Chronicles Of Insurance Commissioners In Nigeria: Their Highs and Lows

In the dynamic landscape of Nigeria’s insurance sector, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) stands as a pivotal institution, ensuring stability, growth, and ethical practice within the industry. Over the years, NAICOM has seen a succession of leaders, each leaving an indelible mark on the trajectory of insurance regulation in Nigeria. Let us embark on a journey through the chronicles of insurance commissioners, highlighting their triumphs, challenges, and the evolving landscape they navigated.

Chief Eugene Okwor: Visionary Pioneer (1992–1996)

Chief Eugene Okwor, a trained lawyer from Enugu State in the south-east of Nigeria, was technically the first NAICOM Commissioner. At the time, however, he was designated as Head of the Insurance Department at the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry, and subsequently as Director of Insurance at the Federal Ministry of Finance, from where he retired in 1997.

His tenure marked the early evolutionary stage of the insurance industry in Nigeria. He laid the groundwork for the rapid reforms experienced by the industry in the 1990s. The fair-looking and amiable Mr. Okwor was a gentleman and seasoned administrator. He mentored so many young insurance professionals at the time. He was highly regarded and loved by his contemporaries. He died in January 2024 at the ripe age of 83.

Dr. Oladipupo Bailey: Championed Early Reforms (1997–2007)

Dr. Oladipupo Bailey succeeded Chief Okwor as the pioneering Insurance Commissioner in 1997. This was following the enactment of the National Insurance Commission Act, of 1997.

Among the achievements of his tenure was reducing the spread of fake motor insurance certificates, by introducing the “Motor Insurance VISER sticker.” Also, he tried a great deal to instill discipline and ethical values in the insurance business in Nigeria at the time.

He vehemently resisted attempts by some new elements to make the insurance business, which ordinarily is conservative, flamboyant. His uncompromising attitude made him oftentimes appear quarrelsome. Upon retirement, Chief Bailey served as a member of the Board of NICON Insurance Ltd., and also successfully ran an insurance broking firm. He died in 2022.

Chief Okechukwu Emmanuel Chukwulozie: Rise and Fall of a Veteran (2007–2020)

Mr. Okechukwu Emmanuel Chukwulozie, a lawyer and insurance industry veteran, was from Anambra State in the southeast of Nigeria. He took over from Chief Bailey, having served as Deputy Commissioner (Technical).

His tenure witnessed the rapid development of the insurance industry in Nigeria. He led the industry recapitalization of 2004–2007. The exercise saw many fringe operators exit the market, creating a handful of strong and more resilient operators with the technical and financial capacity to participate in the “big ticket” risks.

Regrettably, Mr. Chukwulozie was enmeshed in shameful corruption, by accepting a kickback from a certain NAICOM-appointed receiver. He was investigated by the ICPC, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. He died soon after the experience, in 2020.

Mr. Fola Daniel: Era of Peaceful Reforms (2007–2015)

Mr. Fola Daniel succeeded Chief Chukwulozie in 2007. Fola, as he was fondly called in the industry, hails from Kwara State in the north-central part of Nigeria. Fola had a humble beginning, starting his insurance career as an insurance agent with Leadway Assurance Ltd, then in Jos, Plateau State.

He later traveled to the UK to acquire a professional insurance education. Despite a clearly unenviable academic profile, Fola had a relatively strong professional background in reinsurance and agricultural insurance, hence, at different times; he was Managing Director at Globe Reinsurance Ltd., and Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC).

Fola’s tenure at NAICOM was quite peaceful. He led the industry through a series of comprehensive reforms, including the now relatively successful Market Development and Restructuring Initiatives (MDRI).

To enhance the quality of NAICOM’s workforce, in 2009, Fola attracted several multi-disciplinary professionals to the Commission. He relocated the Commission from the unhealthy building material market environment at Shippers Plaza, Wuse Zone 5, to the now-befitting NAICOM House in the heart of the FCT.

Fola carefully managed tensions among stakeholders. Notably, the Nigerian Corporation of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB), which had several pending litigations against NAICOM, had the suits withdrawn, preferring an out-of-court settlement. He maintained a harmonious working relationship with NAICOM staff. Significantly, his tenure recorded no industrial actions.

After successfully serving his maximum 2 terms, the very peaceful tenure of Mr. Fola Daniel came to an end in 2015. A prominent weakness of Mr. Fola Daniels’s administration was his inability to recommend a suitable successor to continue his good work.

Alhaji Mohammed Kari: A Troubled Tenure (2015–2019)

Alhaji Mohammed Kari succeeded Mr. Fola Daniel in 2015, having served as Deputy Commissioner (Technical). Alhaji Kari hails from Bauchi State in the north-east of Nigeria. His academic records showed he had a diploma in insurance from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

He subsequently obtained another diploma in insurance from the West African Insurance Institute. His previous work experience includes having been Managing Director of the National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (now NICON Insurance Limited) and the Nigerian Reinsurance Corporation (Now Nigeria Reinsurance Limited). Also, he was the managing director at Unity Capital Insurance.

