The Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Yusuf Usman, has described as false a report by Thisday newspaper that the scheme has invested at least N25 billion in government securities.
“No penny of NHIS money was invested in Nigeria, abroad or anywhere under my watch,” Mr. Yusuf said Thursday in Abuja at a media briefing organised by the governing council of the scheme.
Mr. Yusuf’s claim was corroborated by the chairperson of the governing council, Enyantu Ifenne, who said the board last week discussed but resolved to put on hold the issue of investment.
According to the report by THISDAY newspaper Wednesday, Mr. Yusuf invested at least N25 billion of the scheme’s funds in government securities through Cowry Asset Management Limited.
According to documents THISDAY said it saw, Mr. Yusuf made the investment against the warning of the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, that such is in violation of the government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy.
The report elicited reactions from Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP accused the presidency of turning the NHIS into a Automated Teller Machine (ATM) where funds are taken at their conveniences.
The party in a statement on Thursday by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, said Nigeria was yet to recover from past revelations of alleged withdrawal of N10bn of the scheme’s fund when reports of another N25 billion investment emerged.
PDP said the presidency had been “bleeding” the nation, saying stealing funds meant to provide health lifeline to impoverished Nigerians is agonising and shows that the ruling party has lost all scruples.
But Mr. Yusuf faulted the report, claiming he already got approval to invest the scheme’s fund from the Minister of Health, Mr. Adewole, and that the NHIS Act also enables him to do so but he is yet to invest since he was appointed.
“The Act of the NHIS empowers the scheme to invest any fund it does not immediately need for security. When I came in 2016, I looked and asked what has been our investment for the last 12 years. I’ve been pressured to invest but I said I will not do it. I engaged firms to do our forensic audit to see where our monies are before any investment.
“Though we had approval from the minister and the Act empowers me to invest but I did not.
“What I did was that I ran to the board and presented what we are planning to do and we agreed that we will represent the issue again and do it at the right time,” he said.
Corroborating Mr. Yusuf’s claim, the chairperson of the governing council, Ms. Ifenne, said the board discussed but put on hold the issue of investment.
“We put a hold on it and that is just last week. So as the council in place, I want to assure Nigerians that no investment has being placed under our watch and none will be placed except through due process,” she said.
“NHIS is an insurance company and its funds should not be in the TSA in the first place,” a member of the board also said at the briefing.
Treasury Single Account (TSA) is a public accounting system using a single account, or a set of linked accounts by government to ensure all revenue receipts and payments are done through a Consolidated Revenue Account (CRA) at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).