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Sack NHIS Boss, Dissolve Board, Probe Panel Tells FG

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The panel set up by the Federal Government to investigate the crisis in the National Health Insurance Scheme has recommended immediate dismissal of the Executive Secretary of the agency, Prof Usman Yusuf.

A copy of the report which was obtained by The PUNCH accused Yusuf of breaching the Public Procurement Act as well as the Public Service Rules.

The seven-man committee headed by Dr Hassan Bukar, a retired permanent secretary, nonetheless, did not recommend Yusuf for prosecution.

The committee added that the NHIS boss, who has been on suspension since November 2018, had an unhealthy relationship with members of staff of the agency; local unions, health management organisations and health care providers.

This, the panel said, would have a negative effect on the health sector if he was allowed to retain his position.

Yusuf, who said, “Fu*k the Minister of Health” during an interview with The PUNCH in 2017, was also accused of embarrassing the government through his unguarded social media comments.

The committee said the NHIS boss deserved to be dismissed for failing to explore internal administrative remedies before suing the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the NHIS last November.

The report read in part, “Relieve the executive secretary of his appointment. Justification: Inability to work in harmony with all the relevant stakeholders in the scheme for the attainment of the scheme’s mandate.

“Established cases of infractions of the Public Service Rules i.e. insubordination and refusal to carry out lawful instructions from superior authorities (governing council and the Federal Ministry of Health) contrary to PSR Rule 030301 (0), unauthorised public utterances contrary to Rule 030421 (id), and relevant service-wide circulars.

“Established cases of infraction of the following provisions of the Public Procurement Act: Sections 16(6) and 32(7).

“Infraction of Rule 3125(i) (a) and (b) of the Financial Regulations;

“Embarrassed government through unguarded social media comments.”

The panel also recommended for immediate removal the 13 senior officers improperly seconded to the NHIS from other government agencies by the suspended NHIS boss.

The committee also recommended the immediate dissolution of the Dr Eyanatu Ifienne-led NHIS governing council for suspending Yusuf when it clearly had no constitutional powers to do so.

It said there was a crisis within the governing council of the scheme and this could negatively affect the smooth running of the agency.

The report partly read, “Dissolve the governing council. Justification: The panel observed the role of the governing council in the present imbroglio and noted from the interactions that the council has become factionalised and is incapable of providing the required leadership for the scheme.

“The governing council embarrassed the government by exceeding its mandate when it suspended the executive secretary.”

The committee subsequently advised the Federal Government to appoint an interim management team to avoid a vacuum and ensure the smooth running of the scheme.

It said the proposed committee would have a six-month lifespan and should be led by a seasoned administrator with a health system experience and other technical members drawn from the offices of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Bureau of Public Procurement and Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

The panel said the proposed committee would report to the Presidency during its tenure.

It called on the Federal Government to amend the Act establishing the NHIS to make health insurance compulsory for Nigerians even as it advised the government to ensure that “the NHIS is ICT driven.”

Investigations by The PUNCH showed that the committee report was submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, on December 24, 2018.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari government has failed to take any action in almost five months, thereby worsening the ongoing crisis in the health sector.

The NHIS crisis began in early 2017 when it was alleged by members of staff and the organised labour that Yusuf was diverting public funds to private use.

He was said to have brought in 13 officers from other government agencies and gave them undue promotion.

The NHIS boss was subsequently suspended by the Minister of Health in July 2017 while a committee was set up to investigate Yusuf.

The committee accused Yusuf of fraud to the tune of N919m and recommended that anti-graft agencies investigate and prosecute him if need be.

However, Yusuf, who is said to be close to the cabal at the Presidency, was asked to return to his position, an action that triggered public outrage.

Months after his return, Yusuf again ran into trouble with the governing council of the NHIS for, amongst other things, paying consultants N508m without due process.

Recall that the Assistant Director of Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun Adetola, in an interview with The PUNCH on April 17 named the just-concluded general elections as the reason the Federal Government had yet to make public the outcome of the probe initiated into an alleged fraud of N919m in the NHIS.

Adetola, in the interview, said, “As you are aware, the report has been submitted to the SGF and forwarded to the President. We had general elections that were completed only last week and that involved many government agencies.

“The report was submitted just before election activities began. This must have delayed the public presentation. I am sure that soon, it will be made public. It is not a forgotten document.”

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Buhari Reads New Riot Act to Ministers, Heads of Agencies, Others on Foreign Travel

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In a bid to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of resources of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved for immediate implementation, additional cost saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, particularly, in the area of official travels.

According to a statement issued by the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation Wednesday, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are now required to submit their Yearly Travel Plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.

They are further required to make their presentation using the existing template and also secure approvals on specific travels as contained in the plan, from the appropriate quarters.

On the nature and frequency of travels, the statement said, all public funded travels (local and foreign) must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence.

”In this regard, all foreign travels must be for highly essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to the interest of the country. Except with the express approval of Mr. President, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Chief Executive Officers and Directors are restricted to not more than two (2) foreign travels in a quarter.”

