wait for Air Peace aircraft which had landed earlier to park properly.

The FAAN spokesperson, Henrietta Yakubu, had confirmed the development but said the plane only hit a noise breaker stationed on the tarmac.

On February 8, an emergency door of the aircraft flung open as it was landing at the NAIA.

An amateur video footage of the incident had gone viral almost immediately and the footage showed some passengers watching in shock while other struggled to capture the unusual scene on their phones.

Its spokesperson, Mr. Ezenwa confirmed the development but said a passenger might have tampered with the door.

Spokesman of the NCAA, Sam Adurogboye, also confirmed the incident adding that a four-man team from the agency had inspected the aircraft for airworthiness before it returned to Lagos for further probe.

INVESTIGATION: How Reinstated NHIS Boss Misappropriated over N1bn

Two senior staff, Nana Mustapha and Akingbade Olufemi, whose names appeared in two separate training vouchers in the sum of N35 million and N21 million respectively, said they had no idea of the vouchers being raised in their names

The head of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Usman Yusuf, who was recently reinstated by President Muhammadu Buhari after being suspended for alleged corruption, misused nearly N1billion of public funds within 90 days of taking office, and committed serial violations of federal procurement laws, NEXT EDITION can authoritatively report today.

The staggering amount could have helped save sick and dying Nigerians who desperately need healthcare insurance cover provided by the agency.

Instead, Mr. Yusuf, a professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, lavished the amount on questionable training programmes.

For weeks, staff were trained on dubious programmes such as “defensive driving”, “risk management” and “communication strategy. ”

As they studied, the agency, under Mr. Yusuf, shelled out nearly half a billion naira as course allowance to the staff. Many of them received far less than recorded in the payment vouchers, NEXT EDITION found out.

Also, the trainers, mostly companies linked to Mr. Yusuf, got more than even the course allowances.

The spending has drawn close scrutiny from the health ministry and has alarmed public accountability activists who question the worth of a billion naira training, when millions of Nigerians remain without health insurance cover – the core mandate of the agency.

The actions of the reinstated NHIS boss have attracted scathing criticisms from workers, activist and the ministerial panel set up based on a directive by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Speaking on the mater, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, Itse Sagay, questioned the rationale for reinstating Mr. Yusuf after he was found wanting by a legitimate panel set up by the government.

Mr. Sagay argued that Mr. Yusuf should have remained under suspension pending the completion of investigation against him.

“If what is said is true, definitely there is a problem. There is a need for proper investigation and he should remain under suspension until such investigation is concluded,” Mr. Sagay, a professor of Law told this newspaper.

Millions without insurance

Planned since 1962, it was the military administration of Abdulsalami Abubakar that finally created the first national health insurance scheme for the military on May 10, 1999. In 2004, former President Olusegun Obasanjo signed into law the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, and also became its first enrollee in 2006.

While its goal is to provide universal health care coverage to Nigerians, the scheme currently covers only five percent of the population.

The enrollees are mostly federal, states and local government workers with only a few private organisations signing on their staff.

The scheme has suffered from bad leadership from its inception, and even President Goodluck Jonathan, who was accused of condoning corruption, sacked an Executive Secretary of the scheme, Femi Thomas, over allegations of fraud.

Shortly after Mr. Buhari was declared president-elect in 2015, some concerned staff sent a petition to him, detailing how Mr. Thomas laundered over $2.2 million from the scheme.

The letter which was received by his then Chief of Staff and current Customs boss, Hammed Ali, was minuted back to Mr. Jonathan, who immediately set up a panel to look into the allegations.

Mr. Thomas was not only sacked but was handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution.

In August 2016, President Buhari appointed Mr. Yusuf, who is from his hometown to head the NHIS.

But just about a year after, Mr. Yusuf seemed yet another chapter of the agency’s jinxed corrupt leadership.

By July 2017, the NHIS boss had done enough to warrant the intervention of the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, who promptly suspended him and ordered an investigation.

The decision came after the minister had received several petitions by concerned unions, activists and threats of industrial action by workers, the ministry said.

Details of the report were telling, and in most cases, corroborated independent investigations by The NEXT EDITION.

Whiff of fraud

The N920 million trainings were conducted between October and December 2016, documents obtained by this newspaper show.

Curiously, while the NHIS has only 1, 360 staff on its nominal roll, our investigation showed a total of 2,023 staff were trained during the period.

Also, a total of 1,992 payment vouchers were raised by the insurance body, approved by Mr. Yusuf and remitted to staff.

Amidst the jagged numbers, some staff received training allowances multiple times, while training fees were paid to the consultancy firms engaged by Mr. Yusuf.

