By ROSEMARY ONUOHA
Last week, Lagosians woke up to the news that another market had been destroyed by fire. And this time, it was the Ifelodun Plank Market in Ketu area of Lagos State. By the time the fire died down, over 300 shops filled with building materials were gone.
When he visited the victims of the fire disaster, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola assured them that government would assist them to build a more organised and safer market.
However, Fashola urged the market and warehouses operators in the state to insure their businesses in order not to suffer total loss whenever such unforeseen disasters occur.
“I use this opportunity to appeal to all markets and warehouses owners that we should use insurance companies to insure our businesses, stocks, stock-in-trade and our inventory of goods,” Fashola said.
But if truth be told, such traders and shop owners should not be appealed to or begged to get insurance. If Nigeria were to be a normal society, Fashola need not tell shop owners or occupiers to insure their shops, because insurance of public buildings is compulsory under the Insurance Act of 2003.
Section 65 (1) of the Insurance Act, 2003 states thus, “Every public building shall be insured with a registered insurer against the hazards of collapse, fire, earthquake, storm and flood. (2) Public building, in this section includes a tenement house, hostel, a building occupied by a tenant, lodger or licensee and any building to which members of the public have ingress and aggress for the purpose of obtaining educational or medical service, or for the purpose of recreation or transaction of business. (3) The insurance policy under subsection (1) shall cover the legal liabilities of an owner or occupier of premises in respect of loss of or damage to property or bodily injury or death suffered by any user of the premises and third parties.
“(6) An occupier or owner of premises who is in default of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N100,000 or to imprisonment for one year or both.”
Although, the law is in place, Nigerians still allow themselves to be cajoled to buy insurance even when it is obvious that it is for their own good.
To give bite to the law, the National Insurance Commission, NAICOM, two years ago came up with the Market development and Restructuring Initiative, MDRI, aimed at deepening insurance penetration in the country.
Unfortunately, the MDRI which seeks to enforce the compulsory insurance products made mandatory by the Insurance Act of 2003 is still being resisted by the general public. But the attitude of the general public towards insurance has worked to their disadvantage.
Time has come for Nigerians to change their negative perception about insurance because the sector has changed for the better. Most Nigerians are averse to insurance because they don’t see any value in it, but the truth is that insurance offers a lot of value.
People think that insurance is an additional tax just as they think that putting on the safety belt is to prevent law enforcement agents from arresting them, whereas the purpose is to save their lives.
People don’t have that attitude to risk matters they just see it as an additional liability. People don’t see it as a safety precaution they just see it as a way of avoiding being apprehended, which is very wrong.
The era when insurance documents are written down in small prints and Shakespearean language is gone and the sector has embraced a new era and methods of doing things. Hence, the public should always read their insurance policy documents because policy documents are now written in plain language.
Moreover, insurers have made the language of the policies they sell user friendly so that insurance buyers can ask questions where necessary before taking their final decisions.