By Maiwada Dammallam
“We are going to fight the reinstatement of Professor Usman Yusuf the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme. We will contest it in court. You do not expect us to keep quite. We are already in court contesting some of the irrational decisions he took before he was suspended. We are also contesting his appointment, because he is not technically sound to run the NHIS.” – Dr. Tunde Ladele, President Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN)
Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN) is the umbrella body of all Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) in Nigeria. Aforementioned fiery “Dr Tunde Ladele” is the President of the little known albeit, formidable “HMCAN” which, along with the HMOs it represents, would have been proscribed long ago for their complicit role in truncating Federal Government efforts to provide accessible and affordable healthcare services to millions of Nigerians via the NHIS.
For background, Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) are the vehicles through which the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) disburse funds contributed into the scheme to service the healthcare needs of the Scheme’s contributors. Somehow, for years NHIS failed to be the succour it was designed to be to Nigerians for reasons that hitherto, were hazy.
The appointment of Professor Usman Yusuf to manage the Scheme changed the sordid narrative that hitherto, was the story of NHIS. Yusuf, a Professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation took charge of the affairs of the scheme with the zeal and enthusiasm expected of a man with accumulated local and international experience in healthcare service delivery gathered from three continents – Africa, Europe and North America. It could be said that Professor Yusuf was itching to domesticate his experience and make less severe the pathetic narrative of Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system. His appointment by President Buhari offered him a convenient laboratory to experiment his ideas and apply his experience to improve Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system.
It was expected he will hit the ground running and true to expectations, he did hit the ground running. Professor Yusuf was barely 3 months in office when the accumulated rot in NHIS began to emit putrid stench – undoubtedly a reaction to his experimentation with the old order at work in the Scheme and the new ideas he plans to inject to sanitize the system. In another 3 months Nigeria was enveloped by the stench and all eyes were on the source – the NHIS. Not long after, Nigerians were asking embarrassing questions regarding the (mis)management of the Scheme – questions which answers were obvious albeit, made blurry by administrative and bureaucratic layers of lies and deceits.
Of course, it will be difficult to convince the victims of Professor Yusuf’s reforms that he was just doing his job; simply being himself and anybody caught in-between was an unintended casualty – a collateral damage, if you like. Those familiar with him knew he’s a critical thinker with pragmatic attitude and very meticulous to details – I don’t expect anything less from a Professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation anyway.
Quite expectedly Professor Yusuf met a very stiff resistance from the cabal living fat on generated contributions in the care of the Scheme. The cabal, operating skilfully under the Health Management Organisations (HMOs), launched a synchronised attack on the articulate Professor and soon, the two were at daggers drawn. With each passing day, a new embarrassing revelation would emerge exposing the intricate methods through which Nigerians were being scammed by the Scheme. Expectedly, rather than defend allegations of corruption placed on the doorsteps of the HMOs by the Professor, the cabal tried to confuse Nigerians by raising phantom allegations of corruption purportedly committed by the Professor within the few months he was in charge of NHIS.
Nigerians were perplexed when the cabal assumed the role of a judge in a case they were heavily indicted. Within the blink of an eye, Professor Yusuf was the prey. He was accused of tons of “sins” that were neither relevant to the stipulated rules of managing the Scheme’s funds nor answer the questions he raised (with facts) about how the Scheme was (mis)managed by the cabal to almost a point of death.
It may not register with cynics that the House Committee on Healthcare services chaired by Hon. Chike Okafor faulted the suspension of Professor Yusuf because they were programmed to believe the unbelievable narratives of the cartel by the heavily sponsored media campaign tailored to smear him while confusing the situation and beclouding below average sense of judgement. Professor Yusuf remained suspended – effectively checked by the cabal – until President Buhari ordered his reinstatement perhaps, after meticulously going through the case file and seeing through the synchronized lies concocted to form the basis of the dizzying decision to suspend him.
Relentless as ever, the cabal is fighting the decision of the President to reinstate Professor Yusuf. They are now in court, first to contest “some of the irrational decisions he took before he was suspended, then contest his “suitability because he’s not technically sound to run the NHIS”. I came this far just to respond to Dr. Tunde Ladele’s pompous and arrogant display of disrespect to not only the office of the President but to the collective sensibility of Nigerians as well.
When Dr. Ladele stated the resolve of HMCAN to contest the reinstatement of Professor Yusuf in court, he’s only confirming the desperation of the cartel to create more chaos in the drama to prolong the process of fumigating the NHIS already started by Professor Yusuf which was rudely interrupted. This strategy would also help the cartel use the window period to clear from the archive of the NHIS any footstep that may lead to their doorsteps.
HMCAN is not known to be averse to issues inimical to the objectives or even existence of the NHIS hence, the decision to challenge the reinstatement of Professor Yusuf could easily pass for sheer hypocrisy. One would like to know why HMCAN was not in court to ensure proper disciplinary action against those behind the reported 23,000 ghost enrollees through which the Scheme was raped dry for ages or, why HMCAN was never in court to challenge the well advertised administrative abuses the Scheme suffered from forces within and without.
For instance, how many hospitals did HMCAN took to court to challenge their failure to extend services to contributors of the NHIS as stipulated in their contractual agreement. Was Dr. Ladele not in court to pursue this because he knew the hospitals were under no obligation to extend their services to the contributors because the HMOs were not fulfilling their end of the bargain by funding the hospitals to do so? Unless he was simply careless or “NOT TECHNICALLY SOUND” to lead the umbrella body of the HMOs (HMCAN), he would have been in court long ago working to find out why the HMOs are not getting value for their money from hospitals across Nigerian “despite regular payments being made to the hospitals by the HMOs”. Of course, only if there were regular payments actually made to the hospitals by the HMOs to offer their services to the contributors. If there wasn’t, it’s for Dr. Ladele to explain where the HMOs have been making their payments on Planet Mars that’s so unreachable to the intended beneficiaries of the NHIS.
Even more interesting would be the reason why the fiery Dr. Ladele is still not in court to challenge why NHIS funds ended up paying for activities of the Federal Ministry of Health – activities that were irrelevant to, and irreconcilable with the objectives of the NHIS or the budgetary laws governing the functionality of both the Federal Ministry of Health or the NHIS. Certainly Dr. Ladele is not telling Nigerians the complete story. I’m sure Nigerians would like to know why he’s jittery about the reinstatement of Professor Yusuf.