The Insurance Coverages the Collapsed Tower Should Have Had and Benefits Missed By Victims


Sunday, November 14, 2021   /09:15 PM
/  OpEd
By Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon 
/ Header Image Credit: Reuters

 

Disheartening as the news and updates on the collapsed
21-storey Ikoyi tower have been, we cannot stop talking about the lessons,
particularly, in ways that they would help shape our future regulations and
compliance.

 

Now in the phase of recovery management of the
disaster, it is unimaginable that the victims – survivors and dependants of
deceased persons – will probably have to wait for the decision of an
investigative panel before receiving any compensation whereas same would have
been addressed by the deposit payments from the insurers of the construction,
if there was a valid insurance in place.

 

A media report, last week, stating the confirmation of
the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) that it received NO RESPONSE from its
members to its circular requesting information about the status of the
insurance of the project makes the situation even more disturbing.

 

Could it be true that a project of such magnitude did
not have genuine and valid insurance coverage? This is a question best left for
the panel set up by the Lagos State Government to find answers to.

 

If There Was Insurance
Coverage…
 

The minimum required type of insurance for the
construction project would have been Contractor All Risks (CAR) Insurance,
which covers Civil Works, Equipment on site, Cost of Removing Debris and
General Third Party Liability over the duration of the project, often more than
a year.

 

The insurance would have been based on either the
total construction costs or percentage of the costs depending on the extent the
Project Owner or Contractor would wish to go to ensure adequacy of insurance,
in the event of any unexpected and unfortunate occurrence.

 

This type of insurance, which focuses on liabilities,
would provide limits of liabilities for each of the four sections mentioned
earlier; and it should be noted that these limits could be in tens or hundreds
of millions of Naira.

 

Persons covered by the General Third Party Liability
are those in the vicinity of the project but not part of the workforce involved
in the project. Put simply, those who were either just visiting the site to
appreciate the level of progress or to make enquiries would be the real third
parties.

 

Accordingly, in the event of a claim as it occured,
insurers would scrutinize to ensure that those within the site at the time of
the incident were meant to be there.

 

Another type of insurance for the project would have
been Professional Indemnity Insurance for the Architects and Structural
Engineers in case their works and/or advices turn out to deliver wrong and
unwanted outcomes, as we had.

 

In some instances, beyond the aforementioned types of
insurance, the Project Owner may take out different types of insurance to
protect his/her project from scratch.

 

The employees would have been covered by the company’s
Group Life Assurance policy as required by the Pensions Reforms (Amendment) Act
2014 and Employees Compensation Act 2010 administered by the National Social
Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).

 

Therefore, there would have been insurance coverage
for every aspect of the project from end to end.

 

Possible Payouts by
Insurers
 

If this project was insured through any or all the
types of insurance described above, the Nigerian insurance industry would have
been calculating the estimates of the payouts, and possibly made deposit
payments to the insured (the Contractor) to ease the immediate pressure often
associated with such events.

 

Based on the total construction costs of the 21-storey
tower, the estimate of claims payouts would have been in billions of Naira
(millions of US Dollars), considering the numerous parties involved in the
project.

 

Like with the recent reports of claims paid, NGN9b of
the estimated NGN20b, to insurance policyholders for violent destruction of
insured properties following the EndSARS protest, insurers of the collapsed
tower would have began to prepare to make payouts to claimants.

 

Taking the CAR policy, for example, and depending on
the limits of liability, huge claims payouts would go for Civil Works.

 

Cost of removing debris as we saw to ascertain that no
human bodies were left and the site put back to normal would have been paid by
the insurers.

 

Payouts for the third parties would also have been in
millions allowing each approved case a reasonable sum of money, not to
compensate for lost lives but support the recovery process.

 

Importantly, even the Government of Lagos State would
have seen the need to have representation of the insurance industry on the
investigation panel, had there been insurance coverage for the project.

 

For the size and magnitude of the project, the possible
sum of the claims payout by insurers would have been mind-boggling.

 

Has the Insurance
Industry Been Saved from Trouble?
 

Ordinary minds would say, Yes to this question, and
they won’t be wrong, however analysts of the insurance industry in Nigeria know
that this is a “Warning Notice”.

 

The growth of the insurance industry by Gross Written
Premium is reliant on the compliance level with the laws on one hand and the
enforcement of the consequences of non-compliance on the other hand. The
industry desires more compliance, and accordingly, more income generating
business.

 

Section 64 of the Insurance Act 2003 states that:

(1) “No person shall cause to be constructed any
building of more than two floors without insuring with a registered insurer his
liability in respect of construction risks caused by his negligence or the
negligence of his servants, agents or consultants which may result in bodily
injury or loss of life to or damage to property of any workman on the site or
of any member of the Public;

(2) The duty to insure under subsection (1) of this
section shall arise when a building in under construction;

(3) A person who contravenes subsection (1) of this
section commits an offence and on conviction shall be liable to a fine of
N250,000 or imprisonment for three years or both.”

 

Therefore, when there is increased compliance with the
law, there will be accompanying expectations that compensations or claims would
be paid when insurers are required to do so. This is why what happened should
be a warning to insurers as they would be either standing beside the
Spokespersons of the Government to give assurances to the families of the
deceased and the survivors or just doing the talking while the officials of
Government support them.

 

Disasters have been known to be the primary factor
that awakened the insurance industry and the responses of the stakeholders
became the contributory factor for the growth of the insurance sector
significantly. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which caused the death and/or
disappearance of at least 230,000 people in 14 countries left behind a stronger
and growing insurance sector in Asia today.

 

The insurance industry in Nigeria must be prepared to
grow in the face of disasters whether they lead to claims payouts or not.

 

Indeed, the discussion to have insurance scheduled as
part of our national emergency management process should start today to ensure
it is used to address the issues of resettlement after rescues have taken
place.

 

Our future is quite challenged, especially with
emergent risks associated to climate change, and insurance remains the most
tested risk management mechanism for the protection of our wealth – people!
Shall we continue to look at it from a distance?

 

The earlier Sub-nationals in Nigeria domesticate the
insurance laws, the better we will all be positioned to address the issues that
cause us pains and anguish, compounding our fights against poverty. This should
be the top priority of the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) in 2022 as
Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria on all insurance matters.

 

About The Author 

Ekerete Olawoye Gam-Ikon, MNIM,
CPP,
 is a management consultant with a specialization in Strategy and
Insurance. You can contact him via e:mail 
olagamola@gmail.com and mobile +234-806-648-1111 

 

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