Building collapse: Victims’ compensation unsure as NIA searches for insurer

Building collapse: Victims’ compensation unsure as NIA searches for insurerInsurance companies in the country have launched an investigation into the collapsed 21-storey building in Lagos State in order to ascertain if it is adequately covered and whether the victims’ families are entitled to any form of compensation.

Nearly a week after the collapse of a 21-storey building at Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State, the umbrella body for 61 licensed insurance companies in the country said on Sunday that none of its 41 members licensed to provide building insurance cover had shown up as the insurer of the property.

The Nigerian Insurers Association said the development had prompted its members to launch an investigation so as to unravel whether an insurance cover was provided for the collapsed building or not.

The Managing Director, Fourscore Heights Limited, the owner and developer of the project, Mr Femi Osibona; and his personal assistant, Oyinye Enekwe, were among those reported dead in the disaster.

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said on Saturday that 42 bodies had been recovered from the site as of 6pm that day, while 15 people were rescued alive.

According to the National Insurance Commission, the regulatory body of the industry, 44 companies, comprising of 13 composite and 31 general underwriters, can underwrite building insurance.

The NIA currently has 41 out of the 44 underwriters as its members.

The Chairman, NIA, Mr Ganiyu Musa, while speaking with our correspondent on Sunday, said the underwriters decided to embark on the inquiry after waiting for days, with no one coming forward to notify them of any form of insurance compensation.

He said, “So far, we have not heard confirmation from any of our members that they have provided cover. We have written, and from the responses we are getting so far, we have not heard any information from any of our members that they indeed provided cover for the building.

“But we have not got the response from all of them which is why we can’t just make a categorical statement right now, but so far, we have not got any indication from any of our members.

“We wrote to the member companies for confirmation. As of the last time I spoke to the secretariat, none of them has said it provided cover for the building.”

Musa, who is also the group managing director of Cornerstone Insurance Plc, said the association was keen to know if the collapsed high-rise building had insurance cover.

He said, “It has become a national catastrophe – if we can put it that way; so clearly, we have an interest in following up on how it impacts our members and how it impacts the industry.

“Of course, we don’t have any doubt, and if covers were validly provided, you know insurance is a contract and also based on utmost good faith, provided the client has complied with all the requirements and all the warranties in the contract.

“If they had been complied with, then clearly, there is no doubt that members will pay. But like I said, it is something that will be fully examined. If at all there was a cover, we then need to examine all the conditions of the contract and then ensure that the conditions have been fully met.”

He said the premium and compensation attached to building insurance would be determined through an underwriting process.

According to him, the underwriters will get the proposal, evaluate the risks, look into the terms and conditions to come up with the premium to be paid and claims entitlement.

The Director-General, NIA, Mrs Yetunde Ilori, said the association commiserated with the families of those who lost loved ones in the sad event and wished those hospitalised quick recovery.

While lamenting the worrisome reoccurrence of building collapse in the country, she emphasised the need for the general public to comply with all building rules and adopt insurance in the protection of lives and property to curb further incidence of building collapse.

Citing the country’s statutory laws, she said Section 65 of the Insurance Act 2003 stipulates that all public buildings must be adequately insured, while Section 64 of the Act provides that all buildings under construction above two floors must be adequately insured with a registered insurance company.

She noted that the law says every public building should be insured against the hazards of collapse, fire, earthquake, storm and flood.

“Public building includes a tenement house, hostel, a building occupied by a tenant, lodger or licensee and any building to which members of the public have ingress and aggress for the purpose of obtaining educational or medical service, or for the purpose of recreation or transaction of business,” she said.

Ilori called on stakeholders in the built environment to arrest the rising cases of building collapse by ensuring strict adherence to standards, adding that the nation had lost so much to the carelessness of a few unpatriotic builders.

The NIA DG assured the insuring public of the industry’s capacity and readiness to respond to the needs of Nigerians through the provision of insurance protection to the citizens.

The President, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, Rotimi Edu, said the increasing cases of building collapse constituted a huge challenge to government and other stakeholders in the built environment, and highlighted the need to embark on better synergy to ensure compliance with extant building regulations.

While condoling with the victims, Edu noted that in spite of the efforts of the Lagos State government through its various dedicated agencies, the incidences of building collapse had not been fully stopped.

He stressed the need for compliance with the compulsory insurance of public buildings as stipulated in Section 64 & 65 of Insurance Act of 2003, saying it made it mandatory for all contractors and their agents to, among others, undertake insurance against death or injuries to third parties to a public building in the event of a disaster of this nature.

He highlighted the crucial roles of insurance brokers, which he described as professional intermediaries in the insurance value chain, with the duty to advise clients about what to insure, how to insure, and how to pursue their claims in the event of the occurrence of a loss.

The Commissioner for Insurance, National Insurance Commission, Mr Sunday Thomas, said the commission had been engaging state governments to ensure building insurance compliance.

He said NAICOM had also sought the support of the Federal Fire Service to commence the enforcement of compulsory public building liability insurance in the country.

Punch

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