Feeding fat on blood money: Let's pay attention to NHIS by U. K. Umar

Photo: U. K. Umar

BY U. K. UMAR, OPINIONS | YERWA EXPRESS NEWS, JULY 26, 2017

There is something evil about stealing money from the coffers of National Health Insurance Scheme(NHIS). The crime is akin to blood money. Anyone who does that can look another person in the eye, stab them,  watch them bleed to death and make away with their money. 

The ongoing tug of war between the Executive Secretary of NHIS,  Prof. Usman Yusuf, on one end and a tag team of Minister of Health, some individuals from the National Assembly,  some members of Staff Union of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), some Civil society groups and Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) on the other end calls for serious concern. We must all rise up against this evil gang up on our monthly contributions.

As it is,  there is yet to be any credible information on what actually goes on with the funds the scheme is entrusted with. Many accredited NHIS hospitals, clinics, labs and pharmacies treat enrollees shabbily because they (the hospitals) claim they’ve not been paid by their HMOs for months. NHIS on the other hand, claims they pay all HMOs their entitlements three months in advance in most cases. The one left to suffer the consequences of this tussle is the poor enrollee who’s monthly contributions swells the purse of NHIS to make it attractive to thieves.

All we’ve heard or read are allegations and counter allegations from the various parties involved. Of course, everyone who speaks is innocent. This is confusing but one thing is certain though,  there is a huge corruption racket running into billions of Naira at NHIS. Some people, for whatever reason, are trying to open the lid on what has been going on for years, while others are deploying all they’ve got to cover it up. This is Nigeria!

So far,  the ES, Prof.  Usman, has been issued a three months suspension notice by the Minister of Health but the ES has responded that the Minister has no power to suspend him. That’s some guts!  The Minister said the suspension is as a result of various allegations of corruption and petitions against the embattled Professor of Paediatric.

In the same vein, some senior officials of NHIS numbering about eight,  including General Managers, Asst. General Managers, were suspended following revelations of an ongoing investigation that point to their involvement in various acts of corruption.

Remember it was Prof. Usman who, upon his assumption of office last year as the ES of NHIS, took the fight to the HMOs who were involved in different dubious acts of defrauding enrollees by either not remitting funds to the hospitals under them or inflating their entitlements with ghost enrollees. About 23,000 ghost enrollees were fished out after a clean up exercise. There were also reports of the ES refusing to honour demands of hundreds of millions of Naira from the Minister of Health for reasons clearly unconnected with the mandate of the scheme.

Since this showdown began, the ES has made statements suggesting that the funds at NHIS, before his arrival,  were a sort of cake being shared by some officials and HMOs at the detriment of the enrollees who contribute to the pool.  In Nigeria, when you make such revelations, you must be prepared for clap backs. In this case,  the claps are loud and thunderous. I just hope the Katsina -born Prof. doesn’t get deafened by them.

Already, there are people who are saying the ES has no moral standing to point out corrupt practices at NHIS because he is also alleged to be corrupt. Well,  I can’t hold brief for the ES because he’s already answering questions at EFCC and other agencies. My stand is,  we must also take seriously, the issues he’s raising against the Minister of Health and all others involved in this huge racket.

As an enrollee, even though I’m yet to get my card let alone get served by my hospital of choice after about three months of registering, I’m pained. It hurts that even the little money I contribute to be able to access affordable healthcare is not safe from the hawks. As if things aren’t bad enough already, they are stealing it too.  But I can’t just sit back and cry.  This is why I am writing to draw more attention to this issue.

When you steal money meant for healthcare delivery, you are directly murdering people to feed your affluent lifestyle. With this blood money, you are able to acquire more expensive cars you don’t need, build/buy more luxurious houses you can’t live in in places you hardly visit,  send your children to schools abroad. As a person in authority, you have access to NHIS funds, so you are able to junket around the world with your women and children. Just know that when you come full cycle, you shall know no peace.

U. K. is a public affairs analyst, writes in from Abuja


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