by Mfon Ekpo
The blanket excuse that insurance companies are out to defraud one or they are too expensive no longer holds water. It would surprise you how cheap some premiums have become or the variety of insurance options that exists.
My phone has multiple cracks on its screen but I carry it around quite confidently because, as strange to some as this may sound, it is insured. So I know my insurers will fix it to perfection, replace it or reimburse me for it when I finally get around to sending it to them. However this was not always the case.
I began my relationship with the insurance industry with much skepticism and absolute distrust, but 4 years down the line, one new phone, many free repairs, health benefits and reimbursements later, preaching the gospel of insurance seems ideal. But it also appears that in spite of their efforts to win over the populace, the insurance industry only has a few converts compared to the sizable number of people that make up our citizenry.
Why does insurance manifest as a culture so alien to us? Do the premiums seem so high compared to what we might have to part with when some incidents do occur? Why don’t we trust insurance companies until it becomes absolutely mandatory to due to some promulgated law or regulation by the government?
Take for instance the government’s attempt to create sector specific insurance programs such as healthcare. This resulted in the National Health Insurance Scheme being officially launched in 2005. However, at the 2013 January Breakfast Forum of the Nigerian-South African Chamber of Commerce held to deliberate on the role of health Insurance in the development of Nigeria, it was disclosed that since the launch of the NHIS only 3% of Nigerians are registered under the scheme in comparison to Ghana, who had launched about the same time and had now covered approximately 65% of their population.
A vast majority of us insure our cars not because of the benefits that accrue from insurance, but to escape the penalties of being apprehended by Road Safety Marshals for the lack of it. So we pay no mind to the contents, what kind of cover we have or even who the insurance company is and our cars remain as good as uninsured. Others only get travel insurance because its part of the visa requirements to other countries not because they see the need to. Building insurance, which really ought to make sense to those with enough funds to build multiple storey buildings, only gained notoriety when the Federal Government decided to step in and once again regulate after the constant spate of collapsed buildings. This was achieved by the introduction of the Building Insurance Act in 2003 where owners of storey buildings with two floors or more, under construction, were liable for failure to insure them with a registered insurance company and were faced with the penalty of N250, 000 fine or three years imprisonment.
The down side to this is that, not everything in our best interest can be mandatorily regulated by the government. For an enlightened generation to wait for government to regulate and mandate insurance in every sphere before we take it seriously is worse than throwing a tantrum because we are waiting to be spoon-fed the antidote to the poison threatening to kill us.
The blanket excuse that insurance companies are out to defraud one or they are too expensive no longer holds water. It would surprise you how cheap some premiums have become or the variety of insurance options that exists. For instance the National Insurance Commission has taken steps to address some of the fears that surround insurance such as loss of premium by developing micro insurance platforms where risks are shared instead of transferred and premiums could be refunded each years end. This form of insurance is known, as “Takaful” and also exists for those whose religious views do not allow them to partake in the conventional form of Insurance. But majority of the populace do not even know this.
There is so much needless suffering, which can be solved with just the right amount of due diligence and proactive thinking. Insure against war and terrorism if you are threatened by the recent spate of violence, insure against the floods if from experience you know your area is prone to such, insure against road traffic accidents if you have a car or simply get comprehensive insurance. Consider other forms of insurance such as personal accident insurance, Travel insurance, gadget insurance, mortgage insurance etc then custom make your insurance policy to suit your needs. This will take a bit of research and that responsibility for research lies on us, not the government or even the insurance companies…you and I, the consumers…we shape the agenda.
Mfon Ekpo is a Maritime Lawyer and a professional negotiator, who has served in the Legal department of the National Assembly and as a training consultant for the Supreme Court of Nigeria on Alternative Dispute Resolution. She has majored in Business Law, Private and Islamic law and Aviation law. She is also a multiple award-winning bestselling author.
*Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.