…Chart way forward for insurance industry
By Clifford Ndujihe
LAGOS — SOME eminent Nigerians and insurance czars, yesterday, eulogised former Ohanaeze President-General and Insurance guru, Professor Joe Irukwu, SAN, and proffered solutions to the endemic challenges of the insurance industry in Nigeria.
The notable Nigerians and insurance stakeholders, who extolled the virtues of Professor Irukwu included: former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade; former Foreign Affairs Minister, Major-General Ike Nwachukwu, (retd.); Professor George Obiozor; Professor Anya O. Anya; Prof. Green Nwankwo; Professor Pat Utomi; and Sir Ogala Osoka.
They spoke at the 44th Leadership colloquium organised by the Centre for Values in Leadership, CVL, in honour of Professor Irukwu, who turned 84, yesterday, at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, in Lagos.
Dr Kolade described Irukwu as an honest and serious-minded person.
Kolade said: “If he tells me anything, I don’t need to go and cross check it anywhere because I know that what he tells me is what he believes to be right.” In his remarks, Chief Anyaoku described Irukwu as “a cerebral professional in the insurance industry, an effective and cerebral participant in our national affairs through the re-insurance business, and a true Nigerian patriot and a very proud son of Igboland. If he was not in Insurance, he would have made a good diplomat with his persuasive approach.”
On his part, Sir Osoka, who disclosed that Professor Irukwu gave him his first job, described the octogenarian as brilliant, hard-working and a great mind.
They spoke after a team of panellists that included Sir Osoka (CEO, Score Associates); Mr. Eddie Efekoha (president, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, CIIN); Mr. Johnson Chukwu (founder and managing director, Cowry Asset Management Limited); and Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi (founder/CEO, Proshare Nigeria Limited) dissected the state of affairs in the insurance industry and pointed the way forward.
With the theme: ‘The Insurance Industry: National Savings and Financial market, Reaching for Higher levels of Performance’, the colloquium was moderated by CVL Founder, Professor Utomi.
Lamenting that the insurance industry is performing poorly in Nigeria compared to other countries such as Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa among others, the stakeholders said urgent actions are needed to keep the industry afloat.
To them, it is sad that insurance penetration in Nigeria is 0.6 per cent of the population, a far cry from the relative average of 4.89 per cent.
Indeed, Professor Irukwu, who thanked the eminent persons for honouring him, said it is disheartening that less than one per cent of Nigeria’s 198 million people is insured, adding that it will be good to get five per cent of the population under insurance cover.
Specifically, they identified the challenges of the insurance industry in Nigeria as: poor public perception and low level of awareness; inadequate product innovation; heavy reliance on policy- driven business; inadequate manpower; low financial capacity/capital base that limits ability to honour compensation; regulatory deficit; inflation; rising insecurity, which hampers distribution of insurance products in many parts of the country; and poor savings habit among Nigerians.
Going forward, they said the duty to save the insurance industry, which in turn will serve as a boost for the economy, belongs to all: Government, insurance stakeholders, the media and the people. While government is expected to ensure enabling environment with good policy, the media must educate the people on the importance of insuring their assets while the industry must be more creative in the way it engages the public.