By Patience Saghana
Nigerian insurance industry may sacrifice another class of its business to the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) if the Employees Compensation bill presently at the National Assembly is passed into law.
The nationâ€™s insurance sector had in the last few years saw unfavourable laws passed that are detrimental to the business of insurance without concrete effort to make input to improve the provisions of such laws except groping on the pages of newspapers.
Some of the key businesses of the sector that enactment of laws had snatched from it are: National Health Insurance Act, 1999 which transferred a traditional part of life insurance business to the HMOs; Pension Reform Act, 2004 which moved pension business from insurers to Pension Fund Administrators and Pension Fund Custodians; Companies Income Tax that in the minds of insurance practitioners is discriminatory and retrogressive in all its ramifications by granting all other financial services sector concession except for insurance industry.
Operators in the Nigerian insurance industry under the aegis of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) and the Nigeria Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) have raised alarm over the Employees Compensation bill being sponsored by the NSITF just like they had done in time past yet bills were passed into law right before insurance operators eyes.
The association alleged that the bill which has already passed the second reading in the Senate seeks to remove Workmenâ€™s Compensation from the purview of insurance industry. Operators however, blamed the decreasing level of insurance penetration in the country on the series of anti_insurance laws churned out by the National Assembly in the last 10 years.
Mr. Wole Oshin, Chairman of Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), said that the Employee Compensation Bill is not a solution to compensation for workplace injuries, diseases and death suggesting that â€œprovision of the existing Workmenâ€™s Compensation Act, 2004 should be amended for wider coverage and complied withâ€.
The NIA chairman highlighting some of the negative effects of the National Health Insurance Scheme Act 1999; Pension Reform Act 2004 and Companiesâ€™ Income Tax Act 2007 on the nationâ€™s insurance industry, lamenting that the laws took away some of the traditional business of insurers across the world and placed them under the purview of operators in other sectors of the economy to the detriment of the former.
Oshin made the observations in a paper presented at a stakeholdersâ€™ session hosted by the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions in Abuja recently, reiterating that the Employee Compensation Bill would take a bite out of the business of insurance.
This negative trend according to him â€œis largely due to the impact of the National Health Insurance Act 1999 which transferred a traditional part of life insurance business to the HMOâ€™s, Pension Reform Act 2004 which transferred Pension business from insurers to Pension Fund Administrators and Pension Fund Custodians and the Companies Income Tax Act, 2007 which is discriminatory and retrogressive in all ramifications.
The Federal Government in 2004, reformed pension management and administration in the country, with the enactment of the Pension Reform Act 2004. The Act assigned the administration, management and custody of pension funds to private sector companies, the Pension Fund Administrators (PFA) and the Pension Fund Custodians (PFC).
The Act further mandated the NSITF to set up its own PFA to compete with other PFAs in the emerging pensions industry, and also to manage the accumulated pension funds of current NSITF contributors for a transitional period of five years.
However, the statutory powers of the Fund as the sole government institution charged with the responsibility for providing social security to the Nigerian citizens was reinforced by the Pension Act, which provides in Section 71 that â€œâ€¦ NSITF shall provide every contributing citizen Social Security Insurance Services other than Pension in accordance with the NSITF Act, 1993â€.
Chief Enukora Okoli Managing Director of NSITF, who described the new step as a practical way of humanising the workers lauded it and expressed the readiness of the agency to take up its new role as enforcers of the provisions.
Okoli said, â€œBefore now even though we have always had the Workman Act, there is no enforcer that is giving the mandate to ensure that employers comply with its regulations.
Besides this, the new Act also makes provision for employee to be rehabilitated and taken care off during the period he is handicapped. It is expected that the injured worker would be rehabilitated by way of having another job that is less demanding even in the same place or have his place of work changed. We are ready to ensure that no worker is neglected in his hours of need as anybody that gets injured will henceforth be adequately compensated.â€
However the Act seems to be universal as it does not distinguish between foreign nationals or indigenous workers as pointed out in ILO Convention 121 Article 27 on the need to give all legal workers equal treatment.
The overall aim of the Bill when passed as an Act, according to the NSITFÂ boss, â€œis to make comprehensive provisions for Compensation for any death, injury, disease or disability arising out of or in the course of employment and for matters connected to hazards that workers may suffer at the workplaceâ€.
Dr Teslim Sanusi, President, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) had urged the National Assembly not to repeal the Workmenâ€™s Compensation Act.
He urged the stakeholders to kick against the move because the industry is yet to recover from the effect of the Pension Reform Act, which took pensions out of its purview should another aspect of insurance slipped out of industry, it would have an adverse effect on the premium income of the sector.
He said that brokers should not fold their arms and allow another injury to be inflicted on the industry, adding that the bill could lead to a collapse of the insurance industry.
Sanusi noted that the NSITF had sponsored a bill urging the National Assembly to transfer Group Life Policies of Public Officers to it. The NCRIB president affirmed that the bill has gone through second reading in the House of Representatives.
According to him, â€œIt is noteworthy to draw your attention to the new move by NSITF to repeal one of the existing compulsory insurance policy with all its benefits.