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Chuks Udo Okonta
The Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) is set to align with other arms of the industry to attract professionals to tackle the dearth of competent marine underwriters.
The President of CIIN, Sir. Oyegunle Muftau, who disclosed this in an interview with Inspenonline, noted that the various arms need to work together to make sure they sell a future in the marine area to insurers.
He said once operators know that there is a future there, they would go in that route and everybody would be happy about it.
“To the credit of the Institute, every year, the number of professionals we produce is increasing. The increase may not be in radical numbers, but the number of professionals has been going up.
“The issue here is in the area of specialisation. Where are people concentrating their efforts? At a stage, it was aviation that was the problem. Another stage it was life that was the problem. These days, there are whispers of Marine here and there,” he said.
He maintained that the institute has more than three marine courses in its syllabus, stressing that one of courses is at the diploma level and two at the qualifying level. “But the question is, are people taking them? My answer may be as good as yours. Because if people are taking them, I think the industry will not be complaining.
“We cannot force people to become specialists in certain areas. The courses are there, people are free to specialise in that area, but of course, you know people will specialise in areas they feel they have a clear future,” he added.
Over the years, the Marine Office Committee of Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), has lamented on the dwindling knowledge of marine insurance and the need to revamp and enhance technical knowledge of members.
The Committee in its 2019/2020 report presented and published in the association’s annual financial report, emphasized the need for capacity building.
Industry watchers believed, insurers need to do more to earn the confidence of maritime practitioners who are willing to do the right thing. Conceivably marine insurance in Nigeria would have been more developed if the practitioners were more competent in handling maritime issues.
The maritime industry world over is a peculiar and complex sector that requires special expertise to manage the risk inherent in the business. According to a report it is believed that the country is being deprived of billions of naira as a result of the dearth of local professionals in marine insurance.
In another instance, it is estimated that the lack of professionals in the marine insurance business results in over N50 billion annual loss. This shows that insurance practitioners are not well equipped from the universities on the peculiarities of the maritime industry. This lack of expertise explains why some ship owners prefer to patronise foreign re-insurers which has further encouraged capital flight. This is happeningin spite of the fact that 41 insurance companies are licensed to transact marine insurance business.
It was in an attempt to curb this practice that a member of the House of Representatives sponsored a bill for an Act to establish the National Marine Insurance Bureau, to take charge of and collect insurance levies on all Cargos of Crude or Gas leaving shores of the Country and to check the Billions of dollar capital flight which Nigeria loses to foreign insurance companies who monopolize and specialize in marine insurance in the Country, otherwise known as the National Marine Insurance Bureau (Establishment) Bill, 2016.
However, what is more important is a reappraisal of the insurance curriculum in Nigerian universities, and the need for insurance companies to dedicate more funds into research and development, which is something we seldom do in this part of the world.
No amount of legislation and local content policy can substitute for competency, especially when existing laws are deficient. Experts have also identified the operational law guiding marine insurance in Nigeria as out-dated.
The Marine Insurance Act is a verbatim reproduction of the Marine Insurance Act 1906 of the United Kingdom, which has been reviewed in the UK to reflect current realities. It is difficult to see how the sector can progress when the operational legal framework is predicated on a century old foundation. Times have changed and there is need to repeal the law to reflect current realities.
As an import dependent country, marine insurance is a major maritime support service with enormous capacity for wealth. Just as many other aspects of the maritime industry, all that is required is a collective commitment to take advantage of the many opportunities waiting for our attention.
The insurance sector in a bid to harness the enormous financial benefits in marine business, had deployed a digital platform to curb leakages in the system. According to the NIA, the Marine Module of Nigerian Insurance Industry Database (NIID) had received the final buy-in of the Nigeria Customs Service, the agency responsible for clearance of goods crossing the borders into the country, and whose requirement include insurance certificate as one of the regulatory documents for clearance of imported goods.
It noted that the NIID had been integrated with the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) for verification of marine insurance certificates issued by NIA members on the Nigeria Single Window Trade Portal – the government trade facilitation website.
“Within the first two weeks of live integration to the Trade portal, over 20,000 marine certificates were validated real time. Importers with genuine marine insurance certificates now enjoy seamless processing of their documents via online real time data sharing between the NIID and the Single Window Trade portal of the Federal Government of Nigeria,” it said.