Ex-NHIS boss surrenders to EFCC; denies ownership of $2.1m
A former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Olufemi Thomas, yesterday surrendered to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for interrogation on the seized $2.1million cash.
The appearance of Thomas foreclosed plans by the EFCC to declare him wanted after a three-week search.
Thomas denied ownership of the said cash and claimed yesterday that he was never on the run as reported by the media.
The EFCC has continued with its investigation of the matter, even as there were indications, last night that the EFCC might invite a former Minister of Health for questioning on how NHIS paid N990million for a plot of land estimated at N350million, while Thomas was in office.
Thomas, it was gathered, arrived Abuja on Thursday night and reported at the EFCC headquarters, Abuja early yesterday.
He was grilled for several hours by the agency and moments after wards, his media aide, Mr. Sola Adeyemi, issued a statement describing Thomas as “a law-abiding person, a true professional and a man of his words.”
He said: “Today (yesterday), we were at the EFCC headquarters in Abuja in reaction to media reports that Dr. Thomas was wanted by the anti-graft agency in connection with a $2.1million cash seizure, where my boss made an official statement on the allegation of money laundering.
“This shows that he was never on the run, and he would never do anything against the law of the land. He has gone to answer the EFCC call. So we believe my boss’ visit will put to rest all these allegations and help the anti-graft agency in their further investigation of the matter. Therefore, until the investigation is concluded, we would not speak on this matter.”
He appealed to the media to “maintain a high level of professionalism in the discharge of your duties in order that the anti-graft agency can focus on a thorough investigation on the various allegations. ”
A reliable source in the commission told The Nation that the former Executive Secretary of NHIS voluntarily came to the EFCC office for interrogation on the seized cash.
“We have interacted with him and we asked him to make statement accordingly on what he knew about the cash,” the source said.
“ We also grilled him on the relationship between him and the Bureau de Change operator, Ibiteye John Bamidele, who was arrested with the money by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
“We are proceeding with the next stage to investigate issues highlighted from the submissions of the two people. There are other clues we are also considering too.
“The ex-NHIS is on administrative bail and he has given assurance that he would report to the EFCC anytime he is needed.”
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on July 3, 2015 arrested one Ibiteye John Bamidele at MMA Terminal 2 (MMA2) Lagos with the said $2.1million.
The Head of Public Affairs, NDLEA, Mitchel Ofoyeju, said Bamidele was arrested by anti-narcotic officials, who suspected that the amount was for money laundering.
The NDLEA handed over the suspect to the EFCC on July 8, 2015, following admission of being on errand for money laundering and the implication of the ex-NHIS boss.
Meanwhile, there were indications last night that a former Minister of Health might be quizzed by the EFCC on how the Tenders Board of the ministry approved N990million for NHIS to buy a plot of land whose value was put at N350million.
When a former Executive Secretary of NHIS, Mr. Waziri Dogo-Muhammed, was in charge before Thomas came on board, he refused to buy the same plot for N350million.
The EFCC source said: “This is one of the pegs of the investigation we are looking at. We are going to invite the affected former minister for interaction. Thomas said the purchase of the plot of land went through a Ministerial Tenders Board.
“Some officials of the Federal Ministry of Health might also be questioned too.”