The Nigeria Insurers Association recently transferred its leadership baton to Mr. Eddie Efekoha as its 45th chairman. Ebere Nwoji highlights some of the challenges he will encounter as he pilots the affairs of the industry over the next two years

The umbrella body of insurance underwriters in Nigeria, the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA), recently lifted up its golden chain of leadership symbol from its immediate past president, Godwin Wiggle and lowered it on the neck of Mr. Eddie Efekoha, as its 45th president.

By so doing, the association has transferred its leadership baton to Efekoha who will henceforth oversee the affairs of the association for the next two years.
The exercise, which was perfected at the 45th annual general meeting of the association held in Lagos, has positioned Efekoha, who is also the Managing Director of Consolidated Hallmark Insurance, as the spokesman of Nigerian insurance operators both within and outside the country.

He is to champion the course of protecting and projecting the interest and image of the industry before the government and outside the shores of Nigeria as well as projecting the industry before the masses as industry worthy of their patronage.

The NIA, has as its objectives among other things to protect and advance the common interests of insurance operators in Nigeria by creating and sustaining a positive image for the insurance industry and contributing to legislation, and decisions made by the government and other public authorities in the best interest of the industry in particular and the national economy in general; to advise members on any action or proposed action by government or any other authority, in connection with any legislation or policy; to advise or consult with the government regarding any act or thing done or being contemplated by it or its agencies or other statutory bodies with regard to any matter relating to insurance business.

Other objectives of the NIA include to guide and assist members in complying with any statute, regulation, order and government directive relating generally to the business of insurance; to create better understanding of insurance by all sections of the community including the furtherance of knowledge and research on insurance and related matters and to collect, collate and disseminate statistical, economic and other information relating to Insurance; to maintain constant dialogue with other trade associations in the insurance industry with a view to fostering good relationships between them, the NIA as well as the insuring public, among others.
The task of ensuring that the association lives up to the above set objectives now rests on Efekoha’s shoulders.

As the Helsman of the Governing Council of the Association, which is the apex decision-making organ for the industry, Efekoha is to coordinate the activities of the various committees that make up NIA, which are Accident Offices Committee; Accounting Technical Committee; Information Technology Committee; Fire Offices Committee; Legal Committee; Life Offices Committee; Marine Offices Committee; Human Capital Management Committee as well as the Advisory Committees of the Council.

Taking up the association’s leadership mantle at this critical time when the industry needs most to increase insurance penetration across the country, grow its premium income and contribute significantly to the GDP of the economy, Efekoha has a number of challenges to face and these challenges, if well addressed, would reposition the industry and transform it to a trillion Naira market and a mega industry operating within the ambit of global best practices.

Prominent among these challenges is the need to effectively enforce the five compulsory insurance policies launched by the industry since the year 2009, which is expected to boost the premium income of the industry.

During the launch, which took place in the six geopolitical zones of the country, the operators and the regulator had projected that through the enforcement, the industry’s premium would grow from N260 billion premium level then to a trillion Naira by the year 2012, but failing to achieve this, the industry gave itself another five years grace saying that this would be achieved by the year 2017.

We are now in the year 2016, but the industry’s premium hovers around N350billion and has just one year left to achieve the set target.
Though a lot of underground work had been done to achieve this, Efekoha has to work hard to accomplish it.

He can go a long way to achieve the dream if his regime will succeed in blocking all the loop holes through which the industry’s premium leaks out to fake insurance operators.
Recent reports by the association saying that about 12 million vehicles plying Nigerian roads have fake insurance certificate is not to the industry’s credit.
The new NIA chairman is now faced with the challenge of making the industry’s Data base initiative to be effective in all the states of the federation not only on motor insurance but other insurances like marine insurance.

Also cases of collapsed buildings abound in different parts of the country with attendant loss of lives and property whereas the industry had projected that it will annually generate N10billion from compulsory builders insurance alone.
Efekoha should put on his thinking cap along with other council members of the association to ensure that he achieves this task of effective enforcement of the compulsory insurance policies.

The new NIA chairman should bring to practical reality the proposed collaboration with relevant government agencies like the federal and state Fire service, the road safety commission, the police and a host of them listed during the industry’s mega conference last year and speedy up action in working with them to help in fighting against activities of fake insurers. At the conference, it was revealed before the presence of fire service officials that the insurance act mandates insurers to pay one percent of their proceeds on fire insurance policy to the fire service authority to enable them procure ad maintain their equipment. The fire service officers are waiting earnestly when the industry will start fulfillment of this aspect of the industry’s law .

Again he should seek for connection from the right government especially the legislative arm to end the era of incessant encroachment into the industry’s various policies and transfer of them to other agencies outside insurance.

