Dr. Abubakar Sani, the new Chairman of the Governing Board of the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), is an Insurance Broker and Actuarial Consultant. The 1981 Actuarial Science graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in this interview with Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief of Vanguard Newspaper, said that he would open up the insurance industry space to accommodate companies with small capitals in his drive to ensure greater insurance penetration in the country.
What experience are you bringing on board that would help you in delivering on your mandate as the Chairman of the Board of NAICOM?
I worked with Crusader Insurance. I worked with Afribank Insurance Brokerage. I am a member of the Chartered Insurance of Nigeria. I have worked in the insurance industry for over 35 years, in various insurance companies and then I started an insurance brokerage firm. I registered about three. I initiated the last one and owned it with other directors, but I owned it substantially.
In my career, I was the one that started freight insurance policy for the Nigerian Rail Corporation, around 1989. It was very successful in providing comfort for those transporting their cargoes.
I am also a member of the Institute of Actuaries of Nigeria. I am a member of Benefits, Trust management and Council members of these organizations.
I see my appointment as Chairman of the Board of Nigeria Insurance Commission (NAICOM) as a call to duty. I am happy because of the trust and confidence that the federal government has found me worthy to repose in me as Chairman of the respectable Insurance Commission.
The day that we were inaugurated, the Minister
of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, gave us marching orders to uplift insurance industry in the country. I am going to anchor all my strategies towards lifting up the industry by making NAICOM, the regulatory body to become formidable and operate in such a way that we will realize its mandate.
We will ensure a good corporate governance in NAICOM for the benefits of insurance stakeholders and market players in helping to realize the objectives of the organization.
In addition, I will also ensure that we are united, strong and work towards a strong NAICOM that can effectively supervise and regulate the relevant stakeholders in the insurance industry.
What strategies will you adopt to uplift the insurance industry in the country?
We are going to enforce professional code of ethics among the players. We will enforce the compulsory insurance and tackle the menace of fake insurance in the country and ensure compliance with regulatory rules and laws as provided by the Insurance Act of 1997.
I am happy to have a Complaints Bureau and we are not going to relent. We are going to take seriously, any complaint that is brought against any company or individual in the industry by their clients.
This will add to the confidence in the insurance industry in the country. It is part of our strategy for confidence building.
Insurance has great potentials to contribute significantly to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We are currently at less than 1 per cent. I will work hard to raise the contribution to the GDP.
In some other climes, a single person would take as many as five insurance policies. In those places, the people go after insurance firms, not the insurance companies running after the people because insurance is a necessity in all aspects of life. We want that to happen in this country. Insurance is very important to everyone: the high and the low.
As a player in the Nigerian insurance industry, what do you consider as the major problems of the industry?
One major problem of the industry is lack of confidence and trust, especially given that insurance is a contract, a promise to alleviate somebody’s suffering in the event of any calamity-between a company and the policy holder.
The problem is that some insurance companies are not forthcoming when anything happens. This has given insurance a bad name over the years. But our Board will ensure that this will be a thing of the past, by ensuring that legitimate claims are paid by insurance companies.
We will sanction any deviant to serve as example. Where necessary, we will revoke licences of practitioners to serve as deterrent to others. Insurance is about contracts and those contracts have to be honoured . There must be a regulator to discipline players in the industry and ensure the sanctity of the contracts. We need a strong and formidable institution to do this. We will ensure that NAICOM, under our supervision does its job, effectively.
Insurance agents are often rebuffed because members of the public are not confident that in the event that they have to make claims, the claims will be paid.
In insurance, we have a very long chain. The insurance agents are young people that have been trained to go round and canvass for people to take insurance policies. They go around to sell insurance policies. They form a bridge between members of the public and the insurance companies. They link members of the public with the insurance companies and indeed they are doing great jobs.
Their jobs end when they link you up with the company from which you buy a policy. When the company sells you the policy, everything is
clearly spelt out. When they link you up, you relate directly with the insurance company. They are paid based on commission. It is a full-time job, not only in our clime but even in other economies.
As NAICOM Chairman, how will you make insurance more acceptable to Nigerians?
We will give insurance the massive publicity that it deserves. We will also work with industry players to evolve some of the products that will make it more acceptable to a larger number of members of the Nigerians public, especially those suited to our environment and the peculiar needs of our people.
I am happy that there are now some insurance companies that are registered as faith-based companies, like the “Takaful” , which are helping in deepening insurance penetration, especially in the Northern Nigeria, where some people believe that insurance is against their faith. Now we have “Takaful,” which is in conformity with their faith- as it operates based on profit sharing. We will encourage more of such companies.
In addition, we will come out with policies that will open up the insurance space for more categories of players. This time around, players should not be bothered about huge capital. We don’t want insurance companies to be worrying about large share capital.
We want various classes of players as against having only giant companies with huge capitals.
We will segment the insurance companies into various layers so that different sizes of companies can play at various levels. We will emphasize risk-based insurance. That, I believe, will deepen insurance penetration. By so doing, we will have more people invest in the industry and to also protect their assets.
Before your appointment, NAICOM was working
on the compulsory insurance especially of public buildings. How do you intend to assist the commission in enforcing this segment of insurance?
The provisions for compulsory insurance of such buildings are enshrined in the Insurance Act 1997. We will enforce implementation by way of collaborating with enforcement agencies, just like it is done in the case of Third Party Insurance. We will collaborate with the Fire Service to ensure its implementation. There may be other professional bodies and agencies that may be brought in to ensure a smooth enforcement of that law.
Most Nigerians are employed in the informal sector of the economy. What are your plans to bring such people into the insurance net?
We have provisions for Micro Insurance. As the name implies, Micro Insurance is designed to meet the needs of people in that sector to ensure that in deepening insurance in the country, all segments of the society are carried along. We will encourage players to come up and obtain licences to operate at the micro level.
A major problem of many federal government agencies is the relationship between boards and their managements, especially when they work across purposes. How do you plan to relate with the management of NAICOM, in order to effectively carry out its mandate?
Our relationship is spelt out. Ours is to make policies for the betterment of the insurance industry. The management is to execute or implement such policies. We have different roles to play. There is no conflict over that because everyone is assigned his roles.