- As DSS, ICPC join probe of suspended NHIS boss over N960m scam
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has blamed the gradual death of rails transportation on poor planning of past government and the failed usage of Nigerian ports as transit port by landlocked neighbouring countries of Niger and Chad, which gave rise to an increasing dependence on road haulage as the major means of long distance transportation of goods.
The Minister indicated this in Abuja on Tuesday, at the National Summit on establishment, management and operations of Trucks Transit Parks (TTPs) in Nigeria, positing that Government was now ready to explore how TTPs may transform into economic and business hub, creating wealth and employment for the nation’s teeming population, particularly the youths.
“The neglect of the rail lines for about three decades, the increasing volume of trade and transit within and across the country’s borders, and the increasing usage of Nigerian ports as transit port by landlocked neighbouring countries of Niger and Chad gave rise to dependence on road haulage as the major means of long distance transportation of goods”, Amaechi stated, noting that the good assembly of stakeholders at the event was a genuine demonstration and resolve by all tiers of government to address the infrastructure deficit in the country.
Highlighting that the country would now prioritise intermodal transportation system, particularly the railway, the Minister also assured that as the Federal Government focuses on the diversification of the economy, the transportation of agricultural commodities and solid minerals resources from the hinterland to the ports and the haulage of imported cargo from the ports would come to the fore.
“Although the present administration is addressing the railways frontally through the construction of new standard gauge rail lines, revamping of existing narrow gauge eastern and western rail lines and refurbishing of coaches and wagons, road haulage will for sometime continue to be the major means for long distance transportation of goods and commodities.
“The high statistics of road accidents and loss of cargo occasioned by bad road is of concern to government.
“Environmental degradation is another negative impact of excessive usage of roads by heavy duty vehicles.
“It is to this end that the imperative of providing truck transit parks (also known as truck terminals/rest stops) comes to the fore necessitating the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to convene this National Summit on the theme “Truck Transit Parks (TTP): Providing Critical Infrastructure for Trade and Transit in Nigeria”.
“The Federal Government plans over the next couple of years to develop Truck Transit Parks at Lokoja in Kogi State, Obollo-Afor in Enugu State, Ogere in Ogun State, Jebba in Kwara State, and Porto Novo Creek in Lagos State as an alternative strategy to address the menace of truck congestion at the seaports in Apapa and Port Harcourt.
“These are meant to complement the Ore Sunshine City in Ondo State and the ones being processed by the Kaduna State Government at Mararaban Jos, Buruku and Tapa on the Kaduna- Abuja highway”, he stated further, inviting the private stakeholders and operators; as well as State Governments to “buy-in”, so as to fast track the provision and process of developing the critical roads infrastructure, pledging that the Federal Government would ensure that TTP projects independently developed by state governments and private investors meet a minimum standard in the number of facilities provided at TTP sites.
In the meantime, an investigative committee, set up by the Federal Ministry of Health, has commenced a probe of the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf, who has been accused of fraud to the tune of N960m.
The committee is made up of officials of the Department of State Services, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, auditors and senior officials of the ministry.
The committee is expected to look into about 50 petitions written by several interest groups against Yusuf.
Although he had been accused of several acts of financial impropriety, Yusuf was finally suspended last Friday by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, after allegedly buying a brand new Toyota Sports Utility Vehicle worth N58m without the approval of the ministry.
The new committee is also expected to look into the accounts of the NHIS as part of investigations into the alleged financial recklessness of the suspended NHIS boss.
Yusuf was also said to have employed about 15 directors from outside the system in violation of civil service rules.
A top source at the ministry said, “The investigative committee set up by the Ministry of Health has swung into action. The committee is treating over 50 petitions written by the Medical and Health Workers Union, Health Maintenance Organisations, Civil Society Organisations as well as a report from the Senate.
“Prof. Yusuf is expected to appear before the panel, which will then issue its report in September. The committee comprises the DSS, ICPC, senior officials of the ministry and some independent observers.”
This is the second committee set up to investigate the suspended NHIS boss.
The Senate had, in March, constituted a five-member ad hoc committee to investigate Yusuf over allegations of financial and administrative abuses.
Among other allegations, Yusuf was accused of “corrupt expenditure of N292m for health-care financing; training; illegal expenditure of N218m for training of members of staff; scandalous expenditure of N400m purportedly for training in October 2016; and N50m for T-shirts and Fez caps despite presidential order banning promotional items and souvenirs.”
Senator Kabiru Marafa alleged that the expenditure, totalling N960m, were without recourse to “any appropriate approving authority” – though the Executive Secretary’s spending limit is just N2.5m.”
The suspended NHIS boss is believed to be an ally of the Director General of DSS, Mamman Daura, a relative of President Muhammadu Buhari.
But a national newspaper (not The PUNCH) had on Monday, alleged that Yusuf was suspended because he refused to grant monetary requests by the health ministry.
The report stated that from September 2015 to November 2016, the NHIS former Acting Executive Secretary had approved between N3m and N15m for the ministry.
Additional report from Punch