Fires, Markets and Insurance


Wednesday, February 05, 2020  / 05:00PM  /By Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon  / Header Image Credit: Vanguard News

If you have been shocked, surprised, saddened and even angered by the fire incidents in our markets across the country, you are just human, and that is understandable. However, risk managers, safety professionals, insurance underwriters, environmental experts and business thinkers are "sympathetically upset" that their warnings continue to be ignored, disregarded and discounted by stakeholders in the markets namely shop renters, shop lessors, shop owners and owners of the buildings as well as government agencies. 


Naturally, I join all well-meaning Nigerians to console those who have lost loved ones, their life savings and investments and face an uncertain future. Yet, knowing from experience that most insurance policyholders today were victims of past losses and damages, it becomes necessary to share these few thoughts on the appropriate simplified recovery plan.


Working with the Governments


Remedial actions of governments across the country after the fire incidents to give relief to victims and their families are commendable. However, the larger issues have to do with those strategic actions that governments need to take to avert the next fire incident or make the process of recovery less painful and burdensome to those concerned. 


As primary actors in these markets, the governments, both in terms of their responsibility to citizens and revenue, need to do the following:


1. Conduct an assessment of ALL markets (the affected markets and those not affected) with risk management experts to determine the basis for an appropriate fire management plan;


2. Involve the Federal Fire Service in the process of assessment and ensure fire fighting equipment, like fire detectors and fire extinguishers, are installed, with designated persons trained to use and maintain them before the next fire outbreak;


3. Enforce compliance with relevant laws regarding such facilities (markets, schools, hotels and hospitals) in line with Fire Service Act 2004 and Insurance Act 2003, which requires public buildings to undergo assessment and obtain Fire Certificate and Insurance against public liabilities respectively; 


4. Create enlightenment programmes that will constantly inform and alert users of the markets about the need to be cautious while looking out for machines that are dysfunctional and might cause a fire.


The role of Insurance Companies


As the ugly experiences of these fire incidents in our markets have occurred, many of us have questioned the role of insurers concerning enlightening the traders (shop renters, shop owners) and managers of the markets.


Indeed, insurers should engage in regular enlightenment campaigns in and around the markets in response to the recent experiences in markets across the country.


However, the truth that we must all hear is that our markets do not meet the standard assessment indices to qualify for insurance cover against fire!


Like Fire Service, insurers would want to see that facilities used as markets have basic fire prevention and fire fighting equipment. Do our markets today have them? Certainly not.


The absence of fire fighting equipment explains why it would be difficult for professionally-run and brand-conscious insurers to consider providing insurance cover against fire and other perils for our markets.


A visit to any of our markets or plazas across the country reveals the risks, or rather threats, under which citizens live


To think that the cost of Fire Insurance is minimal relative to those of vehicles, life and credit yet stakeholders in the markets are uninterested, says a lot about the character of socio-economic value.

Living After The Fire


Survivors of fire incidents in our markets can move on with their lives because of the level of TRUST they enjoy with their colleagues. Usually, they recall that when it happened to Mrs. A, every trader in our product line contributed towards our comeback.


Quite often, the affected traders receive goods in credit, share spaces and get loans from their market associations and have come to TRUST this system over the years.


Even when the owners and managers of the markets meet the standards required by insurers and go ahead to obtain insurance cover, they would most likely be afraid of delays and denials (non-payment) of claims by insurers.


Until proper standardization of the markets has been put in place for credible insurers to provide appropriate insurance cover and pay claims when due, be sure that traders will continue to see their support system as most reliable.


Let us reset our commitment to improved standards of living by engaging relevant stakeholders NOW!


Who will do it? I strongly suggest the insurance industry as their overall contribution to the national discourse on fire.


Waiting for the shop renters and shoppers to be ready will not do it.


About The Author

Ekerete Olawoye Gam-Ikon, MNIM, CPP, is a management consultant with a specialization in Strategy and Insurance. He is available through e-mail

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