But reviews conducted by this paper, as highlighted in internal files and government investigation, show the majority of those who received multiple payments never attended the trainings and did not refund the allowances paid to them.

Worse, all the training consultants engaged by the scheme were directed to remit a part of their consultancy fees into some dedicated accounts.

One of the training firms, GK Kanki Foundation, was directed to pay N2.8 million into a Skye Bank account number: 1040569204, belonging to one Magaji Garba.

The NEXT EDITION could not reach GK Kanki Foundation and Mr. Garba to comment on the matter.

In all, Mr. Yusuf paid N508 million as fees to consultancy firms while about N412 million was spent as training allowances to staff, many of which were not in the agency’s nominal roll.

Even when the cost of the training programmes was above his approval limits, the NHIS boss still went ahead to cause the funds to be spent without seeking the approval of the minister of health, who supervises the health insurance agency.

A source in the agency, who pleaded not to be named for fear of victimisation said besides awarding the training contracts to firms owned and operated by his cronies, the embattled NHIS boos also violated extant procurement laws.

“I can tell you the reinstated ES (executive secretary) unilaterally awarded the training contracts and most of them went to his people,” the source said.

“He never followed laid procurement processes and was also spending above his approval limits so that between August 2016 and when he got suspended; Mr. Yusuf has spent billions of workers’ healthcare servings and brought in his relations and friends to help him destroy the NHIS.”

Details of violations found by this newspaper have been corroborated by a report released by the Ministry of Health, which established multiple cases of fraud and mismanagement against the NHIS boss.

The panel, headed by the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Binta Bello, was set up to probe allegations of mismanagement, nepotism and theft against Mr. Yusuf.

Fraudulent training schemes

The government report says the NHIS boss breached the procurement law in the award of contracts and payments for the training programmes.

In its executive summary, the panel said, “The procurement department of the NHIS was not involved in the engagement of consultants for all the training programmes, as transactions were basically between the suspended ES and human resource department. This is a contravention of the procurement process.

“The payment processes were not in compliance with financial regulations. Some payments were made without supporting documentation. No single payment voucher was raised in favour of the training consultants. Instead, their payments were lumped with participants’ training allowances and a composite voucher raised in the name of one of the participants, making it look like a normal staff claim.”

The panel also uncovered under-deduction of withholding tax in the sum of N25 million based on a total payment of N500 million to the training consultants engaged by the agency.

It also found that Mr. Yusuf approved all the trainings in connivance with the NHIS’ Executive Management Meeting, although they lacked the statutory powers to do so.

The report indicated that the trainings conducted by the scheme were above the approval threshold of the embattled executive secretary and should have been approved by the minister of health.

Case after case, the panel found instances of mismatch between amounts recorded after names, and what was actually received by the beneficiaries.

In one case, Ahmed Sanusi, a senior manager with the scheme, confessed to receiving N200, 000 for attending the training, when the records showed he was given N18.9 million.

The ICT General Manager at the agency, Nasiru Ikharo, told the panel that while management took the decision to conduct the training at zonal levels, no procurement processes were followed in the award of contracts to the consultants engaged for the training.

The panel found that instead of adhering to the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, the agency rather dumped the consultant fee and staff training allowances of staff.

Without prior information, the NHIS boss caused a voucher to be prepared and the money paid out in the name of Mr. Sanusi.

READ ALSO: Dapchi school girls: PDP calls for urgent rescue action

More questions

Giving insight into some of the fraudulent training programmes at the agency, the scheme’s Assistant General Manager Training, Aliyu Lawal, admitted he only handled three pre-retirement training programmes for general managers.

In the case of AMA Health Consult that got the highest chunk of funds for staff training, Mr. Lawal said he was handed a proposal by the company and directed by his GM to nominate officers for each of the training programmes.

He said the course fee per participant was earlier fixed at N290, 000 but was reduced to N250, 000 when he complained that it was too high.

AMA Health Consult is said to be owned and operated by three former top officers of the scheme and friends of Mr. Yusuf, who retired from service in 2014.

Two other senior staff, Nana Mustapha and Akingbade Olufemi, whose names appeared in two separate training vouchers in the sum of N35 million and N21 million respectively, said they had no idea of the vouchers being raised in their names.

Mrs. Mustapha, a senior audit staff, said she was working in the finance and accounts department before being moved to her present office, saying it was illegal to include the course fee in the voucher that was raised in her name.

On his part, Mr. Olufemi said at the time the voucher was raised in his name, he had already been transferred to the Benue State office of the scheme.

He admitted receiving training allowance which was paid to all participants but complained that the programme was not commensurate with the cost paid by the NHIS.

