NHIS ex-secretary rues media trial, rejects association with N327m NHIS scandal
Former Executive Secretary National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Femi Thomas, has decried the attempt to present all public officials as thieves, regretting the absence of protections for astute persons who come into public service to make a difference.
Thomas, who made the observations in a press conference, yesterday at the Eagles Park, Lagos; denied media reports associating him with the enrolment of ghost-enrollees in the scheme that led to a fraud of N327m.
Rejecting the allegations which some national newspapers attributed to the Independent Corruption Practices Commission (ICPC), the former chief executive officer explained that the alleged enrolment of ghost enrollees happened prior to his assumption well before he assumed office.
He urged the Federal Government to amend the NHIS Act and make enrolment into the scheme mandatory for Nigerians, saying that that would create demand and increase revenue that could be used to fund other sectors of the economy.
“All I am talking about is just the insertion of a sentence into the NHIS act to amend it. When you make it (NHIS) mandatory, it means all those working, be it in the formal or the informal sector must contribute something, the way we pay taxes. Those who are not working will be covered through cross subsidy and all other funds from international organisations.
He said his removal from office was politically motivated, since according to him, his tenure in office was supposed to be five years but noted that his tenure was the best in the history of the NHIS.
Stressing the pernicious implications of associating every holder of public office with graft, Thomas noted that the fresh allegation of his involvement in the ‘systematic creation and manifestation of ghost enrollees in the scheme at a staggering cost of N327 million’, was a clear evidence of the desperation of his enemies to pull him down.
He stated that in the midst of the many lies bandied about him, he was more peeved by the unhealthy “incessant negative media campaign; trial via the media”, even as he decried the situation where a national anti-corruption agency first engages in a massive media campaign preparatory to charging him to court.
While insisting that the whole set up was to dent his image even before any charges were preferred, Thomas added: “This fresh allegation is a clear evidence of the desperation by my enemies to nail me and pull me down at all costs. I resumed as Executive Secretary in November 2013 long after the purported ghost enrollees scheme was conceived and or executed, if indeed it was.”
He wondered how he could be held responsible for a crime committed when he was not yet in office, stressing that “on the contrary, I was the one who asked for the repatriation of overpayment to HMOs (Health Management Organisations) when I resumed.”
He outlined the conduct of integrity checks investigation on HMOs as part of the innovations he brought to NHIS, adding that that resulted in the sack of some HMOs in 2014.
“How can I scale through the hurdle if I had compromised by collaborating with HMOs on a fraudulent matter? Are you aware that some HMOs brought money to me and I chased them out? Let us check our facts,” he declared.
The eminent medical doctor pointed out that as a result of his innovative improvements on NHIS structure, his life was no longer safe, revealing how his personal security aide was shot dead in cold blood in his presence by agents of the state in a bid to arrest him, despite the fact of his non-resistance till date.
“Nothing has come out in form of a credible investigation on that murder case and no compensation has been made to the family,” Thomas bemoaned, saying that he is ready to continue to forcefully defend his hard earned reputation being confident that he would emerge without a scratch.
On his interrogation by the ICPC over a piece of land purchased by the NHIS, the former NHIS boss maintained that due process was followed, adding that the purchase of the land was approved by the Federal Ministry of Health Tenders Board while the Federal Ministry of Land and Housing did an evaluation of the land before payment.
While recalling how he was accused of buying the land valued at N990m as well as pocketing 10 per cent of cost of the property, Thomas said it was a lie, pointing out that the property was approved by the Federal Ministry of Health Tenders Board and not by NHIS
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