Insurance reforms imperative.

Author:Thompson, Jato

Nigeria's embattled insurance industry is demanding fundamental changes if it is to survive into the next millennium. Insurers argue that deregulation of the sector, the ending of governmental interference and an injection of new blood and fresh ideas into the system have become imperative for survival. These reforms are needed not only to shore up the sector but also to boost public confidence in the business, which is at an all-time low.

Arthur Nimbe Oviosu, managing director of UNIC Insurance, says the new ideas being floated should allow the reform of the regulatory and supervisory framework. The most important change, for him, would be the creation of a level playing field helped by the deregulation of pricing and the eradication of the monopoly and privileged position of the government apex institutions - the National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (ICON) and Nigeria Reinsurance Company.

But Oviosu believes the industry must also make changes within the existing businesses. To get back customers, he wants to see a higher level of professionalism through education and investing in human resources. The industry, he says, must develop a system of codes and enforce professional ethics. It should also evolve a strategy to lobby government for reform.

His challenge is a blunt one. "If the insurance industry is to meet the challenges of the millennium, if we aspire to operate in a dynamic industry that is healthy and vibrant, if insurers are to support the present government in building a buoyant economy, all practitioners and operators have a duty to sincerely admit that there are problems facing the industry and be prepared to identify all the factors that have threatened the growth and survival of the insurance industry in Nigeria."

Others agree with Oviosu. Professor Joe Irukwu, executive chairman of African Development Insurance Company sai:. "We must admit that some of the identified negative features that have tended to impede the growth of the market are peculiarly Nigerian factors over which the leadership of the industry can do very little," he said. He reiterated that while the insurance sector is not to blame for "the chronically weak and depressed economic environment, or indeed for the general misconception of the objectives of insurance by most Nigerians, including some policy makers," some ills of the sector are self-inflicted.

"The leaders of the industry, as part of their preparation for the next millennium, must agree on...

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