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Saturday, 27 October 2018

Governing council has power to discipline NHIS boss – Agbakoba, Falana

Governing council has power to discipline NHIS boss – Agbakoba, Falana

Prof. Yusuf Usman

Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Messers Olisa Agbakoba and Femi Falana, have faulted the claim made by the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, that only President Muhammadu Buhari, could suspend him.

In separate interviews with our correspondents on Friday, Agbakoba and Falana said the governing council had rightly exercised its power by suspending Yusuf pending the conclusion of corruption investigation against him.

Agbakoba said, “The President has the power to appoint and fire him. But, in-between, if there is an investigation going on, the board has the power to suspend him, pending investigation.

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“That is what has happened. It is not correct for him to come back to work with a multitude of security people. That is not correct. He has to stay away until investigation is concluded.”

On his part, Falana added that the open defence of Yusuf’s resistance to his suspension by the governing council was an endorsement of insubordination.

Picking holes in Yusuf’s claim, Falana said even though the Executive Secretary was appointed by the President, he was subject to the control and directions of the NHIS Governing Council.

He said, “Assuming without conceding that Prof. Yusuf has sanitised the NHIS, the open defence of his defiant behaviour by the Presidency is an official endorsement of insubordination, which is alien to the public service in Nigeria.

“Even though the Executive Secretary is appointed by the President, the law states that he is subject to the control and directions of the Governing Council of NHIS.

“Neither the constitution nor the public service rules expect President of the country to run any statutory body on a day-to-day basis.

“Even in a banana republic, the head of government cannot be so jobless to the extent of suspending or interdicting officers. The law never envisaged that the Executive Secretary of the NHIS will be above the disciplinary control of the supervising Minister and the Governing Council.

“As usual, the President is likely to have been misled to believe that Prof. Yusuf is fighting corruption. Hence, the Presidency has given the dangerous impression that the guy is untouchable.

“I advise the council to either resign or challenge the decision of Prof. Yusuf to treat his suspension with disdain.”

However, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Norrison Quakers, as well as two other Lagos-based lawyers, Messrs Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Jiti Ogunye, argued that the power to suspend or remove the Executive Secretary of the NHIS was vested only in the President.

Making reference to the NHIS Act, Quakers noted that only the President, who appoints the NHIS Executive Secretary, could also remove him based on the recommendation of the Minister of Health, adding that the President must be satisfied that the removal was in the best interest of the scheme.

Quakers stressed that the NHIS Act gave no power to the NHIS Governing Council to discipline the Executive Secretary.

While agreeing with Quakers, Adegboruwa blamed the drafters of the law for doing a disservice to the health sector.

He said, “I believe that the Executive Secretary of the NHIS is an independent officer of the council who is not responsible to the council.

“By virtue of Section 8 of the NHIS Act, the Executive Secretary is appointed by the President for a five-year term, subject to renewal for another five years; he is not even subject to confirmation by the Senate. He is appointed in the same way that members of the council are appointed under Section 3 of the Act.

“The powers of the council, as stated in Section 6 of the Act, is limited to determining the remuneration and allowances of members of staff. The council has no power to sack any staff, much less the Executive Secretary.

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“The drafters of this law did a disservice to the health sector because there is no single provision that relates to the removal of members of staff of the council.

“The purported suspension of the Executive Secretary by the council violates the provisions of the Act, is ultra vires, it’s beyond their powers. It is the President who appoints him that can remove him.

“Having said that, this particular Executive Secretary has dwelled too much in arrogance and abuse of office. He has not denied the allegation of over-invoicing; he has not denied the allegation of buying a jeep worth N58m in a scheme that is meant for the health of the masses; and he has not denied the allegations of concocted training for staff that has no iota of verification.”

In the same vein, Ogunye said it was regrettable that the law created a loophole which was being exploited by the Executive Secretary.

Culled from Punch

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