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

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

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

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

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.

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