The Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Heath Services, Hon. Chike Okafor (APC, Imo), has said the recent reinstatement of the suspended National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf, by President Muhammadu Buhari could restart an era of healthy relationship between parliament and the executive arm of government.
His optimism was hinged on the fact that the executive had often refused to implement resolutions passed by the National Assembly – a development which had contributed to the strained cooperation between the two arms of government in recent times.
He also hinted that with Yusuf’s recall, investigation into the activities of health insurance providers, particularly the Health Management Organisations (HMOs) – an exercise which was temporarily halted following the former’s suspension by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, on allegations of corruption will be resumed.
He said: “We will continue with the investigations. And I will tell you that we’ve suspended the investigations because we didn’t recognise the fact that he was suspended. And he was not in the office for us to continue investigating the activities.”
Speaking with journalists over the weekend, Okafor further said the reinstatement does not cast aspersions to the anti-corruption stance of the present administration. “You can’t question government sincerity and capacity to fight corruption.”
He added that he had been vindicated for insisting that Yusuf be reinstated ab initio.
According to him: “Resolutions by the National Assembly were badly respected. And by the Minister and the ministry as in this case. I think the President stepped in and asked that the man should be recalled. For me, it’s a good thing and it’s a new thing for our democracy.
“The National Assembly, House of Representatives in particular, came up with a resolution and it should be respected and the man has resumed. And I can tell you quite frankly that the man has resumed. So, it’s a vindication that I was right in the first place to have asked for his reinstatement.
“And I’m glad to learn that part of the reasons the presidency adduced was being the fact that the House of Representatives also called for his reinstatement.”
He said the controversy had centered on the power of the minister to suspend an appointee of the president-elect and had been a running battle between the House and the minister until Yusuf’s recent recall – which also gave Adewole an opportunity to finally present his ministry’s budget to parliament.
He said: “We didn’t know he has been having issues with the minister. There was no proven case of corruption until the House of Representatives committee had that public hearing where we were investigating the activities of the National Health Insurance in relationship with the HMOs vis-a- vis the inability to deliver to the enrollees.
“The man (Yusuf) came and made some damning revelations, and the minister was also present at that public hearing and also agreed that the HMOs need to be investigated for us to know what they do with the billions paid to them every month.”