In what appears to be a tacit endorsement of the decision of the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, to sit tight despite a suspension order by the board of the scheme, the Federal government has told governing boards of its agencies they neither have the power to fire nor suspend chief executives appointed by the President.
At best, they can only articulate infractions, investigate wrong doing and make recommendations to government through the supervisory ministries.
The role of boards, according to Mr. Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, is limited to setting operational and administrative policies for their agencies in consonance with government policy directives.
Mustapha, who spoke at the induction programme for governing board members of federal parastatals, universities and medical centres, added: “A Board shall not be involved directly in the day-to-day management of a parastatal or an agency. A Minister exercises control of parastatals at policy level through the board of the parastatal only.
“The board must only operate as a part time board, in accordance with extant rules that forbids allocation of official quarters to members on a permanent basis and payment of estacode allowances for only overseas travels approved by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and their part-time Ministry.”
He said further that government was bothered that boards were taking on the roles of management boards and getting involved in the day-to-day running of parastatals and agencies; blatant disregard for extant regulations guiding the conduct of board meetings; and
interference in the function of the CEOs; issuing directives to staff, without recourse to the CEOs; imposing disciplinary measures against the CEOs, in disregard of laid down rules.
Some, he added, even used labour unions to distract the management of agencies.
Recall that in the face-off between the Board of NHIS and Yusuf, the Labour unions were in the forefront of preventing the Executive Secretary from resuming to his desk after he resisted the suspension order of the board.
After his suspension two Thursdays ago, Yusuf showed up the next day, insisting that since the President was his appointing authority, only he ccould suspend him.
Suspended last year by the supervising Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, Yusuf resumed on the strength of his alleged recall by President Muhammadu Buhari based on a motion by the House of Representatives.
Prof Yusuf last week Monday arrived the premises of the headquarters of the Scheme with over 50 fully armed Mobile Policemen who broke through the gate to the Headquarters as well as fired tear gas canisters to disperse staff members of the organisation that tried to prevent Yusuf from entry the NHIS premises.
It is not exactly clear who ordered the Police to clear the angry workers of the agency who blocked his way, but accusing fingers are pointed in his direction, as staff bemoaned how the Executive Secretary “can be more powerful than the board and a minister.”
The Chairman of the governing board of the NHIS, Ifenna Enyanatu, announced Yusuf’s suspension at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, 18th October, 2018.
She said Yusuf was suspended over allegations of financial infractions levelled against him.
She also said the executive secretary had refused to carry out the board’s decisions on critical issues and institutionalised corruption at the agency.
She accused him of allegedly inflating the scheme’s 2018 budget, “fraudulently inflating the cost of biometric capturing machines”, and “attempt to illegally execute N30 billion in federal government bonds”.
The board also alleged that Yusuf carried out unauthorised staff travel “in defiance to council directive”, “superfluous arrogation of project vehicles” and added he has been insubordinate.
Ifenna added that one Sadiq Abubakar was to act as executive secretary of the scheme.