The outcry by the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) that the industry is drowning in a cesspool of quack insurers and fake policies must be seen for what it really is, a wakeup call for the industry. It claimed that more than N40 billion is lost through this unwholesome process yearly
Even worse still is the claim by the professional body that half of the estimated 16 million vehicles on Nigerian roads are illegally covered as most of the policies are contracted by quacks and are therefore fake. Before this outburst, the industry in Nigeria had brought upon itself an abysmally poor public image that has continued, over the years, to stymie its growth and development. The sad aspect of it is that the challenge is eminently self-inflicted.
Before now, taking an insurance policy, especially for vehicle and other machineries, was considered something one does because it was required by law to avoid hassles by the relevant security agencies. The observable nonchalance is so pervasive that, on their own, most people will not bother to take policies. So, the third party cover is just to keep the law off ones hair.
And the reason for this is not far to seek. The process of making claims at the maturity of such policies is so laborious to say the least. And in more cases than not, the claims may not even succeed because it is at that stage that the insurers will begin to point out to the insured hidden conditions in fine prints he or she did not bother to read. That, anyway, was why it was couched in those illegible words. Most prospective consumers of insurance products, in particular those from the transport sector, know what they go through when they are involved in accidents or the vehicles are stolen. It is not always a pleasant experience.
It is for this reason that a section of the insuring public in the country find it laughable that NIA is talking about fake policies. If at all it exists, it is because there is market for it.
The truth about insurance companies is that they loathe the idea of paying claims even when one has fulfilled one’s own side of the bargain by paying premiums. This attitude on the part of the insurers may have changed recently in the light of the competitiveness of modern economic practices that have become internationalised. But like old habits that die hard, the consuming public, in their minds, still harbour that impression of insurance as a waste of resource.
If, as a genuine insurer, you are reluctant to pay claims at maturity, what then is the difference? Because quacks do the same. But are those third party policies really fake? This question becomes pertinent in the light of the fact that most of the policy papers bear the logo and other insignia of well-known and established insurance companies. Could it be that they are faking their own operations and for what reason?
This has been going on for a long time that it is, indeed, a surprise that NIA is just been roused from slumber and has suddenly seen the necessity of doing the needful to save the industry that is a key player in the economy from going under as a result of the inanities of a section of its practitioners.
The association said it is now ready to fight illicit acts in the industry which also, in our informed opinion, includes insider dealings that are even more dangerous. Because it entails the attendant risk of doing business with someone, a supposed genuine insurer, but who is actually out to take advantage of the gullibility and near ignorance on the part of the prospective client on matters relating to how insurance works, and for self -aggrandizement.
It is from this perspective that we commend the association for initiating the Nigerian Insurance Industry Portal (NIIP) which will provide a unified platform for the sale of the third party motor insurance.
According to NIA, the portal is expected to accommodate all its member- companies and serve as the authentic platform from which to sell third party insurance to Nigerians. That, in our view, will hopefully check quackery and insider dealings.
However, NIA may not be able to curb the prevalence of the act in the largely under-covered rural communities. But the platform will be a veritable starting point in the effort to cleanse the industry of most of the oddities it had acquired over the years on its journey. What NIA must do urgently is to try and win back the confidence of the insuring public that has devised other means of insuring itself other than the conventional insurance mode.