Three years ago Insurance Bill 2020 began the journey of legislative process of law making through the ardent commitment of Hon Darlington Nwokocha, the Chairman of House of Reps Committee of Insurance and Actuarial Matters and, as soon as the process began insurance arms and the regulator, National Insurance Commission and other stakeholders including other financial regulators.
Before the emergence of Nwokocha’s effort, the first short, Consolidated Insurance Bill, a combined effort of the regulator, National Insurance Commission, and all the arms of the industry aimed at the bill assembly line of the National Assembly lost the breathe of life in the hands of the Executive Arm that kept it in the jacket of proposed bills.
However, an upset was announced by Nkwocha’s Members bill which heralded arousing welcome from all the arms and trade bodies. As the bill processing began, they all converged at Abuja to make contributions and inputs into the bill making.
Past Chairman of the Nigerian Insurers Association, Ganiyu Musa, expressing confident that the Insurance Bill 2020 which was midwifed in his term would eventually be accented to by the past President Mohammed Buhari but was eventually scuttled, displayed robust hope that an insurance Act was coming because, a lot of progress had been made. It was not just an exciting process for the entire industry, Musa said, “for me personally it has been a very interesting learning experience… law making is very cumbersome, it takes time.”
Commuting through the various points of interest in the bill, Musa said, “There are a lot of interests. The Nigerian Insurers Association has a certain position, the regulator will have a position and brokers will have a position, the insuring public will have a position, different agencies of government will have different positions. Making laws involved reconciling some of these positions, some of them are conflicting so you have to find the middle ground having in mind the interest of the insuring public.”
Speaking on NIA expectation on what became a first missionary journey of the insurance bill, Musa said, “Our expectation is that the legislative process is completed before the new government in 2023 so that we don’t get setback and go through the learning curve again.” Incidentally, the prediction has become a basketball slam-dunk as the bill at the last point was deflated by no dice President accent.
Speaking with hindsight at that time that it could go either way, signed into law or become a failed bill, the NIA Chairman said anyway it went, “We are committed to the bill.” Confident that his successor will remain on course on the bill going through, Musa asserted. Preparing for the change of leadership at the Insurers House, he said, “The good thing for us as an Association is that the change in leadership does not change the commitment, its all part of our development plan and we are committed to it.”
Despite the twist in President’ accent, the commitment of the market to get the bill sealed and delivered to all stakeholders has not dampened despite it was missing among the several bills signed by Buhari. With the 10th Assembly already on the deck of legislative duties and their hands already on the insurance plough, insurance stakeholders are keen and set for an accelerated legislative law making process the disappointment of the 9th Assembly notwithstanding.
The Commissioner for Insurance, Sunday Thomas, also feels the discomfort of the initial failure and sees light at the end of the tunnel. He made this known at the Insurance Journalists Retreat at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. “Unfortunately we couldn’t finalise the bill at the last regime, it got very late to the President, he couldn’t accent it before he left.
Calm and settled that the second wave of legislative process will be successful and on time, firm that the deadline will not be stretched as it was in the first attempt, Thomas said, “There are processes and procedures for such. We are not going back to the beginning. The National Assembly is looking at it again. It has gone through the first reading at the House and Senate, we are following up and want to see it concluded as quickly as possible.”
Recounting what was expected and dashed at the time hope were scaling up that a new insurance law was to birth, Thomas said, “We had very high hope that the last administration was going to conclude it, but that was not to be. But we have not giving up hope.”
Knowing how much input the Commission made during the previous attempt that decoupled at the accent stage and now, its preparedness to act on the transforming provisions of the Act, expectant CFI said, “We know that the bill is a game changer because of what has been loaded into it. We are not just seating and waiting for the bill. We are preparing for it because we know the content. So, we are already preparing ourselves for when it will be signed into an Act so that we can hit the ground running.”
The stage is set for the second phase of insurance bill legislative process and one thing is outstanding on all sides of stakeholders space: hope. The regulator, NAICOM, the trade bodies and other related stakeholders are confident that the decoupling experience is behind them. Another stealth mark is the commitment of all interests to have an endearing insurance law that meets today’s practice, operations and regulation.