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Yusuf says Nigerians wouldn't know if he wanted to steal from NHIS

He believes the allegations against him are motivated by his detractors to stop him from reforming the NHIS.

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NHIS: Yusuf says Nigerians wouldn't know if he wanted to steal play Prof. Usman Yusuf (Premium Times)

The suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, has dismissed allegations of corruption against him, noting that he would have been more discreet if he committed any financial crimes.

Yusuf is currently on administrative leave after he was suspended last month for what was his second suspension in 15 months on allegations of gross misconduct and fraud.

In a recent video which he published to defend himself against the allegations, he said Nigerians would never have found out if he wanted to steal because he would have been careful.

He went on to complain about the impact that the allegations against him have had on his family but also noted that it doesn't affect him like it used to.

He said, "It is difficult for me to keep saying, 'Oh I didn't do this'. The last time I was suspended, I went through EFCC, ICPC, all my bank accounts, BVN, my children, even my dead mother.

"The last time, my wife told me, 'You know in the last six months you've been reinstated, you've stolen N65 billion'.

"People are mistaking NHIS for NNPC. We're not NNPC. It really used to get to me. Sometimes, it's my children living abroad that call me and say, 'Baba, these guys are still after you'. When you say something about a public officer, it's not him alone, it's his family.

"If I'm here to steal money, you won't hear anything about it. We'll do it quietly like it's being done.

"Now it doesn't get to me like it used to because I've realised worse things have been said about men greater than I.

"Public office in Nigeria is like contact sports, like rugby, you get hit and you stand up and brush it and you keep going. This is what you get."

HMOs are after me - Yusuf

Yusuf accused the health maintenance organisations (HMO) of collecting billions of naira from the NHIS but failing to pay hospitals as required, and, as a consequence, jeopardising the care that NHIS enrollees are entitled to, a practice he said he's been cracking down on as Executive Secretary.

He claimed that the allegations that have been levelled against him are false allegations sponsored by the HMOs to stop him from fixing the NHIS.

He said, "The problem is one and one alone. HMOs are the ones that have been inciting all the rancour in the boardroom. They've been paying unions as their foot soldiers. They've been paying the press and taking me to court to maintain the status quo."

"They're funding unions, they're funding the press, they've taken me to court to hold status quo. Fellow Nigerians, status quo is not acceptable," he added.

Prof. Usman Yusuf play Prof. Usman Yusuf (Signal)

Yusuf vowed that his controversial suspension and the vindictive campaign against him will not stop him from doing what is right to ensure Nigerians get the best benefits out of the NHIS.

"I ask myself, what is the real purpose for all of this? Is it to malign me, embarrass me, kick me out of office or to embarrass this government? My answer is all of the above.

"If it is me you're after, good luck because I remain focused, I will not be shaken or intimated into doing anything that's wrong. You can do more than suspend me but I'll continue to do that which is right," he said.

Controversy over Yusuf's conduct as Secretary

Yusuf was first suspended as Executive Secretary by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole in July 2017, following allegations of monumental fraud, gross abuse of office and nepotic acts. After the initial three months suspension, it extended indefinitely after the panel that probed allegations against him found him "culpable in many areas" of his performance.

He was reinstated by President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2018, with investigations still pending, an action that drew widespread condemnation.

Yusuf was then suspended indefinitely again by the NHIS governing council on October 18, after a two-day closed-door meeting. The council's chairman, Ifenne Enyanatu, revealed that it had the approval of Prof. Adewole and also set up a panel to look into the allegations of gross misconduct and fraud levelled against Yusuf.

With Yusuf defying the latest suspension ordered by the board, President Buhari intervened through the Office of the Secretary-General to the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and directed him to proceed on administrative leave pending investigations by a 7-member independent fact-finding panel.

Allegations levelled against Yusuf include financial recklessness and refusal to follow due process as he's been accused of awarding contracts to his associates, including one to his own brother.

He's also accused of high-handedness, budget distortion, fraudulent cost manipulation, illegal investments and unprofessional manipulation of the human resources of the agency.

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