The General Manager, Finance and Accounts, John Okoh, confirmed the NHIS failed for follow the due process in the award of contracts for staff training.

Mr. Okoh also confirmed that while the scheme made payment for foreign training in report writing, no such training took place.

The contract was awarded for N150 million to a former director of the scheme, Kabiru Yar’Adua, who is said to be related to Mr. Yusuf.

Trainings for cash

Investigation showed under Mr. Yusuf, the NHIS paid between N80, 000 to N520, 000 per person for the training programmes organised for staff of the scheme.

While the training for drivers and clerks cost N80, 000 per person, other classes of training was found to cost between N120, 000 and N520, 000 per staff.

A document seen by this newspaper showed training fee paid to First Digital Tech-Law Forensic Limited differed from venue to venue.

In the training held in Ibadan, Ilorin and Benin, the training fee per person was N265, 000 while the same training by the same firm in Lagos cost between N270, 000 and N520, 000 per participant.

Risk management training was awarded to four different firms viz; Coral Spring Consulting Limited, Rotex Consulting Limited, GK Kanki Consulting and Zaramat Global Consulting Limited was given at the cost of N250, 000 per participant.

A total of 180 staff were alleged to have been trained in four centres with each of the centres accommodating 40 participants.

The scheme paid a scandalous sum of N88 million to the consultancy firms excluding the allowances that were paid to staff.

Again, the contract for the training on public procurement featured 55 staff and was awarded to two companies, Messrs. Altin-Batai Nigeria Limited and CPP Partnership Limited at the cost of N250, 000 per participant.

A total of N20.7 million was paid to the two firms excluding the allowances paid to each of the participants.

Companies and cost of the training of NHIS staff approved by Mr. Yusuf from October – December 2016

Violations of the Procurement Act

Ironically, while the agency trained staff on procurement, its leadership was not ready to practice what it preached.

The panel report said Mr. Yusuf for awarding a N28 million contract for the supply of e-library equipment and the purchase of project vehicles without composing procurement planning committee and technical evaluation committee as provided for in section 21 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

Corruption fights back

Attempts by this newspaper to speak with the spokesperson of the scheme, Ayo Osinlu, failed as he would neither pick calls nor respond to text messages to this telephone.

Similar attempt to speak with Mr. Yusuf failed. When contacted on phone, the embattled NHIS boss twice told this newspaper he was attending meetings.

He, would not also reply a text message requesting him to speak on the alleged breach of rules, misappropriation of funds and nepotism in the award of contracts and secondment of staff to the scheme.

Mr. Yusuf later spoke publicly last Thursday about his recent travail.

He described his punishment as an example of “corruption fighting back.”

He, however, said he would not be discouraged from discharging his duty which he said was in the best interest of the Nigerian populace.

Mr. Yusuf who spoke in Sokoto at a public hearing on a bill to provide for Contributory Health Care Management scheme organised by the state’s House of Assembly urged Nigerians not to be dissuaded by the negative press he had suffered.

His words:  “Don’t be distracted by what you are hearing on the media. The real thing, it is corruption fighting us and we will fight back to keep faith with our responsibilities to Nigerians.

“We are here to work for our people and the country, and anybody who thinks we are doing it for ourselves or our office that person is missing the point.”

Mr. Yusuf said he would not in any way be discouraged in his efforts at providing the required services to Nigerians.

Herdsmen Killings: Diaspora Group kicks against non-inclusion of Kaduna on visitation list

Herdsmen Killings: Diaspora Group kicks against non-inclusion of Kaduna on visitation list

A group, Southern Kaduna in Diaspora (SOKAD) has decried the non-inclusion of Kaduna among states to be visited in the ongoing efforts to check the herdsmen and farmers crises in the country.

The National Economic Council (NEC) had weeks back set up a committee to visit states ravaged by the crises.

But it seems Kaduna State was not included among states to be visited despite the over a thousand persons killed and hundreds of communities sacked by the herdsmen.

Apparently reacting to the omission, the diaspora group described the action as “deficient of logic and reason.”

While praising the government for setting up the panel, it, however, insisted Southern Kaduna remained an epicentre of the herdsmen’s killings.

These are contained in a statement signed by the President and Secretary of the United States’ branch of the group, Freeman Kamuru and Danlami Ngboze, respectively.

SOKAD said it is pleased the Federal Government is finally paying attention to the problem after many years of living in denial.

“This is the singular challenge of our time that is seriously straining our cohesiveness as a nation,” the group stated.

“The delay in making such a move has most certainly contributed to the loud calls for restructuring as many Nigerians have felt that the Federal Government has deliberately, by commission or omission, decided that some lives are expendable and do not deserve protection from the security services.

