The inauguration of the Insurers’ Committee has brought the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) and insurance operators on the same page to pave way for issues in the industry to be fully deliberated before implementation. Chuks Udo Okonta in this report examines the benefits of the union and likely pitfalls to avoid.
The Insurers’ Committee can be considered as an answer to one of the most touching prayers our Lord Jesus Christ prayed at the peak of his mission on earth: “…That they may be one even as we are one.” The coming together of the regulator and the operators will really help take the industry to lofty heights as pains and gains would be healed and shared in an amicable manner for the good of the industry.
Before now, the industry has operated separately with the different arms doing their things not minding how it affects their common interest which is to provide effective insurance cover for the public.
That the segregation contributed to the poor public perception on insurance cannot be far from the truth, for the industry would have achieved much if the operators speak with one voice.
According to the Commissioner for Insurance Mohammed Kari, the Insurers’ Committee is expected to provide a platform for all Chief Executives of insurance companies in Nigeria to sit with the regulator to discuss issues affecting the Industry and proffer steps on developing the business of insurance with the goal of having an effective, efficient performance and improved contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation.
This is what has been lacking in the industry as often times; operators cry to high heavens that they are not taken along by the commission on most of the things they are sanctioned.
The wisdom to constitute the committee at this time when the industry needs rebirth is one of the good things to have happened in recent times.
Although the Nigerian Insurance market had in the past undergone substantial structural and regulatory reforms following the market intervention and the evolution of Nigeria’s financial sector, the formation of the Insurers Committee would help initiate policies and facilitate implementation to drive the sector growth.
Tasks for the Committee
The committee has been mandated to work in line with the overall vision of the industry which is to significantly increase insurance contribution to GDP, deliver jobs in this industry, and widen access by growing the number of insurance policyholders in the country.
Government and Insurance
One of the biggest tasks for the committee is building a smooth bridge with the government which is expected to drive insurance and place it where it ought to occupy in the economy.
Government’s general attitude to insurance has to improve. There is low patronage of insurance by government and its agencies and the lack of effort to protect public assets. Even when it does, the funding is haphazard. It is common knowledge that the ability of government to replace damaged or lost asset is not as sound as it use to be as such insurance is the best alternative to no protection at all.
The government should ensure that its employees, especially the gallant forces fighting in security challenges need to have the comfort of insurance protection as they confront their duties.
There is an apparent lack of Insurance expertise in the civil service as such government is not guided properly internally as it ventures to deal with the industry. The position of insurance is virtually non-existent in the civil service’s scheme of service, for the few insurance professionals are not placed properly to play their professional role.
Taxation and the Industry
The industry has complained of excessive and supposed unfair assessment modalities being used by tax authorities for tax computation of its finances. The new government and the tax authorities should be made to pick interest on this and continue with the engagement with the industry to find lasting solution to this problem, so that the industry can play the expected role of investible and developmental fund provider for the Nigerian economy.
Inadequate enforcement of insurance laws has been a bane of the industry’s growth as the public has taken advantage of this gap to shun compulsory insurances and even breeds proliferation of fake insurance papers.
The parties should rise to the challenge by building on the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) Nigerian Insurance Industry Database (NIID) initiative which has developed a module to tackle fake motor insurance and is working on the marine module.
Information remains the life wire of any prosperous business; hence the low and uncoordinated awareness strategies employed by operators must be giving adequate considerations. Efforts should be channeled at insurance education through coordinated awareness campaigns. The era of operating in the dark should be jettisoned; the conventional and social media should be leveraged to drive far reaching awareness campaigns.
Prompt settlement of claims
Prompt settlement of claims should be esteemed. All operators should embark on the campaign to see that claims are no longer delayed unnecessarily. According to the former Commissioner for Insurance Fola Daniel, claims settlement is one of the best advertorial the industry needs. Therefore, the committee should encourage industry wide claims settlement campaign.
Whilst it is good for the regulator and operators to be on the same page, the line must be drawn between regulations and operations. The regulator must understand when to raise the law and when to parley. The coming together should not undermine the law. Operators that subvert the laws should be adequately punished in line with the law.
Since the committee provides a good platform for deliberations, sanctions should be meted on chief executives who fail to attend and the usual attitude of late attendance to meetings should be discouraged.
The commission should live by example by ensuring that it has adequate representation at each meeting.
The sub committee are chaired by seasoned insurers who include: Managing Director Consolidated Hallmark Insurance Plc, Eddie Efekoha, Chairman Sub Committee Technical; Group Managing Director Continental Reinsurance and Chairman Sub Committee on prudential, Femi Oyetunji ; Managing Director FBN and Chairman Sub Committee on Corporate governance Relation, Val Ojumah; Managing Director NEM Insurance Plc and Chairman Sub Committee, Market Development, Tope Smart; Group Managing Director Leadway Assurance Plc and Chairman Sub Committee on Publicity and Communication, Hassan Oye- Odukale and Managing Director Old Mutual Life and Chairman Sub Committee, Customer Services.
There can never be another good time for the industry to get things right than now. The opportunity provided by this union should be harnessed by the compulsory insurance to rewrite the ills that had kept the industry in the doldrums.
According to Kari, “We are here to integrate new possibilities with basic truths of business success. We are here to rethink the future of the insurance industry. All hands must therefore be on deck if we must achieve our set objective.” The industry really must leverage this great opportunity of coming together to build a future that generation to come should be grateful of and blessed those who made it possible.