Thank you very much for prompting us to make it happen; also my other friends in the house, I thank you all for coming/ of course, my coming into office as NIA chairman happened in the middle of the first wave of COVID-19.
So, that really defined and disrupted a number of things-the usual, so, with the global pandemic, it was not possible for us to have the usual inaugural engagement.
We have to do it exclusively online. And the whole world has been grappling with the aftermath of the pandemic. Yes, we thank God were lucky in the country that the worst fears have not played out, but that is not to say that we are totally out of the wood.
We are currently witnessing what is going on in India, where the deadly second wave has practically crippled the country. So, that basically, I would say, made it very difficult for us to put together the usual interaction together. It was certainly not because we didn’t want to or that we didn’t have sufficient regard or respect for the group or the association. So, it was more circumstantial; so accept our apologies for that.
It’s been an incredible experience for me, I should say; it felt like I had been on it for ten years, because things happened with frenetic speed, even though we had a very clear-cut road map.
The beauty about the leadership structure at the NIA is that there is a lot of continuity. If I take myself as an example, I served as an assistant treasurer, then I served as a treasurer, and I served for two years as a vice chairman, so, I was part and parcel of the leadership before I took over as the chairman. I remembered clearly in 2017, the leadership of the NIA crafted together what we called the road map for the industry. We worked with the KPMG and we identified the critical levers to work on to ensure that we achieve the lofty objectives that we have set for the insurance industry.
One of those levers that we identified is recapitalization even before the conversation with the regulator, so we knew a well strong capitalized industry was necessary for the sort of growth ambition that we had.
Again, we had our own sight on re capitalization based on best practice by working with accountants, actuaries, etc. I am saying this because it is one of the most topical issues we have been dealing with.
As an industry, we fully support the proper recapitalization of the operators. It is part and parcel of our own agenda, and it should be done in line with best practices. An interesting thing is that we actually did not disagree with the regulator contrary to impressions that may have been created. The main issue which is the problem is the fact that the current insurance legislation is outdated and it made it impossible to do the sort of things that ought to be done even the proper definition of capital.
That now takes me to the second items we have been working on for the seven to eight months now. We have been working with the National Assembly to modernize the primary insurance legislation. You are aware of the development with the consolidated insurance Bill; again we are working with NAICOM to ensure that the final law that comes out provides the basis for our legislation to be able to respond to the legislative environment of the 21st century.
And because we have had a number of engagements with the regulator, we have come to understand that the constraints that they actually have is the law, which we are now working together to remove the bottlenecks.
You are aware that it has gone through the second readings, and we have had Public Hearing on it, and it is now going through…you knows, the process of law-making is very cumbersome. Apart from the regulator, lost adjusters and the brokers, there are a number of other stakeholders that came in to make their own presentations. Now, they are going through the process of reconciling all the positions, and hopefully, it will be able to get to the floor of the National Assembly.
We also witnesses to the event of October, last year, in terms of the #ENDSARS riots and the unfortunate things that happened. It led to significant disruptions of social, economic activities and the loss of lives.
Of course, when things like that happened, insurance is at the center , both left and right, and as a result, we had quite a number of insured businesses that were affected. I think, at the last count, we had 2,000 notifications of insured loss which some of it are currently going through adjustments, documentations.
At the last submissions that we had from our members, we had over N4.5 billion as compensations on accounts of the claims that have been completed and documented and discharged.
Of course, as those cases are completed, we have the commitment of our members that payments will be made timely. The experience we had is that unscrupulous people try to use the opportunity to try to defraud the insurance industry. We are also dealing with that, and luckily, we have a mechanism in place to be able to filter those submissions and determine the ones that are inappropriate.
As a result, it is difficult for motorists with fake certificates to get away with fake certificate when they are pulled over by a policeman or a federal road safety corps, using an ordinary phone that USSD code can return the status of the insurance certificate that you are carrying and even when you are not carrying any insurance certificate at all.
Following the success with that, we also extend it to the Marine Model. Again, that is one area where we‘ve had a lot of leakages, and we are working with the Nigerian Customs Service, and the Central Bank of Nigeria; we have now gone live with the NIA Marine Model which is fully integrated with the national trade portal and all the banks now, before they issue their FORM …, they can validate whether the Marine Certificate that the importer is presenting is actually genuine certificate or something that is faked.
Also, one other project that we have been working on is the AIO 2020. The last time it was held is in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2019, where the Federal Republic of Nigeria was granted the hosting right for what was to be the 2020 AIO.
As you know, it usually take place in May , but unfortunately, because of the pandemic and the travel restrictions, and the fact that international travel was practically grounded brought complete halt and it could not hold last year. Of course, we have remain in constant contacts with the AIO Secretariat in Cameroon, and right now, what we have agreed with the Secretariat is to hold it in the first week of September, 2021. Again, we hope that much more progress would have been made with the efforts at tackling the COVID, and international travel would have resume fully, we have seen what it is, we have seen the development in vaccinations even India, the largest COVID -19 vaccines manufacturers in the world, we have seen what they are going through, so, we have agreed with the AIO Secretariat it is a hybrid programme that will hold from 4th-8th September 2021
So, we will continue to solicit your full support in giving our guests the most exciting Nigerian experience as we seek to showcase the best of Nigeria.
