Insurance

COVID-19 palliatives creating new opportunities for insurance sector

President Buhari

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Insurance sector response to challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic seem to be helping in bridging the gulf between the industry and its stakeholders. Chuks Udo Okonta in this report examines the palliatives offered by the industry and immediate and future gains to be derived from them.

The insurance took a novel step to align with other good spirited corporate and private individuals who joined hands with the government to battle the COVID-19 pandemic by developing different forms of palliatives to soothe the pains and mitigate risks associated with the pandemic.

To ensure the industry makes a lasting impact, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) brought together operators from the different arms of the industry to pool resources together to offer free life insurance cover worth N11 billion for a maximum of 5000 health workers who are at the frontline in the fight against the pandemic. While this was going on, individual operators also came up with their palliatives to meet the needs of the less privileged in their communities.

Provision of N11 billion free life cover for 5000 frontline health workers

Living up to their core business practice, the insurance sector supported the Federal Government by providing N11 billion free life insurance cover to the frontline health workers employed in the fight against COVID-19.

The cover according to the Commissioner for Insurance, Sunday Thomas, will enable families or named beneficiary of any Medical Doctor that dies in the line of duty to claim N3 million; Pharmacists/Nurses N2 million and others N1 million.

The premium which is in the sum of N112,500,000 for the cover was fully paid by the Industry in line with the principle of No Premium No Cover, Thomas said, stressing that a total of 19 Life Insurance companies have been accredited to provide the Cover.

According to him, the cover was for a period of 12 months effective April 14, 2020 and that in event of any fatality, the relevant agencies of government will immediately advise the lead Underwriter – FBNInsurance Limited who will make request for relevant documents needed for payment of the claim.

Provision of food and other materials to the public

Presenting food packs to a beneficiary

Expressing its care for the public, AIICO Insurance embarked on a relief programme that entails the daily feeding of over 130 people who are within underprivileged communities in Lagos amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Head, Strategic Marketing & Communications Department of the company, Segun Olalandu, noted that as socially responsible organisation, the Company has seen the need for this Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) intervention to complement Government’s efforts aimed at ensuring access to food supply while restricting movements to contain the spread of the virus.

He said Company has made provisions to feed over 130 people daily for 14 days. These include women, children and young adults. It has collaborated with DreamsFromTheSlum (a Non-Profit Organisation with a commitment to humanitarian causes) and Chicken Republic, a retail fast food company, for logistics and implementation.

According to Abimbola Shobanjo, AIICO’s Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Manager, “The movement restriction has affected the ability of these people to pursue their day-to-day livelihoods. These are mostly petty traders and artisans in impoverished communities who now find it extremely difficult to provide for their families and dependants. We aim to provide daily meals to support them during this challenging period.”

The Company also believes that it is one of the ways to encourage them to stay at home and to maintain social distancing to avoid the spread of the virus; the food is delivered to them at their various homes. The distribution is being done under safe and appropriate hygiene conditions to protect both the officials and the beneficiaries.

The Managing Director/CEO, Babatunde Fajemirokun, stated, “We are prioritizing the needs of the vulnerable and less privileged in these extraordinary times in line with our commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal on ‘Zero Hunger’. We will continue to pursue causes and drive initiatives to ameliorate the impact of the lockdown, through this season and beyond.”

Another underwriting firm, FBNInsurance Limited, also provided food items (Rice, Beans and Semolina) to 6,000 Lagosians in Ajegunle, Iwaya and Agege areas of the state. It said the donation was designed to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the less privileged in the area.

Donation of an ambulance to Lagos State Government

As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and contribution towards flattening the curve of the health hazard caused by the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, FBNInsurance and its subsidiary, FBN General Insurance demonstrated commitments to their community by donating an ambulance to the Lagos State Government as well as food items to the needy communities within Lagos.

While presenting the ambulance to the Lagos State Government, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of FBNInsurance, Valentine Ojumah, explained that the gesture was to support the State Government’s effort in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the state. He further stated that both companies in collaboration with the other insurance companies was putting together resources to provide an insurance cover for medical personnel who are in the frontline of the fight against the virus.

