Three Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, Yusuf Ali and Ifedayo Adedipe, have criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for reinstating the hitherto suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf.
The PUNCH had reported on Wednesday that the President recalled Yusuf, although a panel, set up by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, suspended the NHIS boss on July 6, 2017.
Yusuf, who is being probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, was accused of perpetrating fraud to the tune of N919m.
Ali, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, said Nigerians deserved an explanation from the Federal Government. According to the senior advocate, the President’s recall of the indicted NHIS official belittles the minister’s authority.
He stated, “The reason for which he was suspended is well known to everybody. It was well publicised. It was said that there was some money, almost $1bn, for which he couldn’t account for and for which the EFCC was invited. Curiously, nobody has heard anything from the EFCC and the man was recalled.
“So, I think the government owes us an explanation why the man, who was suspended by the minister, was recalled by the Presidency. Why was it not the minister that recalled him? The problem about such a matter is that it would have been better if the minister recalled him because they are demystifying the offices of the minister.”
Ali stated that the reinstatement did not portend well for the anti-corruption crusade of the present administration, adding that it had the tendency of sending a wrong signal.
“For all intents and purposes, it means that the anti-corruption body can do whatever it wants to do; the government is least concerned,” he said.
Similarly, Adedipe berated Buhari’s war against corruption and the government’s motives.
Adedipe added, “It is a total disgrace and an embarrassment. If I were the minister of health, I would resign and give them back their useless position. The President has undermined his so-called war on corruption for whatever reason, and it does him no credit that he is doing this.
“A man under his watch is accused of corruption and is being probed, and you reinstated him? He has undermined that minister. And this professor (Yusuf) was so boastful, saying only the President could query him. That he (Buhari) would do this kind of thing no longer shocks me.”
Following Yusuf’s recall, a top government official told The PUNCH that the Presidency believed that the allegations against the suspended executive secretary, which formed the basis of his suspension, remained largely unsubstantiated.
But Adedipe accused Buhari of double standards.
He told SUNDAY PUNCH, “Is the Presidency the court? When they dragged people all over the pages of newspapers — people accused of crimes — did they say they needed to be proved? They called everybody a looter. The people they were calling looters, have they been found guilty?
“The reason this man (Buhari) is doing this is because that man (Yusuf) is his fellow tribesman. That’s all! This country belongs to all of us; you can’t do this kind of thing to people. Has anybody found Olisa Metuh guilty? Has anybody found (Femi) Fani-Kayode guilty? Has anybody found Mrs. (Patience) Jonathan guilty? They keep dragging them.”
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, on Saturday, also described the reinstatement of Yusuf, as evidence of impunity, corruption and executive lawlessness under President Buhari administration.
He maintained that Buhari’s directive, reinstating the NHIS boss, showed that the administration was not only covering up corruption within the government, but also promoting and protecting it.
He said, “It amounts to clear evidence of the reign of impunity, corruption and executive lawlessness.
“The Minister of Health, Prof. Adewole, has supervisory and disciplinary jurisdiction over the NHIS boss, Prof Yusuf.
“He set up a panel to probe his transgressions. He was found culpable. Adewole suspended Yusuf.
“The latter laughed him to scorn,pooh poohed and mocked him, reminding Adewole he was a sacred cow whom he cannot touch. It has come to pass.
“The President rode over Adewole’s head and recalled the suspended Executive Secretary.
“He laughed more. That is the very antithesis to fighting the so-called corruption.”