Of course, one issue that we have been trying to address is fake motor certificates. As you all know, maybe out of 14 million or 18 million motor vehicles we have in the country, only a fraction of that actually carries genuine insurance policies.
The industry actually made efforts to authenticate policies issues by member companies and we have collaborated with security agencies- police, road safety and the rest such that they now have access to verify on the spot the genuineness of your insurance certificate, and it’s been a very successful project and at the last count, we have covered more than a million of those 14 million vehicles, and it is becoming more difficult for motorists to get away with fake certificate when they are pulled over by a policeman or a federal road safety corps, using an ordinary phone that USSD code can return the status of the insurance certificate that you are carrying and even when you are not carrying any insurance certificate at all.
We have also carried the message of compulsory insurance to the state governments. We are working with the Lagos State government in implementing the Lagos State Building Law; we have had several meetings with them and we are working on the modalities, we are learning from the mistakes of the past, and we are sure what we are presenting now is a unified front for the industry rather than what we had before where an operator went in with disparate codes and approaches that used to be the breeding ground for all sorts of bad things we all complained about in the industry.
The same thing on the Third –Part Motors, we are working with the states government and I think we have already concluded with three or four states including Kaduna, Kogi and Ogun State, to formalize the issuance of proper Third- Party Insurance policies as a prerequisite for vehicles registration, and we are using this as a test case and proof of concepts , and our plans is to extend that to all the states of the federation.
Clearly, there are things that we are trying to do to develop the market and to ensure that more importantly, the issue of motorists and the liability for third-parties; we try to modernize that; so hopefully, as much as we get the nods of the states, that code actually provides a solid platform. You can imagine, even if it is 50 percent of the 18 million vehicles that we have in the country that we are able to bring into the insurance space, the confidence of the insuring public will improve and it will also have a spin of effects on the other areas of insurance.
Of course, as you know, I am also the Chairman of the Council of Bureau for the ECOWAS Brown Cards, which basically provides cover for ECOWAS risks for the Nigerian motorists. Again, the major obstacles that we have been trying to de-bottle neck, is the issue of legislation. We have made the provisions in the proposal in the current Consolidated Insurance Bill that is being review and being passed by the legislators.
When that is completed, the very embarrassing situations that motorists experience when they travel across the border to Benin, Lome, to Ghana, will become a thing of the past, because it will now be standardized and it will now be automatic such that the moment you buy your third-party policies in Nigeria. You really don’t need to buy an additional ECOWAS risks if you need to travel across the border, you are already covered. That is the key project we are working on in terms of Nigeria National Bureau, and the ECOWAS Brown Card.
Of course, in terms of the physical infrastructure, where we are now is a temporary facility and hopefully, maybe at our next meeting, we will be in our branded NIA House which we expect to be completed in the quarter three of quarter four of this year, in Victoria Island. As you all know, the NIA Secretariat at Saka Tinubu street have been turned into a modern befitting facility, and of course, you all will be part of the opening ceremony when it happen.
One area which we have also devoted our attention over time, is confidence building and the perception of our members. We have concluded that one of the critical dependence is the fact that as insurers, we have to live up to our expectation – our primary responsibility, and what is our primary obligation? It is to pay claims.
So, we are focusing a lot of attention now on discipline among our members. We have an active committee on Discipline and Dispute resolution. That committee has been strengthened and empowered, and we now go beyond just the usual referee, or the usual chastisement, to actually taking active steps to discipline erring members.
As we speak, we have a few of our members that have been suspended, and some are already on the verge of expulsion and in a few weeks when the whole process is completed, we will come to you with the full outcome of what we have done. I think it is important to send a message to the public that when you carry the NIA badge, you count for something.
There is no amount of marketing that you can do if the experience of the insuring public, probably the only time that they interact or test our service is when there is a claim. So, we focus a lot on that, and we are holding our members accountable, and it is a subject that we discuss every month when we hold our Governing Council meeting.
We believe it’s an important step, and once we do that and we do the internal house –cleaning, then, we can go back to the public awareness programme that we started sometimes ago because we believe you can’t go to the public and say all the good things that you are able to do when you still have internal issues that tends to undermines those efforts.
In short, these are some of the things that have kept us busy in the last seven to eight months, and I would say it would define the remainder of the term.
Like I said because of the structure of the leadership process, NIA is a continuum, so there is really; we have a project- the NIA Building project was started two to three years ago. The strategic plans that we are following now was developed in 2017. So, it is a guiding document for whoever comes in, even though you have a number of strategic initiatives, this will falls into certain aspects at a particular point in time. For instance, we didn’t envisage the issue of recapitalization, a ten years (2017-2027), and the review of the law provided for in our document; it was going to come after every other thing has been put in place