“However, we are concerned that the visit may omit one of the herdsmen killing fields – Southern Kaduna; and the Federal Government is not accurately defining the problem.

“While it may be politically expedient to call the terrorism of the herdsmen a conflict with farmers, even the casual observer of events in our beloved country knows that this problem has largely been herdsmen hacking down innocent citizens, usually unsuspecting, unarmed natives, and very often, in their sleep.

“The few casualties among the herdsmen have always been associated with defensive efforts or in a few cases, reprisals from raw emotions after entire villages and their people have been wiped out,” the group said.

The group called for a proper definition of the mission of the government’s panel, arguing that failure to do so may negatively affect its findings and recommendations.

Read also: Katsina: APC wins supplementary rerun election

It also called for the inclusion of Southern Kaduna, which it said was at a time, the hotbed of the crises before spilling to other parts of the country.

The group said it has received a fresh report that innocent and defenceless worshippers in a church were sprayed with bullets by herdsmen, killing four and seriously wounding scores.

Continuing, the group said, “On a daily basis, the lives of over three million citizens in that part of Kaduna State are in danger of sudden death at the hands of terrorist Fulani herdsmen.

“There is simply no social activity from dusk to dawn, even in areas not placed on a curfew.  Until recently, all tertiary institutions of learning were shut down for over a year in that part of the state.

“Simply put, there is no state more frontline in this pogrom than Kaduna State.  We ask that the NEC revise the itinerary of the visiting committee and include Kaduna State, along with the already selected states of Benue, Taraba, Zamfara and Adamawa.

“SOKAD- USA joins Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) in expressing our displeasure for the glaring omission of Southern Kaduna on the list of frontline areas to be visited and request a correction. We also decry the ineffective representation of Southern Kaduna by our Senators and members of House of Representatives.

“Except for Mr. Marshall Katung, the Honorable Member representing Zangon-Kataf and Jaba constituencies, who made a forceful and passionate plea on the floor of the House of Representatives for the inclusion of Kaduna and Plateau States on the visitation list, other legislators have remained mostly silent.”

The group, however, appealed to lawmakers from Southern Kaduna, regardless of party affiliation to work together and demand the inclusion of the area among places to be visited by the panel.

The herdsmen terrorists do not check the party affiliations of their victims when they set out on their evil missions. Effective representation demand that we all work together for the common good of Southern Kaduna,” the group said.

EXCLUSIVE: NDDC Spokesperson Confirms Board Tenure Expired

EXCLUSIVE: NDDC Spokesperson Confirms Board Tenure Expired

The Director, Corporate Affairs to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ibitoye Abosede, on Sunday confirmed the tenure of the commission’s governing board had expired.

Mr Abosede, who was reacting to calls to President Muhammadu Buhari, to dissolve the board, said the issue was not new.

The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State had on Sunday appealed to Mr. Buhari to dissolve the board of the agency.

In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Abayomi Adesanya, the party insisted the tenure of the board expired in December.

The APC said it was aware of some surreptitious moves by “powerful persons at the Presidency” to extend the tenure of the board beyond the December 8, 2017 tenure.

“Any extension of the tenure of the board is unconstitutional and an attempt to give Cross River and Akwa-Ibom states undue advantage of serving for continuous period of six years as chairman and managing director, respectively, to the detriment of other member states,” the party said in the statement.

“For the fact that it is the turn of Ondo State, as the fifth highest oil producing state in the country, to produce the next managing director of NDDC, President Muhammadu Buhari must compensate the people of Ondo State for their commitment to the party (APC) and the victory of the President in the 2015 presidential election.

“It is on record that of all the nine oil producing states in Nigeria, it was only in Ondo State that President Muhammadu Buhari had an overwhelming victory in the 2015 presidential election and we have not been so compensated,” the APC said.

But responding to questions by this newspaper, Mr. Abosede said it was not a new thing to say the tenure of the NDDC board has expired.

“If you are current and if you have been around for more than three to four months, you will know it is not a new thing. There is nothing to talk about,” he said on the telephone.

“The president is the one that appoints and not the NDDC and not me. So it has been more than four months. It is nothing new. They are not saying anything new. That’s my take though.

“Are you new? Have you not been in the country all this while? I am sorry to answer that question,” Mr. Abosede said arrogantly.

President Buhari had in July 2016 appointed a former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, the new chairman of the commission.

Also appointed was a former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Nsima Ekere, as the managing director of the commission.

Mr. Ekere succeeded Ibim Semenitari, who had been the acting managing director of the commission since December 2015.