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The Nigerian insurance industry, without a doubt, is blessed with the finest crops of professionals and good heads around. This is obviously against the notion of many, especially those who are often eager to benchmark the professional and intellectual depth of insurance operators with their ilks in banking and other operators in the financial ecosystem. Such persons often forget that the intricacies of insurance and the seasoning that is required to become professionally certified is quite rigorous and could only be matched by few professions.
A testament to this becomes apparent when attention is intently paid to some outstanding professionals in the risk management profession, some of who have or are making impressionable impact on the industry and national economy. As an annalist, this writer is of strong persuasion that adequate light had not often been paid to the industry’s good heads, leading to their low appreciation by the public as well as the industry they represent.
One personae that could be described as a “silent labourer” and iconic figure in Nigeria’s insurance space is Lady Isioma Chukwuma; the just retired Managing Director of Nigerian Reinsurance Corporation. She was also a past President of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) of which she is the 5th Female President after the likes of Mrs Erelu Aina; Mrs Comfort Rowaiye; Mrs Okpaise, and Mrs. Seyi Ifatoroti.
Chukwuma, like these other heroines of the insurance profession strived to brave the odds in a male dominated profession, changing the leadership narrative, gender-wise. It is most news worthy that Chukwuma retired from the headship of Nigerian Reinsurance Corporation after serving in the apex position from March 18, 2009 till date. On introspection, Nigeria-Re was the nation’s flagship reinsurance company through which great minds like Professor Joe Irukwu, Sir Ogala Osoka and Mr Trinity Mirilla became industry household names.
In the words of American veteran General, Mark Arthur, “Old soldiers never die, they fade away”, I am inclined to flip this saying here that “Insurance Professionals do not die, or retire, they only fade away”. Even though Chukwuma may have witnessed an eclipse of her work career in the industry, she would remain invaluably constant in rendering value and good will to the industry for a long time to come.
Chukwuma’s footprints on the Chartered Insurance Industry (CIIN) and the reinsurance world would remain etched in the minds of those who had the privilege of working and consorting with her. Issy, as she is often called by childhood friends is a living testimonial of the wise saying that “whatever the mind can conceive, it could achieve”.
Her foray into the industry could be said to be providential, going by the fact that she studied French in her first degree, graduating with an enviable second class upper division from the University of Ibadan in 1978.
A proud indigene of Asaba in Delta State, Lady Chukwuma had immediate post-graduation experience as a school teacher where she ostensibly got infused with the virtues of humility, diligence and superb social relationship skill that made her a good follower, team player and an admirable boss. Her inroad into the field of insurance was in 1980 when she was employed amongst a few Graduate Trainees in Nigeria Re.
In spite of her non numerate discipline, Lady Chukwuma through dint of hard work, tenacity of purpose, and can-do-spirit braced the odds by sitting for and passing the Chartered Insurance Institute of London examinations qualifying for the prestigious Associateship of the Institute. This qualification opened the door for her meteoric rise through several strategic departments of Nigeria Re such as Marketing, Accident, Clients Services Property and Overseas Inward Department.
On the side of the CIIN; it is not just share providence that Lady Chukwuma became a female President. She assiduously worked for it through her unselfish devotion to the course of the Institute for more than 16 years of serving on the Governing Council, which is the highest organ of the Institute. It is on record that she had untainted records as Chairman of the Fire Offices Committee; Chairman of the Governing Board that oversaw the founding of the now renowned College of Insurance and Financial Management and the Mandatory Continuous Professional Development Committee. Chukwuma also left her sound footprints as member of the Activities and Education Committee from where she became Treasurer and Deputy President. It could be remembered that on assumption of office as President, Lady Chukwuma put forward an 11-point agenda which served as the trajectory for her value delivery in office.
Without trying to rehash all the agenda points, it is on record that some milestones such as the founding and entrenchment of the Insurance Industry Consultative Council (IICC) which is the amalgamation of the different sectoral voices of the insurance industry.
Aside from becoming the voice of the industry and the rallying point for settlement of professional differences that may arise amongst operators, the IICC inched up the image of the industry in the eyes of the public through its yearly high profile conference.
Similarly, the Institute under her tenure expanded the scope of the CIIN examinations to include Insurance Broking and Loss Adjusting. The tenure also made an in-road into the federal and state civil service in the placement of insurance professional certificates holders appropriately in terms of employment in the civil service while at the same time positioned the College of Insurance and Financial Management to the status of a world class professional training institution.
Since leadership in the views of J.C Maxwell is influence and connection with the led, Lady Chukwuma’s life and leadership style has continued to attract the fancy of many professionals within and outside the industry. Apart from permanently etching her name in roll of honours of the insurance industry and the womenfolk in the professions, the kind words and compliments showered on her exit cannot be repressed.
In what seemed an encapsulation of the diverse plaudits showered on her, the President of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, Dr. (Mrs) Bola Onigbogi opined that: “on reflections, Lady Chukwuma brought class, humility and panache to the institute and the industry to the extent that she is a testament of an ideal woman in leadership.
She utilized her tenure, position and chequered years in the industry to strengthen the bond of relationship amongst operators. We can only wish her well as she takes the side seat, occupied by the elders in the industry, from whom others would continually draw from their inexhaustible depth of wisdom and robust experience. The insurance industry is indeed in unison in wishing Lady Chukwuma a rewarding retirement life.
Tope Adaramola is the
Asst. Executive Secretary of
Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers