By ROSEMARY ONUOHA
•Would-be victims perfect plans to abandon homes when disaster strikes
•Property worth billions estimated to be destroyed
Despite warnings of severe rainfall being anticipated this year from the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NIMET, residents of flood prone areas have refused to embrace insurance as a form of risk prevention mechanism in readiness for the expected flooding, Vanguard investigation has revealed.
Even when some state governments like Lagos, Ogun and Rivers have employed series of measures to help curtail the impact of the anticipated flood, insurance operators are worried that there is no concrete plan to involve the insurance sector in the scheme of things by these state governments.
This is in sharp contrast to what is obtainable in other countries where flooding has caused severe devastation. In Australia for instance, the government has drafted a proposal to make flood cover mandatory in all homes and contents policies aside from the huge capital that it has committed into environmental safety.
In Nigeria, the scenario is worrisome. In Port-Harcourt, Mr. Austin Okereke, an electronics dealer in Mgboba in Choba town said that after the flood that ravaged the city, almost all the goods in his shop were destroyed and most people dwelling and doing business around that vicinity packed out.
On whether he has any insurance plan, Okereke said that he is not looking at insurance for now. He said that he is trying to prevent more damage by clearing the drainage and raising the platform in front of his shop.
Also, Ayo Daniel, a wine dealer in Port-Harcourt said that most of his goods were damaged after the flood. Although Rivers State Government started work on the dredging of channels and canals, Daniel said that the government stopped halfway without completing the work. He said that with the unfinished work, the floods will definitely be back.
Daniel however, said that he does not believe in insurance because he fears that insurance may not readily pay his claims when the need arises. The preventive method against the impending flood for him is to add more blocks to the pavement in front of his shop. Another option, according to him, is for the state government to create proper drainage system.
In Ibadan, after last year’s floods, a relief camp was opened for the victims, located at Oke Ayo. At present, the camp is deserted after distribution of relief materials was stopped. Governor Abiola Ajimobi-led administration said it is concentrating on opening drainages and dredging of rivers and streams across Ibadan metropolis and other parts of the states.
Mr. Ekene Akorisa, who resides in Ajeromi /Ifelodun Local Government Area of Lagos State, is a victim of last year’s flooding in Lagos that destroyed lives and property worth billions of naira.
Akorisa, who claimed that all his property was destroyed, including his motorcycle, is still trying to find his feet one year after the flood disaster. Although the Lagos State government is making efforts to curtail such massive disaster this year, Akorisa said since he got no compensation for the loss of last year, gathering his life back has not been an easy task.
Asked if he has any plans for insurance, Akorisa said that he has no plans but wants the government to protect the lives and property of its citizens.
For Daniel Oyebanjo who lives at Wilmer in Olodi- Apapa area of Lagos State, the flood destroyed most of his property and getting back on his feet has not been easy as well.
Mrs. Mulika Owolabi who stays in Lekki area said that the rain was terrible as it killed so many people and rendered some homeless. She said that at that time, she had to take her four children to her husband’s brother’s flat in Victoria Island because her house was flooded and most of her property destroyed.
Many of the flood victims are still very aggrieved. Since most of them had no insurance cover, getting back on their feet has not been easy. And as it is now, not even the victims or the government has considered insurance as a means of militating against such natural disasters in future.
Accordingly, it is estimated that property worth over N100 billion may may be destroyed when the floods eventually come. Managing Director of Linkage Assurance Plc, Mr. Gus Wiggle said that the warning from NIMET notwithstanding, the public is waiting on government to carry all risk that will emanate from the anticipated flooding while not making any effort of their own to safeguard their property against peril.
He said: “You know our attitude towards insurance in Nigeria, we are not proactive enough in warding off disasters because we don’t have the insurance culture.”
Worried by this trend of events, operators in the Nigerian insurance sector have called on residents of flood-prone areas to embrace insurance in order to guard against a reoccurrence of the massive loss of property as experienced in 2011.
Most victims of last year’s flood disasters which was massive in Ibadan and Lagos are yet to recover from the loss as majority of them had no insurance to cushion the effect.
It will be recalled that the Lagos State government last month said residents of the state should prepare for at least 236 days of heavy rainfall in 2012, being the total period of rain predicted by experts. The state government added that the intensity of the rainfall would be like that of 2011, recording 1,279mm of waters with marginal error of 50mm.
Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, Tunji Bello, said the prediction was arrived at using the Seasonal Rainfall Predictions instrument, which was coordinated by NIMET.
Bello said: “The natural phenomena that controlled 2011 rainfall are still in force and as such, it has been predicted that rainfall will commence from Thursday, March 22, with a margin of error of four days. It has also been predicted that the end of the season for 2012 is November 12 with a margin of error of two days; with between November 10 and 14 as probable days. The total length of rainy season for the year is approximately put at 236 days out of the 365 days in 2012 with a margin of error of two days. Like last year, Lagos will experience heavy rainfall with serious intensity.”
According to Bello, the government had designed programmes to manage the expected rain water and minimise flooding. He said the massive clearing of drainages, dredging of primary and secondary channels, lining of many earth channels and the introduction of resident drainage maintenance officers in local councils in the state, were part of efforts by the government to cope with the rains. His words: “But little can be achieved without the collaboration of Lagosians.
No nation can promise a flood-free state, only reduce it to barest minimum. We appeal that Lagosians should desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse, drains around homes must be evacuated and building of structures on drainage alignments must stop.”
Since it appears that the government is only applying one antidote to a cause that requires an array of medications, the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, has said that there should be the inclusion of insurance as one of the needs for fighting flood hazards in the country.
President of the CIIN, Mr. Wole Adetimehin, while commending the Lagos State Government for the preparations being made to fight the menace of flood in the state, said that these environmental hazards are of great concern to insurers as they constitute threats to the insured and potential insureds.
Investigations by Vanguard to find out why people are refusing to take up insurance as a risk bearing mechanism against flood revealed that most people are still skeptical about insurance paying claims when the need arises. Although poverty is another major contributor to why many people are shying away from insurance, the few that can afford insurance are not convinced that operators now pay claims.
Defying this argument, Chairman of Nigerian Insurers Association, NIA, Mr. Olusola Ladipo-Ajayi, said that such perception does not hold water anymore because insurers now pay claims.
Ladipo-Ajayi said that the service which the insurance industry renders to the economy and Nigerians in recent times is not just about making money for insurers but also preventing losses in the economy and the country at large.
Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive of the National Insurance Commission, NAICOM, Mr. Fola Daniel said that more Nigerians should buy insurance because deepening the insurance culture among Nigerians will lead to financial security for them.
However, Mr. Yemi Soladoye, an insurance expert said that with the enforcement of the Market Development and Restructuring Initiative, MDRI, by NAICOM, property owners who don’t have insurance covers for such property are already guilty of the law.