When a Minister is at the head of an official delegation, according to the statement, the size of such delegation shall not exceed four including the relevant Director, Schedule Officer and one Aide of the Minister.

”Every other delegation below ministerial level shall be restricted to a maximum of three.”

For Class of Air Travels, President Buhari approved that Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants to the President, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments and Chief Executive Officers of Parastatals who are entitled would continue to fly Business Class while other categories of Public Officers are to travel on Economy Class.

Also, travel days will no longer attract payment of Estacode Allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding, the statement added.

”The Auditor-General of the Federation has been directed to treat all expenditures that contravene these guidelines as ineligible.”

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Police Uncover Another Torture Centre with 300 Inmates in Buhari’s Hometown, Daura

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The Police in Katsina State on Monday arrested the owner of a rehabilitation centre in Daura where over 300 inmates were being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Some of the teachers were also said to have sexually molested the inmates at the centre owned by Mallam Bello Maialmajri.

The 78-year-old cleric was arrested alongside two other men, whose names were not disclosed.

Last month, the police in Kaduna State rescued over 300 boys from an Islamic school, where they were allegedly chained,   sexually abused and tortured.

The  Katsina State   Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Buba, who led the operation at about  1pm, expressed shock at the new discovery.

The centre is located at Nasarawa Quarters,  in the   Sabongari area of  Daura.

Daura is President Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown.

After inspecting the rehabilitation centre, Buba ordered the  Daura Divisional Police Officer, ASP M.O.Wakili,  cordon off the centre.

The CP  said, “We learnt that the inmates here are over 300.  The inmates revolted yesterday (Sunday) because of the inhuman treatment they were being subjected to.

“Some of the inmates escaped while the ones you are seeing, about 60,  stayed back.

“The inmates are from various parts of Nigeria, including Katsina,  as well as from  Niger Republic. I will meet with the Emir of Daura and Governor Aminu Masari on the issue. We will do the profiling of the remaining inmates  to determine where they are from and we will thereafter appeal to their parents and their  guardians to come and collect them.”

He added, “As you heard from the inmates, apart from being subjected to inhuman treatment, some of their so-called teachers practised homosexual acts with them. Although the teachers escaped when my men came here after  the inmates revolted, we shall get all of them and they would face the full wrath of the law.

“From what I have seen here, the old man, who is the owner of this place and who is over 78 years old, does not have  the capacity  and facilities to run this place again.”

One of the inmates,  Abubakar Saminu,16, from Yobe State said his parents brought him to the centre because he was always stealing.

He said,”My parents brought me here because they believed I  would be cured of my stealing problem.  But they would beat us, starve us and subject us to inhuman treatment here.”

It was learnt that Maialmajri had already  handed  the running of the centre  to his son, Umar, who reportedly escaped when  police arrived.

The Emir of Daura,  Dr . Umar Farouq,  who spoke in Hausa,   said, “We in Daura will not support any act of lawlessness. We want the law to take its  course.”

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Charges Against Sowore, Mockery of Justice System – SERAP

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Anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has urged the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to enter a nolle prosequi to terminate the charges filed against the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, alias Mandate.

In an open letter on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, SERAP said the charges which centre on insulting President Muhammadu Buhari would only make a mockery of the Nigerian criminal justice system.

SERAP advised Malami to activate his power of nolle prosequi under Section 174 of the constitution to terminate the charges against Sowore and Mandate “and several other similar trumped-up cases going on in several states.”

SERAP said, “Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated/brought by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice system, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom.

“These cases are persecution and not prosecution. As a guardian of the public interest, you (Malami) have a role to end this travesty now, and to maintain the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.

“These cases set a dangerous precedent for the misuse and subversion of the justice system, which may lead to the politicisation of judiciary. This will be bad for everyone – ordinary citizens, journalists and even the politicians in power, as they may themselves become targets of these repressive and abusive tactics when they are out of power/in opposition.”

SERAP said while the Federal Government had the responsibility to prevent and prosecute criminal offences, it ought to do so lawfully, and in full compliance with human rights and the rule of law.

Also, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Solomon Okedara, described Section 24(1) of the Cybercrime Act under which Sowore was charged with insulting the President as “repressive, oppressive and largely unconstitutional.”

Okedara said, “In fact, I am of the opinion that proceeding with such a charge particularly when the person allegedly insulted is the President will rather paint the image of the President and the country in bad light before the comity of nations.

“This is aside the fact that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act does not meet the requirement of permissible restriction to freedom of expression. Having worked on the Cybercrime Act and indeed Section 24 both as a practitioner and researcher, it is clear that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act is indeed an insult to our hard-earned democracy and same does not deserve a place in our laws.”

Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow himself to be embarrassed Malami against Sowore.

Adeniran, who described the charges against Sowore as trumped-up and face-saving, argued that it was obvious that government had no grounds to continue to hold Sowore.

The CACOL chairman said this in a Facebook post on Sunday.

He said, “FG has no good reason to hold Sowore anymore; the trumped-up charges are (a) face-saving strategy with no substance!

“President Buhari, please don’t allow Malami to embarrass you any further. Order Sowore’s immediate release and damn it!”

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