FG says polls delayed NHIS fraud probe report, CDHR disagrees

Olufemi Atoyebi and Oladimeji Ramon

The Assistant Director of Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun Adetola, has named the just-concluded general elections as the reason the government has yet to make public the outcome of the probe initiated into an alleged fraud of N919m in the National Health Insurance Scheme.

President Muhammadu Buhari had late last year sent the Executive Secretary, NHIS, Prof Usman Yusuf, on administrative leave, while he set up a probe panel on November 2, 2018, to investigate the alleged fraud of N919m under Yusuf’s watch.

Though the President gave the panel two weeks to submit its report, the panel did not do so until December 18, 2018, when the report was submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.

Amidst the fear that there was an attempt to sweep the report under the carpet, Mustapha at the time said the report would immediately be presented to the Presidency before being made public.

However, since the submission of the report in December, the Presidency has not made its content known to the public or taken any action that the public is aware of.

When The PUNCH contacted the SGF’s office on Sunday for an update, the Assistant Director of Information in the office, Adetola, named the 2019 general elections as the reason for the delay in making the outcome of the probe public.

“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,” said.

But reacting to Adetola’s explanation, the National President, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Mr Malachy Ugwummadu, said it was untenable.

Ugwummadu, in an interview with one of our correspondents, argued that there was no nexus between the elections and the weighty allegations of corruption against the NHISES.

He said, “The excuse advanced is a lame excuse and untenable, precisely because the entire electoral exercise was the responsibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission, created under Section 153 of the constitution. The issue of investigation or prosecution of an alleged crime has nothing to do with elections; so, it is untenable to give election as an excuse.

“If you are raising the issue of election, it will mean that there is more to it than the ordinary course of investigation and prosecution; what you are insinuating is that we cannot afford to dabble into the investigation or prosecution of certain category of persons because of political implications and that is not healthy for the psyche of the people.

“You may argue that investigation takes time, but we have seen how in less than 24 hours the alleged killers of Mr Kolade Johnson are being prosecuted; also (Justice Walter) Onnoghen was arraigned in a matter of days after the allegation. So, this sore issue of the NHIS Executive Secretary is not helping the image of the government. This kind of allegation of this magnitude against him should receive more serious treatment. There is no nexus between elections and investigation and possible prosecution of Prof. Yusuf.

“The amount alleged to have been stolen, vis-à-vis the purpose for which the scheme was set up, amounts to killing the people.”

Also commenting, the Chairman, Human and Environment Development Agenda, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, said elections ought not to interfere in any corruption case.

“Elections shouldn’t have anything to do with law enforcement and anti-corruption issues. That is why it is important to make the President and other government officials realise that issues relating to corruption and abuse of office should not be the responsibility of a presidential panel but the direct responsibility of law enforcement agencies; so that such issues can be handled professionally and free of interference,” Suraju said.