Receiving the ambulance on behalf of the State Government, the wife of the Governor, Dr. Mrs. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu alongside the Lagos State Chief of Staff, Mr. Tayo Ayinde applauded FBNInsurance for the donation and assured them that the Lagos State Government would put the ambulance to adequate use to serve the purpose. Dr. Sanwo-Olu said the donation would also help the State Government in the management of other health related issues.

The Managing Director of FBN General Insurance, a subsidiary of FBN Insurance, Bode Opadokun used the occasion to urge Nigerians to adhere strictly to the precautionary measures as stipulated by the medical practitioners to flatten the curve of the virus.

Premium give-back to policyholders

Leadway Assurance Company Limited has announced a giveback for its Personal Motor Comprehensive Insurance policyholders.

The “give-back” is the equivalent of two weeks premium, to policyholders who were constrained to ground their vehicles in strict compliance of the lockdown order by the Federal Government, in alignment with the World Health Organization’s social distancing recommendations.

Commenting on the company’s gesture, the Managing Director, Tunde Hassan-Odukale, said “the lockdown has had far reaching effects across the country, challenging both individuals and businesses. People are watching and will remember how businesses treated them during this crisis. Our decision to provide the “give back” to our loyal comprehensive motor insurance policyholders will go a long way to support customers experiencing unforeseen pressure on their finances at this time. This is another way we are thanking our clients for supporting the FG to flatten the curve by staying at home.”

The value of the airtime, equivalent of 50% of a month’s premium, will be credited to customers by the end of April, 2020 following confirmation of customer details. Customers with financial burdens can also call to discuss extended grace periods for missed payments, payment plans, and waiving late fees and penalties.

Further commenting, the Commercial Director for General Insurance, Gboyega Lesi said, “As society works together to slow the spread of COVID-19, there are more people at home, driving less and having fewer accidents. Given this reduction in road risks due to little or no driving, it is only fair that some premium be refunded so that the customer does not lose at the end of the day. It is the responsible thing to do in the face of a pandemic-inspired economic lockdown. We hope that this support will in some way help our motor insurance clients deal with the rough patches.”

Before this support, the Company had made a sizeable donation to the health sector, joining other like-minded insurers to provide a N5 billion Life cover for the frontline workers helping the Nation to combat this pandemic. The leading insurer also donated Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) materials, COVID-19 test kits and foodstuff to the tune of N135 million as part of its efforts to support optimal testing and treatment of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.

Another insurer, WAPIC Insurance Plc., offered customers refunds on their insurance premium during the lockdown.

The company noted that most drivers who had paid their premium, were staying at homes without driving their vehicles due to the lockdown.

Speaking on behalf of the company, Mary Agah, said the refund was meant to empower customers who otherwise have not been able to drive their vehicles to earn a living during this hard time.

She emphasized that Wapic was passing the benefit of reduced motor insurance claims to all its existing policy holders.

Claims payments

AIICO Insurance paid out about N1.7 billion to its customers in fulfilment of contractual obligations covering claims, benefits, loans and maturity payments, a scorecard detailing the firm’s performance within the first 21 days of COVID-19 lockdown, has revealed.

The firm’s Executive Director Retail Business, Sola Ajayi; stating that: “Within the first 3 weeks of the lockdown, we have paid N907 million in life insurance benefits to 1,441 individual customers and over N480 million to 10,275 Annuitants who are on our Life Annuity plan. For us, commitment is an act, not a word. These are extraordinary times, and we have evolved; we keep producing great results. This is part of the AIICO culture, and it has accounted for our high customer retention rate.” He concluded by saying “We are poised to do even more.”

The Executive Director, Corporate Business Division, Adewale Kadri, was equally bullish saying, “We are operational despite the lockdown and we are accepting discounted premium from our clients as palliatives to our loyal customers during this trying period. We deliver insurance certificates including policy documents within minutes. Over 250 valued Brokers have had their claims of over N300 million settled within 48 hours. Our online real-time platform has delighted all our Brokers in this regard, and we receive compliments almost daily on our service delivery.