On the low side, Alhaji Kari was indicted by the Obasanjo administration for financial impropriety while serving at the National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NICON) and therefore, was barred from holding public office for 10 years.

Upon the expiry of the restriction, Alhaji Kari was appointed Commissioner for Insurance by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in 2015.

Kari was considered by many in the insurance industry to be vindictive. He took many unnecessary retaliatory actions, including the cancellation of the licenses of over 100 insurance brokers in one day. His tenure was marred by needless fighting.

He was resisted by the industry and also by the NAICOM Staff Union. All his proposals for insurance sector reforms were considered by the industry to be made in bad faith; hence, they were vehemently opposed by the stakeholders.

Some of these unsuccessful proposals include the “tier-based recapitalization of the insurance industry”, and the “state producer license,” under which states were to be licensed as insurance agents.

Due to the many crises that rocked his initial 4-year term, Alhaji Kari was unable to secure a renewal of his appointment, and he quietly bowed out in 2019. Mr. Thomas then succeeded Alhaji Kari as Acting Commissioner for Insurance.

Mr. Sunday Olorundare Thomas: Promising Start, Lost Opportunities (2019-2024)

Mr. Sunday Olorundare, Thomas, hails from Kogi State in the north-central part of Nigeria. He holds a B.Sc. in Actuarial Science from the University of Lagos. He also obtained an MBA from the same university. Mr. Thomas served as general manager and later as director at NAICOM. He also served a term of 5 years as DG of the Nigerian Insurers Association. He was Deputy Commissioner (Technical) at NAICOM.

In 2020, Mr. Thomas was confirmed as the substantive Commissioner for Insurance. This was following his commendable leadership by mobilizing the insurance industry to support the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

Mr. Thomas inherited some of the burdens of Alhaji Kari; hence, most of his reform initiatives also failed. He was generally regarded as having an ambivalent personality who could hardly make decisions.

Despite much effort, under his tenure, the insurance industry missed the opportunity of a new insurance legislation, the Insurance Bill 2020. The bill, though passed by both houses of the 9th Assembly, could not be signed by President Buhari. Also, under his tenure, NAICOM lost 50 percent of its revenue to the federal government in 2024 under the compulsory 50 percent deduction of revenue for federal government agencies. This development has greatly impoverished NAICOM and has made insurance regulation impossible.

Also, under his tenure, NAICOM lost the opportunity to establish a running industry regulatory portal. And finally, his efforts to renew his appointment were rebuffed by the federal government, and he quietly bowed out in April 2024.

Mr. Olusegun Ayo Omosehin: (2024–Present)

Leading NAICOM into the future is Mr. Olusegun Ayo Omosehin, a seasoned industry veteran with a diverse background in insurance and leadership. Born and raised in Nigeria, Olusegun Omosehin embarked on his academic journey at the University of Ondo, Ado Ekiti (now known as Ekiti State University), where he pursued a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from 1986 to 1990.

His thirst for knowledge led him to the prestigious University of Lagos, where he completed a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy in 1992. Fueled by a passion for economic development, Omosehin returned to the University of Lagos and obtained another Master’s degree, this time in Development Economics, from 1997 to 1999. Armed with a strong academic foundation, he was poised to make significant contributions to Nigeria’s financial sector.

In June 1993, Omosehin took his first steps into the insurance industry as a corporate marketing executive for Crusader Insurance Plc. His keen intellect and strategic vision quickly propelled him into leadership roles, including a stint as Managing Director at AIICO General Insurance Company Limited from 2007 to 2009.

Throughout his career, Omosehin’s unwavering dedication to excellence and continuous learning has been evident. In 2013, he completed an Advanced Leadership and Management Programme in Organizational Leadership and Business Strategy at the prestigious Said Business School, University of Oxford, further honing his skills and expertise.

In 2020, Omosehin assumed the role of managing director at Old Mutual Nigeria Life Assurance Company Limited, where he continued to make significant strides in the insurance sector. His exemplary track record and wealth of experience caught the attention of industry leaders, leading to his appointment as the Commissioner for Insurance at NAICOM in 2024.

The new insurance commissioner brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and vision to his role. But certainly, he has a lot to do in advancing the course of the insurance industry in Nigeria. His journey as Insurance Commissioner has since commenced on April 18, 2024.

In conclusion, as Nigeria’s insurance sector continues to evolve, the role of NAICOM and its commissioners remains paramount in shaping its trajectory. Through visionary leadership, ethical stewardship, and collaborative engagement, the insurance industry can realize its full potential as a driver of economic growth and financial resilience for the nation.

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