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How Nigeria botched plan to cover 24 million pupils with health insurance

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Thomas headed the NHIA from November 2013 to April 2015, when former President Goodluck Jonathan sacked him.

His administration also targeted enrolling the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in the health insurance scheme.

It took the government about six years to make that plan a reality.

President Muhammadu Buhari order the inflation of NYSC members in the scheme, according to the immediate past NYSC Director-General, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, who revealed the development to journalists in January 2022.

Other programmes initiated by the Thomas administration were mobile health insurance and provision of free health services for pregnant women and children under five years.

In April 2015, former President Goodluck Jonathan sacked Thomas over alleged infractions and appointed Olufemi Akingbade, the General Manager, ICT in the organization, to head the NHIA in acting capacity.

Enrolment of the pupils also failed to sail through under subsequent executive secretaries of the organization, namely Usman Yusuf, a professor and the current head, Mohammed Sambo, also a professor. 

Like Thomas, Yusuf was booted out by Buhari in July 2019 over allegations of corruption and high-handedness, among others. 

Buhari had appointed him in August 2016. 

Since it took off in 2005, the NHIA has yet to cover 10 per cent of Nigerians, according to multiple reports.

Enrollees, dominated by government employees, have complained of poor services across health facilities.

The ICIR contacted the Head of the Public Relations Unit of the NHIA, Emmanuel Ononokpono, on Sunday, who confirmed there had been no health insurance coverage for school children, except for those paid for by their parents.

“We have a programme called GIFSHIP (Group, Individual and Family Social Health Insurance Programme). It is for everybody in Nigeria. As long as you pay, you get coverage.”

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