By Ebere Nwoji
The National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), at the weekend, engaged all the Chief executive officers of insurance firms in a major brainstorming session targeted at developing a road map that will enable the sector operators optimally harness opportunities existing in the sector for self -developmentÂ and better contributions to the national economy.
The session, organised at the instance of NAICOM, was the firstÂ Annual Insurers’ Committee RetreatÂ by the commission with the theme ‘Repositioning the Insurance Industry in Nigeria for self-actualisation and growth’ .
In his address at the retreat, the Commissioner for Insurance, Mohammed Kari, told the insurers that the objective of the gathering was to review theirÂ activities to determine the ways forward in addressing the challenges facing the sector.
“This retreat is therefore particularly focused at â€œRepositioning the insurance industry in Nigeria for self-actualisation and growthâ€. We are not ignorant of the huge potentials available for the industry to attain a lofty height within and outside the Nigerian economy. But these potential will remain only in our imaginations if we cannot as an industry take advantage of them. So for today and tomorrow, our presentations and deliberations will be geared towards achieving the singular objective of developing a roadmap to optimally harness these potentials,” Kari stated.
He said the idea of the Insurersâ€™ Committee which the industry borrowed from the Bankers Committee concept was to create a platform for the highest echelon of the insurance industry top management of NAICOM being the regulator and the Chief Executive Officers of insurance companies to dialogue on issues, challenges and proffer solutions for the way forward for the development of the insurance sector in Nigeria.
According to him, the committee, affords the industry the opportunity to reach certain decisions on the spot without having to defer to a superior authority.
He added that it also creates the avenue that enables both the operator and the regulator to walk on the same path and speak with one voice towards developing advocacy and interventions for the reshaping of the insurance system to meet the expectations of stakeholders.
Citing instance of a critical opportunity so far created by the committee and the need for personal attendance at the committee’s meetings by insurance chief executives,Â Kari said: “It is such opportunity that has enabled us to agree on the urgent need to re-brand the industry for our collective good. One would therefore expect that attendance at meetings and retreats of the committee will be an imperative and not an option for all members. It is sad to note that this is not the case. Even when notices for meetings and this particular retreat were given well in advance, some CEOs still find reasons not to be in attendance preferring instead to send representatives who would neither have the voice nor the mandate to either accept or disagree with a decision but only to report back to the CEO a narrative of what might transpired.”
He said this is unacceptable, further adding that henceforth, the commission, will not admit a representative of a CEO into any meeting or event called by it for CEOs only.
“You are either with us or absent against us. For the avoidance of doubts, let me remind you that the commission, is sufficiently busy in the office and could effectively regulate the industry from its offices without having to invite you to these interactions.Â We are here because we feel the need to involve the regulated in policy and initiative of the industry, but if it is becoming a burden or a nuisance to you, tell us and we would understand”.
He said the retreat was intended to go down in history as the forum where the Nigerian insurance sector got its groove back.
The commissioner, said he wasÂ optimistic that at the end of discussions, the sector would evolve a workable, achievable andÂ and practicable roadmap capable of elevating the status of the industry far above what currently prevails.
He further reminded the insurers that the gathering was aimed atÂ redefining operators’ collective future noting that the insurance sector hasÂ come short in contributing itsÂ expected share to national development and other expectations like evolving financial inclusion to financial services deprived part of the Nigerian population.
He also notedÂ that the retreat wouldÂ go a very long way in redefining the future of insurance and repositioningÂ it for self-actualisation in terms of growth and development.
Furthermore, he noted that in the last few years, the insurance industry, had witnessed series of changes owing to the new reforms embarked upon by NAICOM.
He listed theÂ reforms as financial reporting reforms, no premium no cover, corporate governance code, risk based supervision, information and communication technology advancement, financial inclusion, claims settlement, market conduct, expansion of distribution channels among others adding that all aimed at building confidence, trust and enhancingÂ market value.
He told the insurers that the changes are imperative and have had a considerable impact on efficiency, market structure and performance in the insurance industry.
“Suffice it to say that these reforms will not stop but continue. We shall continue to introduce new reforms and initiatives in line with international best practices in our march towards achieving our full potentials. As we all already know, insurance in Nigeria has under-performed the banking sector and even the recently established pensions sector. For us as the industry regulator and supervisor, we have chosen to elevate the regulatory ladder. We cannot therefore over emphasise the paramount importance for us to fashion a development plan for the repositioning of the sector”, the commission insisted.