Insurance Operators’ Agenda for New Finance Minister

President Muhammadu  Buhari, precisely  last week Wednesday, assigned portfolios to the ministers who will man the various sectors of the economy, which since his assumption of office had been under the control of permanent secretaries.

The appointments, no doubt, quenched the thirst of many Nigerians and the international community, who had been longing for constitution of federal cabinet to steer up economic activities in Nigeria.

Kemi Adeosun, a former commissioner for finance in Ogun State, was appointed the Minister of Finance, thereby putting to rest much thoughts and arguments among Nigerians on whose shoulder the onerous task of coordinating the entire Nigerian economy would rest upon.

As the London born Adeosun assumes office, expectations are high among insurance industry operators that the new minster would bring a major turnaround to the industry, which contributions to the National GDP has remained below one percent, with total premium income of just N300 billion, a far cry from the industry’s dream of becoming a trillion naira premium income market.

The insurers’ hopes for better tomorrow for their industry through the help of the new finance minister   was anchored on the president Buhari’s inaugural speech on the  caliber of persons he had chosen as his ministers in which he said:  “Since our inauguration on May 29, 2015, the Vice President and I have been mindful of the need to constitute a cabinet that will best deliver our expectations of a better country than we inherited.

We want to work towards a prosperous nation, respected for the right reasons, and whose citizens can hold up their heads anywhere in the world. And we are optimistic that bringing this set of ministers into the service of our country today is a step in the right direction, a timely move towards realising our positive goals for our country”.

Currently, Nigerian insurance industry is the second largest market in Africa having improved from its 5th position three years back according to the immediate past commissioner for insurance Mr. Fola Daniel, Who said the industry’s target is to occupy the first position, in the continent with a long gap to which other country that would come second.

The operators said this could be made possible by the support of the new finance minister.

Before now, the industry operators had noted that the Buhari’s administration has accorded high recognition to the  insurance industry in that  it has shown interest in driving insurance to the forefront of the financial services sector in Nigeria.

They noted that Buhari’s administration  is very sensitive to the fact that insurance is the key to building a virile economy and has therefore called for the contributions of the industry to the new transition committee set up by the administration.

Describing this as first in history of insurance in Nigeria, the insurers said Buhari’s administration holds a lot for them.

With this kind of faith and hope in the administration, the insurers have lined up a number of issues they expect the new minister of finance to do in order to improve on the industry’s premium generation.

According to the Chairman Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) Mr. Godwin Wiggle, the new minister of finance should support the insurers in their current eagerness to partner with his ministry and work together to see ways of growing the industry along with the economy.

He said the minster in the partnership, should just like the insurers themselves, strive to see how to make the industry contribute meaningfully to the GDP of the economy.

In summary, the NIA chairman said: the new minster should accord regard to insurance as much as she regards banks. This according to him would stir up activities in the industry.

Managing Director, Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation ( NAIC), Mr. Bde Opadokun said the new minister of finance should help insurers to actualise the communique raised by the industry at the insurance summit held by the industry in Abuja December last  year .

According to him, the communique is a kind of blue print of what the industry needs to do to take its rightful position in Nigerian economy.

He noted that some recommendations in the communique such as increase in level of insurance education, rebranding of the industry and its activities, increase in number of professionals  and positioning of the industry to create more employment will enhance insurance premium generation.

He said for his company NAIC, which is the only existing federal government owned insurance firm licensed to underwrite subsidised  agric insurance in Nigeria, both the minster of finance -Adeosun  and her  Agaric  counterpart  Audu Ogbeh  should  integrate Agric insurance into the agric value chain in Nigeria.

He said most importantly, the two ministries should ensure that subsidies for agrc insurance are paid  to farmers  as at when due.

According to him, the law establishing NAIC and agric insurance subsidy in Nigeria states that Agric insurance premium is to be paid in the following ratios,12.5 percent to be paid by the farmers, 37.5 percent to be paid by the state of the insured farmer while federal government pays 50 percent.

He said arrears of this  is being owed by government as he urged the new minsters to make provisions for the payment of the arrears of premium from agric insurance and  budget for payment of subsequent agric insurances for farmers.

Barrister Laide Osijo, a former president, Nigeria Corporation of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) said the minister of finance should look into budgetary provisions for insurance.

According to her, to make Nigerian insurance  industry grow premium -wise like its counterparts in other countries, the new minister should ensure that all government ministries, agencies and parastatals establish functional insurance desks, and make budgetary provisions for insurances of government assets for the agencies and mandate heads of these agencies  to provide proof of payment of all government insurances.

She also said the new minister of finance should champion the course of making government regulation on insurance premium collection – ‘no premium no cover’, which implementation has been on since January 1, 2013 work  by ensuring that premium for all government insurances including  Group Life Insurance is paid in due time.

She noted that government is the biggest spender in the economy and if government does not pay any industry for any service rendered, that industry will be in a big problem.

According to her, for several years, government had remained the biggest debtor to the industry and some of the debts are now bad debts to the detriment of the operators.

She urged the new minister to ensure that the issue of heavy indebtedness to the industry by government is a history in order to enhance the operations of the insurance firms providing these services and improve on the contributions of the industry to the GDP of the economy.

Osijo also wants the finance minister to look into the constitution of board of insurance industry regulator the National Insurance Commission so that stake holders and insurance professionals from the Nigeria Insurers Association, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) will have a place and say in the commission. This according to her will have positive impact on the performance of the commission.

She said the minister should ensure that industry stakeholders such as insurance underwriters and brokers are among the board members to make their contributions to the decisions of the board.

According g to her, inclusion of the stake holders into the board of NAICOM will help to develop the market and guard against the commission giving them rule anyhow.

She also wants the new minister to empower women insurers and consider giving them the position of Insurance commissioner.

According to her, there are many well qualified female insurers that  if given the chance, will put things right in the industry but regretted that nobody gives them chance.

She said even in the constitution of board of NAICOM, women are not given enough chance  as she expressed  her belief that the industry would fare better if women are given chance to contribute their quota in the development of the industry by placing them in leadership positions.

THISDAY checks revealed that since the history of the insurance industry in Nigeria, no single woman has occupied leadership position in the  two major institutions that control activities and decision making in the industry.

These two bodies are NAICOM and Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA). The above two bodies paddle the industry’s canoe, NAICOM on government and regulatory side and NIA on operators’ side.

Osijo particularly wants the new minster to give women chance to occupy leadership position in NAICOM in government’s next choice for insurance commissioner.

Generally, insurers said they are optimistic the finance minister is capable of meeting their demands given her background as an investment banker and horizon of experience in the finance world.

Source: Thisday