NHIS: What’s in it for the House Committee on Health?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

The Executive Secretary of the NHIS has dug his heels that he is going nowhere, and it would seem the support from the House of Representatives has provided an extra motivation.

NHIS boss, Usman Yusuf, was suspended by the Minister of Health on July 6, but the Secretary has replied with a letter of his own, stating that he had no intention of obeying the Minister’s orders. Prof Yusuf stated that it was not within the Minister’s powers to ask that he be suspended from performing his duties on the Health Insurance board.

The House Committee on Health Services, led by Chika Okafor, has backed the Executive Secretary in the matter, accusing the Health Minister, Prof Isaac Adewole, of deliberately breaching its constitutional duties.

While defending Prof Yusuf, the Honourable member makes a case against the Minister of Health, alleging that he is meting out a punishment on the NHIS boss for not acceding to some requests which involve some financial transfers to the account of the Ministry of Health in the Central Bank of Nigeria to enable staff of the Ministry attend certain events. Okafor defends the NHIS boss, stating that he was fighting corruption in the Health Insurance sector, and that there should be no reason for interference by the Minister of Health.

Prior to this, the clash between decisions made by the Executive and the Legislature was particular to the upper chamber of the National Assembly, the Magu issue being the popular sticking point. The House seems to want to begin its own with the NHIS boss. The only difference this time is that the public officer involved is preferred by the Legislature than by the Executive.

The Minister of Health suspended Prof Yusuf based on petitions brought against the NHIS boss on corruption. But given that such investigations cannot proceed with the Executive Secretary in office, the House of Reps are apparently pushing back on the matter, specifically on the grounds that the Minister did not have the authority to call for his suspension in the first place.

The suspension of Prof Yusuf has received the backing of the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who has issued a go-ahead for investigations to be made into alleged activities. Okafor claims that anyone who testifies before the House Committee receives some immunity against investigation; so they are willing to face the Acting President on this?

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