Insurance claims: The travails of citizen Obuseh

Insurance
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February 26, 2006/punch

 

 

 

Quite a number of people, including chief executives of insurance companies and yours sincerely, had criti- cised the timing of the current reforms in the sector. The Chief Emmanuel Chukwulozie-led National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) was particularly accused of being in a hurry to clone similar reforms in the banking industry.


The reforms had, indeed, ruffled some feathers. Several questions were raised. Some of the insurance operators had argued that a good insurance firm does not need to bother itself with a huge shareholders’ fund before it can meet its obligations as at when due. The argument was that what insurance firms needed to do to put smiles on the faces of their clients in times of trouble and sorrow, was to pool resources with other parties including the reinsurance firms.


But apparently drawing a profound inspiration from the success of the reforms in the banking sector, the Commissioner for Insurance told me in an encounter with him late last year, that nothing would stop the ongoing of reforms which are designed to rid the industry of charlatans and non-conformists to the laid down rules.

Whoever has any cause to criticise the commissioner over his resolve to implement the reform agenda needs to listen to the tale of woes of citizen Edward Obuseh. The pathetic story of Obuseh, who has a policy with one of the insurance firms jostling for relevance in the present dispensation, has vindicated those saying that although the Nigerian insurance industry could boast of highly experienced and thoroughbred professionals, the industry is replete with some operators who are anything but honest.


I was supposed to be a guest of the Managing Director of an insurance company, which has its head office in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Tuesday, February 21, 2006. I had to wait endlessly at the reception because I was told that my host was busy. About 40 minutes later, the company’s premises was besieged by a group of court bailiffs, including some armed policemen. Their mission was to effect a court judgement against the insurance firm.

Having waited for what seemed an eternity, I became nervous and the journalist in me prompted me to listen to the story as told by Obuseh and punctuated by his lawyer. Obuseh, whose company deals in haulage business, explained that trouble started when the goods he was conveying to the Northern part of the country, on behalf of a food manufacturing firm, were stolen by thieves. According to him, he quickly notified his insurance firm for compensation. He lamented that the insurance company, had, till date, refused to perform its role as risk bearers. He claimed that even, in spite of a judgement on September 9, 2002, against the insurance company, the claims were not settled.


“After much persuasion by the company, my lawyer decided to reduce the claim from N11.5million to N10million,”Obuseh stated, adding that instead of redeeming the N10million, the insurance firm headed for the court to fight the claims, but the suit was thrown out on August 1, 2003. Responding to the allegation, the image maker of the company, which lost the final legal battle at the Supreme Court on February 8, 2006, accused the customer of over-dramatising the problem. Obuseh had claimed that he has lost a contract with the beverage firm for his failure to pay for the goods lost in transit. At the end of the day, the company failed to convince me that it was serious and ready to wipe the tears of the unfortunate client with whom it played the hide-and-seek game for over three years.

Tension was still rising by the time I left the scene as the combative bailiffs engaged some officials of the company in a war of words. The appointment with the MD was also cancelled because the chief executive was said to have lost the right frame of mind to grant any interview.

One may, to some extent, agree with the defaulting firm that Obuseh’s case was being over dramatised, but the fact remains that all is not well with the insurance industry. This is one of the reasons why the regulatory authorities appeared unyielding in their resolve to push the reforms. Can the confidence of the public be sustained with the way some companies continue to renege on their promises with impunity? Time will certainly tell.

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