Can you give an insight into the controversies surrounding the report of your committee that was asked to review the last recapitalization exercise?
I always try to avoid the word controversy in describing the present situation in the industry simply because an impression could easily be given that the industry is in crisis by such a choice of words. Let me quickly emphasize that there is no crisis in the industry but that the industry is in transition as a result of the government’s reform agenda which is affecting all aspects of the national economy. About two years ago, the government introduced a new capital threshold for companies wishing to provide insurance services in Nigeria. At the conclusion of the exercise, a review was found necessary. I was privileged to lead other distinguished Nigerians to look into the process leading to recapitalization and other issues. We undertook a study and made recommendations to government. One of the many recommendations accepted by government from the first report was to give additional time to the technical committee to verify claims of compliance by 71 approved companies. Here again, I was given the privilege to lead another team to undertake the exercise which we did and submitted the report to the government. The industry is waiting for the decision of government on the recommendation of the committee. We also have a situation where two companies out of the 71 companies verified went to court to obtain an order of stoppage of the report. The court will adjudicate in the matter and make judicial pronouncements, which should guide the government and other parties involved.
Why did the aggrieved parties complain that you should not have chaired the committee?
I am happy you said ‘aggrieved parties’ and they are in the minority. Someone must do the job, it is either I or someone else. In any case the so-called aggrieved parties are not telling the world the fact that in the two committees are distinguished Nigerians. Some of them have more experience in such assignment than myself. In compliance with Good Corporate Codes, I also declared my interest ab initio, and all discussions on the companies in which I have interests were done without my participation. The vice chairman usually presides over such meetings. Let me tell you, if you bring Martian (a person from Mars) to do this job, you will still have aggrieved parties and that is part of life. I want people to concentrate on the report and not the personalities behind it. If anybody questioned the integrity of the report I will be worried because that is the issue not the committee chairman or anyone else.
What is your reaction to their complaints?
Of course, I am worried that people are not telling the truth about me and the work of the committees, but what I am saying is that we have been given an assignment by the government whose desire is to reform the insurance industry and we gave our best advice and that is the main issue. Throughout my working life, I have maintained respect for people who look at issues not persons. Lookt at some of the reasoning, for instance, that I bid for a company and failed, so I am now on a mission to hijack the same company through the work of the committee. You can see that anyone with such a malicious mindset does not understand government processes and has no respect for the other distinguished members of the committees.
Emmanuel Chukwulozie, the former commissioner for insurance, said you were biased because he queried you while he was commissioner, is this true?
No, he said he queried the company where I was the managing director/ chief executive officer. That is the latest in the series. Earlier he said I begged him to make me managing director of NICON and he refused. I also read in another newspaper where he said I contested the position of the commissioner and he won. That, I believe put the character analysis of the personality in proper perspective. None of what he said is true. I maintained very good personal and professional relationship with him up till the time I was appointed by the federal government to chair the investigative committee, which indicted him. The reasons the committee indicted him was clearly itemized in the report. That has nothing to do with my personal or professional relationship with him. By the way, he still remains my friend.
What is the way forward for the industry?
I am very happy we are now in a country trying very hard to be ruled by our laws. The courts are also realizing the enormous responsibilities vested in them towards actualizing this dream. We should allow the courts to find out the truth and all of us should be read to live by such. I am very optimistic that, after all this, the insurance industry will be strengthened and contribute more meaningfully to the development of the national economy.