By Henry Uche, [email protected]
Insurance is one major pillar in the financial sector that not only significantly adds to the GDP of Nigeria but one which many Nigerians are yet to buy into. Thus, acceptability remains low despite every efforts by insurers to penetrate all the nooks and crannies of the nation. In this interview with the National president of Association of Registered Insurance Agents of Nigeria (ARIAN), Mr. Olakunle Odewunmi, during a change of baton session by the executive of the group, he revealed why insurance penetration had remained a hard nut to crack and the danger of relegating insurance agents among other issues raised.
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First, COVID-19 impeded us from achieving our desired goal in 2020. But for the first time, we were recogniSed to make inputs, as we were invited to be members of the technical team of the Insurance Bill 2020. Also we have met with some government agencies to register a multi-purpose co-operative for the welfare of our members especially to have something members can fall back on at the end of the day. They will help us get land and build flats for members and we shall pay within 5-6 years interval. The Federal Housing Authority would handle this. We have other collaboration with other government agencies. But going forward, we want to digitise the sell of insurance products and services. We are engaging an I.T firm to empower our members through marketing automation.
We want to make sure that our members have personnel website we want to digitalise the process of selling insurance, we want to move away from the traditional way so as to get across to more members and clients. Let me reiterate, the Insurance Agency Network can provide employment opportunities for over 500,000 agents annually and at the same time, mop up funds for national growth and development.
We are at least 50,000) agents nation wide, Lagos alone is 20, 000. But it’s too low. We need more people in the insurance net. And the onus rest on ARIAN, if only the operators and regulator would recognise our potentialities.
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That’s where the insurance regulator and companies have failed. Because they don’t usually carry us along. You can imagine that the Lagos State Safety Commission was calling for compulsory insurance for properties in the state, we were not carried along, it was Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) th at invited us. But other relevant stakeholders forgot that the growth of this sector depends on us- the agents. Because we take the products to the grassroots. Without us, that policy is dead on arrival.
Why do you think your group is being sidelined?
I don’t know! We are recognized by the Regulator (NAICOM) because we are established like any other known Professional body. We want to move insurance forward but we’re not being given due recognition. Insurance Penetration in Kenya like some other countries in Africa is far higher than Nigeria. The banking sector was able to penetrate all nooks and crannies of the country today because they recognise the relevance of agency network. Today you and I can see any bank or ATM outlet within a short distance.
So the regulator and insurers must give us that due recognition if they must penetrate and gain more Insurance policyholders into the insurance net. Do you know that the banks copied insurance agency network strategy to permeate through every nooks and crannies of Nigeria today. They did because they understand the indispensability of agency network.
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Less than one per cent of total population of Nigeria has insurance cover (either life or general insurance policy ) and full penetration is not possible without insurance agents. Even the Lagos State Compulsory Property insurance is dead on arrival without ARIAN. We are the channel of distribution, but they have relegated us. We and insurance brokers are the two recognised bodies that link insurer and the insured, though we have our separate functions.
We take insurance products to the grassroots. There are laws and there are people designated to implement those laws. The challenge is willingness/ courage to take action against defaulters. Both the property and personnel at any construction sites of any kind should have insurance cover, but what happens when tragedy occurs?
In the real estate value chain, there are government agencies/ Ministries/ departments both at Federal and state level plus Professional bodies who should be on ground to ensure that the right things are done when due. But have they been doing that? The recurrent building collapse in the country would tell you the answer.
We are going on insurance Walk. We’re organising a football competition among insurance companies and Registered insurance agents, Nigeria Football Federation (NFA) is involved, it’s coming up in couple of months as soon as we get every stakeholder involved, it would hold in Lagos.
Most Nigerians who do not subscribe to insurance policies say they believe in God for not only protection but for restoration and compensation in event of loss of life or property. What is your take on this?
That’s the sad note we want to change. That notion must cease. In fact if it were possible, we would wake up any person who dies without leaving any form of insurance for his / her dependents. Yes! Such person should come back to life and see the level of damage he /she has caused his family? You know the predicament and the agonies of children and widows particularly who lost a father or husband without anything to fall back on after demise? It’s so pathetic.
Why many don’t subscribe to insurance/ failure of insurance products
It’s because when insurance companies launch new products, they don’t carry us along, they only involve us at the last stage of the new product or service. How do you think we can market insurance products and services without requisite knowledge.
But we assure them that any new product or service without ARIAN is dead on arrival. If this Lagos State Compulsory Property Insurance Project must be accepted very fast, they must work with us. I can mobilise each member of ARIAN to sell 50 policies in a month, if you multiply 50 Policies sold each month by 20,000 members of ARIAN, in a year, we shall have 12,000,000 Policies sold in one year.