For nest acne, after taking away the workmen compensation from insurance the road safety commission is still eyeing third party motor insurance while aviation industry operators and their regulator are breathing hard to develop a special aviation insurance scheme for their passengers. Efekoha should collaborate with NAICOM to set up a strong industry lobby group that will guard against further encroachment into the industry by government.
He should also work towards making government to patronise the industry by insuring all its properties.

He should also align with the regulator in disciplining underwriters who still operate unprofessionally. It is true that the industry pays claims now, there are still few insurance firms that bring the industry’s image to disrepute by unnecessarily delaying payment of genuine claims and where they pay at the long run, they pay the insured person almost a quarter of what he ought to get hiding under the umbrella of some ambiguous clauses in the policy document there by leaving such insured disgruntled.
The new NIA chairman should seriously look into this to save the industry’s image from unnecessary dent.

He should also endeavour to educate his members on the need to publicise settled claims. There are a lot of claims that the members of the public are expected to hear how it was settled but to no avail but the public heard when the risk occurred .for instance, the status of the claims on Bristow helicopter that crashed into the lagoon last year is still not known.

Shortly after the crash, the underwriting firm and its broker told the media when confronted with the issue of the claims that the airline and the passengers were yet to file their claims.
Since then, nothing again has been heard on the claims, if the press asks the broker, it will refer them to the underwriting g firm who from all indications is not ready to talk about the issue.

Publicising paid claims is a big advertisement for the industry so if actually a company paid claims, it should let the public know about it.
But most underwriters will not disclose how a particular claim the public is interested in hearing about was settled. They will rather at the end of the year compile the total claims they paid in a year and release the same to the press. But the public is more interested in hearing and reading each of the claims paid and to whom they were paid.

There are a lot of other challenges waiting for the new NIA chairman but from the testimony of his professional colleagues, Efekoha appears to be equal to the task.
His professional colleagues said he has some outstanding qualities among other leadership qualities he has which will enable him perform and that is integrity, sincerity and blunt about truth.

Already, in his acceptance speech, Efekoha has expressed his awareness and recognition of the above challenges mentioned when he said his administration would be preoccupied by effort to address four key issues in the industry.

These four key priority areas are:
• Ensuring engagement of the industry stakeholders with policy makers at the Judiciary, the Legislature and other relevant agencies of the government, as well as regulatory institutions and industry players.
• Enforcing market discipline amongst key industry players, which will involve engagement with colleagues and partners in the industry to encourage market development and continuity in the industry.
• Review of the NIA constitution to make it more dynamic in response to the changing business environment.
• Consolidating on οther current projects embarked upon by the Association most important of which is the NIA Building Project.
Efekoha said his administration will deal with these matters to the best of its abilities but pleaded that where there is mistakes the operators should forgive .
He commended the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) for instituting the Insurer Committee.

He also expressed optimism that the insurance industry at this time would benefit a lot from the openness to dialogue with the regulator, the NAICOM as a means to addressing some of the ills of the market today for long term sustainability, growth and ease of regulation.
This, he said is in line with the theme of his chairmanship as he encouraged NIA members to continue to participate actively in the committee meetings and programme.

He said the NIA, has and will continue to remain true to its legacy as an institution that exists to champion the cause of the insurance industry and will ensure that the founders’ sense of purpose will be upheld by the members at all times.

Efekoha, said his two years tenure as the deputy chairman of the Association, has given him ample opportunity to appraise and fully understand the dynamics and workings of the system adding that he considered his election as a call to duty as well as a call he is prepared for and willing to undertake.

“Leadership is all about shared vision and responsibility. I want to assure you that during my tenure, I intend to build on the achievements of my predecessors in office. I am aware of the fact that the assignment is daunting therefore I call on all my colleagues to join me to reflect on our past, critically assess the present and look forward to the future with greater hope and enthusiasm.

Efekoha, said his team was fully aware that there is a need for the industry stakeholders to come together to save the insurance industry now more than ever, observing that the economic space is shrinking and businesses are facing greater threats; and the insurance sector is not insulated from developments in the global economic space.

“It therefore behooves on us to respond quickly to the changing dynamics of the market space so that we do not go extinct in the face of the global pressures on our businesses. Indeed there is no better time than now to strengthen the association and reposition it for the task ahead”, he stated.

Aside his naturally endowed leadership qualities, his sound academic background and years of experience in the industry s a big advantage.
Efekoha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Insurance and a Masters degree in Business Administration both from the University of Lagos.

Since graduation, he had worked in various capacities at insurance underwriting and brokerage firms such as Everyman Insurance Brokers, Hogg Robinson Nigeria, and Glanvill Enthoven & Co (Nig.) where he left as Executive Director (Technical) in 1997 to pioneer the effective take off of Fountain Insurance Brokers Ltd as its Managing Director/Chief Executive.

He was the Vice Chairman/CEO of Consolidated Risk Insurers Plc before his present position as the Managing Director of Consolidated Hallmark.
A Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institutes of London and Nigeria, Efekoha has attended several local and international courses in both Insurance and Management.