Recent statistics released by the National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) said 600 people were killed, 49 major markets burnt and over 10, 000 shops destroyed from the December 1, 2010, Minna, Niger State shopping complex fire, to the 26 March 2016 Birnin Kebbi Central Market fire incidents.
According to NANTS, this six-year period market fires saw over N3 trillion worth of goods and properties consumed by the fires.
Worst still, none of these losses was mitigated as none of the markets has any form of insurance. The fires left the traders devastated, traumatised and relied on governments, albeit unnecessary if they had insurance, to provide them support – the support that oftentimes don’t come. Even where it does, half is pilfered by government officials, a situation that would have been avoided if they had some insurance.
The president of NANTS, Barrister Kenneth Ukaoha, said at a press conference recently in Abuja that “apart from loss of lives recorded, goods and property worth over N3 trillion, none of the affected markets has insurance cover and only about 12 percent of the fire incidents attracted governments’ sympathy visits. Also, of the promises made by the visiting government officials, only about three percent were kept. Yet traders in Nigeria provide the nation’s second largest revenue base from import duties and sundry taxes/levies after oil,” Ukaoha said.
There is no statistics to suggest any market in Nigeria has insurance cover. The Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) doesn’t have that record, neither has the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Indeed, without functioning markets, a state would lack the necessary commercial activities associated with huge consumption possibilities required for growth. Thus a critical aspect of our economy is left vulnerable with little or no attention to make it less risky.
However, legally, no market should be without insurance in Nigeria as the Insurance Act 2003 has made insurance of markets and other public buildings compulsory, a provision that is not enforced by the insurance regulator, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), because it lacks the legal backing to do so.
The law enforcement agents and the Nigerian Fire Service which have the legal rights to enforce fire insurance have not done so.
Section 65(1) of the Insurance Act 2003 says “Every public building shall be insured with a registered insurer against the hazards of collapse, fire, earthquake, storm and flood;
Although recently, the Commissioner for Insurance, Alhaji Mohammed Kari, disclosed that a major shift would soon occur in the enforcement of the several compulsory insurances in Nigeria.
He said the commission has written to the relevant authorities and something would happen soon. Indeed it will be exciting to see the reforms occur so some of the losses being currently experienced from fires, building collapse and deaths would be mitigated.
Speaking on the issue, the Director General Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA), Mr. Sunday Thomas, said he was not aware any market in Nigeria has insurance cover.
Speaking on the recent Kano Central Market fire which destroyed property estimated at about N2 trillion, he said “I’m not sure if the market has any insurance but I doubt if it does. But it would be disastrous if such a monument of a Kano market doesn’t have insurance.”
He agreed insurance awareness was still low but chided Nigerians for not seeing insurance as critical. “But I believe the market might have received some form of awareness on insurance in the past. Unfortunately, a lot of Nigerians are still seeing insurance as additional cost rather than a benefit to their businesses.
“But again, I think the state government should insure the structures in their markets. Mr. Tope Adaramola, Assistant Executive Secretary, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB), said the Kano market fire was quite unfortunate and devastating.
“It is definitely a setback for the people affected as it has eroded the needed capital needed for their existence and increased the poverty rate in the country,” he said.
“Similarly, we are working closely with relevant institutions on micro insurance to capture the market,” he said.
But as it stands now, these efforts haven’t begun to yield results as Nigerian markets are not insured.