20 December 2012

Nigeria: NHIS Top Job - Minister Fingered in Due Process Breach

The scramble for the position of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is heating up with allegations of compromise and systematic scheming out of qualified candidates in the recruitment process allegedly by Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu.

Some candidates for the top NHIS job, a federal government agency with the mandate to ensure provision of universal health services for all Nigerians, have vowed to stop the minister's alleged over-riding personal interest to plants his candidate as executive secretary in order to protect his business interest at the agency.

But the minister, in a reaction, waved the allegations away, saying they were unfounded.

The NHIS top job became vacant after the first tenure of Dr. Dogo Muhammad expired and government refused to reappoint him for a second tenure.

Reliable sources at the NHIS told LEADERSHIP that the health minister had "sought the reappointment of Dogo in a bid to protect his companies that were favoured by the outgone executive secretary, Dogo, with three years consultancy and insurance brokerage interest which runs into several billions of naira respectively."

It was reported that when he was unable to reappoint Dogo for a second term, the minister positioned a professor of the department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) to replace the former NHIS boss.

"But that equally failed as President Goodluck Jonathan opted for a very transparent and accountable process to get the best candidate for the NHIS job," the source told our correspondent.

The president was said to have earlier this year directed that the position of chief executives of both the NHIS and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) be advertised for qualified candidates to contest for them, and for the best to be recommended for appointment.

LEADERSHIP gathered that while it took eight months for the president's directive to be carried out, a consulting firm was contracted to carry out the entire recruitment exercise and to recommend the best three candidates to the Ministry of Health for onward transmission to the president.

One of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "The consulting firm has gone ahead to shortlist the minister's preferred candidate, who is said to be sponsored by powerful political forces in the House of the Representatives."

However, in the minister's defence, his media aide, Mr. Dan Nnome, dismissed the allegations.

According to him, "The president had directed that the process for the filling of the vacant slot at the NHIS should be competitive and transparent. I can assure you that the presidential directive is being followed to the letter. The consultant engaged for the purpose has been working independently without interference.

"Also, the minister of health is not in charge of the process; so how can he be responsible for the allegations being made. Somebody cannot cook up something and the minister will start responding to them when there is no substance."

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