Beaming The Searchlight On Allegations Of Fraud At NPHCDA

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By Nuhudeen Idajili –

There is a saying that says brilliant people are the most venerable. To an extent, I agree with that school of thought especially in a country like Nigeria where the indices for manipulation is rife.  Since the advent, the All Progressive Congress (APC) administration, the quality of appointments in the health sector has raised quite some dust. Initially, it was speculated that President Muhammdu Buhari opted for an all foreign legion of experts to fix the health sector through the appointments of Nigerians in the Diaspora to head some of the agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health.

I recall in July of 2016, and there were some sweeping appointments into five agencies in the health sector. There were National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) respectively.

These agencies could be regarded as the heartbeat of the health sector in Nigeria, and it was lauded that the choice of Nigerians that have distinguished themselves in the international arena by President Muhammdu Buhari was an indication of his willingness to deliver quality healthcare to Nigerians.

But sooner than later, cracks began to appear on the wall. It started with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency whose Executive Director, Professor Echezona Ezeanolue failed to take up the appointment months after thereby leaving a leadership vacuum in the sensitive agency. It was speculated that the professor whose appointment was influenced by Imo state governor Rochas Okoroacha could not resume at NPHCDA due to some commitments at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA.

Then came the appointment of Dr. Faisal Shuaibu in January 2017 as the new executive director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency. I recall there was some form of excitement in the health sector with his appointment given his pedigree as the senior programme officer for Africa at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He also coordinated Nigeria’s successful response to the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as the Incident Manager/Head of the Ebola Emergency Operations center (EEOC) in the federal ministry of health.

As a medical doctor and public health specialist who in time past provided technical advice to the Nigeria Ministry of Health and National Primary Health Care Development Agency in the area of immunization and polio eradication activities, it was expected that he would hit the ground running and as much as possible avoid distractions in whatever form or shape. But that does not seem to be the case at NPHCDA.

I say this because some weeks back I read in some dailies allegations of fraud leveled against him by a group called Youth Alliance Against Corruption. I was very bitter with the content of the claims because they were indeed weighty. In the said petition, he was accused of violation due process in the award of contract for the purchase of Toyota Hilux vehicles to the tune of over three hundred million naira. It was also alleged that the company that won the deal, Lanre Shittu Motors submitted a quotation of 19,500,000.00, but was awarded the contract at the sum of 22,000,000.00 with a balance of 3,000,000.00 collected by a deputy director named Idris Bello on behalf of the executive director. Interestingly, Idris Bello has built some notoriety from his days at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) so I wasn’t surprised at his recent exploits at the NPHCDA.

Much as these are mere allegations, I was distraught for Dr. Faisal Shaiubu for him to allow civil servants ruin his impressive career with bad advice. Permit me to reproduce some here some part of the petition.

“The Executive Director made an extra-budgetary purchase from funds of the agency by procuring a 33KVA generator at 6.7million naira for his personal use, being fully aware this wasn’t part of the budget. Knowing the proclivity of some public officials to spend funds at their disposal arbitrarily without fiscal compliance, we call for prompt disciplinary measures over this to forestall unregulated expenditures.”

“Another issue that needs the attention of all the relevant anti-corruption agencies is the payment made to Dr. Shaibu Faisal through United Bank for Africa(UBA) account number 1001324745 of the sum of Twelve million seven hundred and twenty-eight thousand and thirty three kobo (N12,728,033) between the 24th and 25th of January 2017 being payment for 28 days, accommodation and movement of his family from the United States of America to Nigeria, this was never included in the budget so how and where were funds sourced to pay him. But we are much aware that Dr. Shaibu Faisal was resident in Maiduguri, Borno state at the time of his appointment.”

“The process by which the insurance company was selected and paid leaves much to be desired in the face of transparency, fairness and probity. From the preliminary outcome of our investigations we observed that the Head of Audit, Mr Ada Egahi brought the insurance company and influenced the inflation of the insurance cost from 7.5 million naira to over 40 million naira, on behalf of the Executive Director. The company’s financial transactions should be scrutinized to expose this.”

You will agree with me that these are indeed weighty allegations that should not be swept under the carpet like that. Worrisome is the fact that some people in the know of events in the agency did corroborate some of the allegations as true. I think it would be a big shame on the part of Dr. Faisal Shuabu for allowing himself to be used by civil servants or losing his sense of decorum.

I think the relevant security agencies should investigate the claims and if found valid, the law should take its course to serve as a deterrent just like the case of the executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme who was suspended and investigated. However, it is only the minister of health that has that prerogative. But I am convinced the minister of health would not hesitate to exercise that right when an allegation of such magnitude appears in the public space, unless he is hiding something or benefiting from the heist.

Lest I also forget to add that part of the allegations stated that the executive director has continued to brag about having the eyes and ears of the minister of health and the former permanent secretary in the ministry who recently retired from service. And if that is true, it’s another bigger shame and a mockery of the anti corruption stance of this present administration should the relevant authorities fail to at least investigate the claims. Nigerians are indeed watching.

– Idajili wrote in from Abuja

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