The Chairperson of the Governing Board of the National Hospital Abuja (NHA), Patricia Etteh, has accused the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, of stalling the process of appointing a new Chief Medical Director (CMD) for the health facility.
Ms Etteh made the accusation in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, a copy of which was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday.
The letter, dated March 10, and referenced: NHA/ADMIN/563/V.I/210, is titled: “Appointment of Chief Medical Director/CEO for National Hospital Abuja”.
Ms Etteh said after the board in collaboration with the office of the minister, the Federal Character Commission, among other concerned authorities, concluded the selection process and made recommendations to the President as backed by the law establishing the hospital, Mr Ehanire discarded the process.
She said the minister’s action was reportedly based on a petition by an unnamed applicant who she said was disqualified for failing to adhere to stipulated requirements, and that the minister neither sought the board’s opinion nor advice before taking the step.
Ms Etteh, however, noted that carrying the minister along in the process was only to ensure unity, noting that the act establishing the hospital empowers the board to own entirely the process of appointment of CMD for the hospital and recommend to the President.
Meanwhile, efforts to get the reaction of both the minister and his ministry were not successful as neither calls nor messages to appropriate officials were answered nor returned as of the time of filing this report.
Ms Etteh, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, noted in her letter that the hospital board placed an advertisement in two national dailies between 8 March and 19 April 2022, calling on suitably qualified candidates to apply for the position of CMD, following an approval by the health minister.
She said various interviews were carried out by the Human Resource Committee of the NHA board and five representatives of Mr Ehanire, representative of Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and Federal Character Commission (FCC).
The letter reads in part: “After about three reminder letters to commence the process, the Governing Board had to wait for a period of about six months after the placement of advertisement and the shortlisting of candidates before the final approval was given to commence the written and oral interview process vide a letter No: DHS/931/11/419 of 7 October 2022.
“Criteria for screening and short-listing of candidates were adopted as presented by the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Health.
“Please also note that the date of the interview was shifted twice by the Federal Ministry of Health and this was communicated to the shortlisted candidates”.
Ms Etteh noted that a technical committee was set up, candidates underwent the interview processes and three of them scored the highest out of the seven who participated in the oral interview.
According to Ms Etteh, the seven candidates that were scored are Olaomi Oluwole who scored 89.83, Dike Obalum (76.57), Adekunle Salaudeen (72.40), Fatima Mairami (72.33), Muhammad Mahmud (72.30), Abubakar Gagarawa (69.87), and Abdulkabir Ayanniyi (66.85).
Out of the seven candidates, Ms Etteh said the first three- Oluwole, Obalum and Salaudeen were recommended to the President with emphasis on Mr Oluwole who was said to have emerged top.
‘Minister casts aspersion on exercise’
She lamented that the hospital is yet to appoint its CMD due to the aspersion cast by the minister on the exercise conducted by a panel that was single-handedly constituted by him comprising of eminent Nigerians and chaired by his Permanent Secretary.
The letter reads in part: “This is regardless of the fact that the appointment of CMD is the exclusive reserve of the Governing Board as enshrined in the Act establishing the National Hospital Abuja (ACT 36 of 1999). The board nevertheless accepted the outcome of the interview which was adjudged to be free, fair and transparent.”
She wrote: “Your Excellency, permit me to add that the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions have also received a petition by a Non-Governmental Organisation alleging the involvement of the Minister, Federal Ministry of Health to have violated the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the recruitment of a Chief Medical Director for the National Hospital Abuja by unilaterally cancelling the exercise based on flimsy excuse of exclusion of a candidate who did not present required and relevant document required by the panel.
“The candidate thereafter presented the Certificate of Indigeneship to the House Committee on Public Petition which was obtained a day after the sitting of the Interview Panel.
“Your Excellency, you may wish to note that on 21 November this year, the minister, Federal Ministry of Health appointed a new panel to conduct another exercise which never took place for reasons best known to the Honourable Minister.”
Ms Etteh’s Prayer
In the letter, Ms Etteh pleaded with the President to resolve the crisis by appointing the substantive CMD from the list already submitted, and that the new process should be discarded.
“…your Excellency, Sir, in the interest of natural justice and rule of law, the Governing Board seeks for your kind intervention to appoint a Chief Medical Director for the National Hospital Abuja based on the outcome of the interview conducted on 7 October 2022 where seven candidates were found appointable, but three candidates with the highest score were forwarded to Mr. President through the Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Health while the one with the highest score was recommended for Mr President’s consideration for appointment.”
Ms Etteh said “I am compelled to approach and brief Your Excellency on the matter knowing well that Mr President is a fair and just leader.”
Ministry, Minister keep mum
The Deputy Director, Media and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Health, Ahmadu Chindaya, neither picked calls to his telephone number nor responded to messages sent by the reporter.
The reporter also sent a message to the minister’s Special Assistant, Itohan Ehanire, since calls to her phone were not answered, but as of the time of filing this report, she was yet to send in a response
Leadership crisis not alien NHA
Meanwhile, the current leadership crisis is one of many that have rocked the hospital in the past. For instance, in 2021, the hospital was immersed in crisis following the alleged refusal of the Board Chairman to honour the result of the election conducted by the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) to fill the vacant seat of the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) of the facility.
Rather than honour the result by duly announcing the winner of the election as the CMAC, the board chairman had reportedly told the management of the hospital to create the position of Deputy Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee (DCMAC).
The Director of Administration of the hospital was said to have issued a letter to the winner of the MDCAN election to fill the position of DCMAC which was not contained in the law that established the hospital.
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