According to the Managing Director/CEO, Babatunde Fajemirokun, “The daily volume of transactions is proof that our investment in infrastructure for Business Continuity is worth every penny and built for the long term. AIICO’s Business Continuity Management System (BCMS) is certified using standards set by the British Standard Institute. Our well-motivated employees, who are working remotely, have played a significant role in making things happen.

Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc said in spite the COVID-19 lockdown, it paid claims in excess of N399 million to various customers across her businesses.

Gains

One of the major gains from the contributions made by the industry, was the recognition and commendation given to the industry by President, Muhammadu Buhari.

The President commended the Nigerian insurance sector for the provision of life insurance cover for 5,000 frontline health workers helping in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

Buhari gave the commendable in his address on the cumulative lockdown order of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory on COVId-19 pandemic at the State House, Abuja, stressing that the government has procured insurance cover for 5,000 frontline health workers.

“We have also procured insurance cover for 5,000 frontline health workers. At this point, I must commend the insurance sector for their support in achieving this within a short period of time,” he said.

A cross session of insurance operators expressed their excitement as President Buhari applauded the insurance industry for its role in helping to combat the pandemic in the country.

President of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) Dr. (Mrs.) Bola Onigbogi, said the statement was a tonic for the insurance industry to do more in the fight against the dreaded disease.

She disclosed that aside the covers the industry would also soon be coming up with moreb cohesive support as a responsive sector of the economy to assust government handle the pandemic and succour the victims.

Also, the Chairman of the Nigerian Insurers Association, Tope smart, said the President’s speech was an acknowledgement of the crucial roles played by the industry in the pandemic and that it was the first time that the industry would be so highly and deservedly recognized at the highest level of governance.

He promised that the industry would continue to partner with the government to foster enduring economic development in the country.

The President, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) Eddie Efekoha, also commended President Buhari on his recognition of the contributions made by the insurance sector in combating the pandemic.

Some other operators also took to social media pages to acknowledge and express joy for the president’s statements on the industry, with a consensus of opinions that the industry had continue to support national economic development initiatives and that government should take advantage of the pandemic to reflect on the roles that the industry could play in national economic recovery as being done in other climes.

Thomas

Another landmark gain made by the industry was President Muhammadu Buhari appointment of Sunday Thomas as the substantive Commissioner for Insurance/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), National Insurance Commission (NAICOM).

Thomas appointment was disclosed in a statement dated May 2, 2020 and signed by the Special Adviser, Media and Communications
To the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi.

Thomas replaced immediate past commissioner for Insurance/CEO, Mohammed Kari, as Acting Commissioner for insurance/CEO of the National Insurance Commission in July 2019.

He has over three decades of experience in the industry as an operator and regulator and was appointed Deputy Commissioner in charge of technical matters by President Buhari in April 2017. He was formerly Director-General (DG) of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) in 2010.

Remarks by beneficiaries of the palliatives

A resident of Iwaya who pleaded anonymity while commending FBNInsurance for the food donated to the public said “Before now, I do not believe in insurance companies. I always feel all they do is take people’s money, but with this kind gesture from FBNInsurance and FBN General Insurance, I am amazed. This simple act of kindness from their organisation has changed my perception about insurance. The people of Iwaya are grateful to these reputable insurers for coming to our rescue at this critical time.”

Mbachu Izuchukwu James, while commenting on the premium pay-back by Leadway assurance said: Honestly, I was so impressed when I got this message. Leadway is so outstanding when it comes to making a positive contribution. I sincerely thank the leadership of Leadway Assurance Company for coming up with such and idea in this turbulent times.

Another commentator, Olubusola, said: Waoh! Great initiative. Wished I had an insurance cover with Leadway.

Industry watchers have implored NAICOM and insurance practitioners to leverage the new found love, especially, with the government to push for more attention on the industry. Prominent amongst what they want the industry to pursue vigorously now is the amendment of the Insurance Act which draft has being with the government for over three years.

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