In reaction to the collapse of the 21-storey building in Ikoyi, stakeholders in the insurance industry have condemned the rising spate of building collapse in the country and are canvassing for building insurance to be made compulsory to cushion the effect of such incidents for victims and their families.

While the death toll from the building exceeds 40, officials of the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria have said that the chances that survivors trapped in the building would still be alive is slim.

As of the time of filing this report, no insurance cover for the collapsed building has been found.

What they are saying

Yetunde Ilori, Director-General, Nigerian Insurers Association, NIA commiserated with the families of the victims while also lamenting the worrisome reoccurrence of building collapse in the country.

She stressed the need for the general public to comply with all building rules as well as adopt insurance in the protection of lives and property to curb any further incidence of building collapse.

In a similar vein, Rotimi Edu, President of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, said the alarming cases of building collapse constituted a huge challenge to the government and other stakeholders in the built environment. He canvassed for the need to come up with better synergy to ensure compliance with extant building regulations.

Sunday Thomas, the Commissioner for Insurance, National Insurance Commission, described the building collapse as a national tragedy and stressed the need for governments at all levels to sensitise the people to buy into compulsory insurances especially insurance of public buildings and buildings under construction.

He said, “Insurance is about risk-taking and claims payment when the unforeseen happens. If the building was insured, the insurance company in charge would pay and NAICOM as a regulator would ensure that claims were paid.

Concerning this kind of unforeseen circumstance, the starting point going forward is for insurance people to create awareness on the existence and relevance of such compulsory insurance then the federal and state governments should use their agencies to compel Nigerians to take insurance covers especially compulsory insurances.”

Ganiyu Musa, NIA, Chairman said with no one coming forward to notify them of any form of insurance compensation, the underwriter has embarked on the inquiry after waiting for days.

“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 gotten 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 added that the incident has become a national catastrophe, hence the need to follow up on how it impacts 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.”

What insurance law states

Building insurance is one of the compulsory insurances stipulated by the insurance Act 2003. While Section 64 of the Act provides that all buildings under construction above two floors shall be adequately insured with a registered insurance company, Section 65 of the Insurance Act 2003 stipulates that all public buildings shall be adequately insured against the hazards of collapse, fire, earthquake, storm and flood.

The section adds that the insurance policy shall cover the legal liabilities of an owner or occupier of premises in respect of loss or of damage to property or bodily injury or death suffered by any user of the premise and the third party.

What you should know

While the recent collapse of the 21-storey building under construction at Ikoyi, Lagos, depicts a huge tragedy and a sad commentary on national life, this case overshadowed the case of a 2-storey building that failed on the same day in the Lekki area of the state.

According to the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), no fewer than 43 buildings under construction collapsed in Nigeria in 2019 and many lives were lost in the incidents. The National President of NIOB, Kunle Awobodu, said that 17 of the cases were recorded in Lagos alone. The rest occurred in other parts of the country.

In July this year, a 3-storey building at Church Street on Lagos Island partially collapsed at night, while residents were asleep, the case is one of the numerous examples of the building collapse seen in recent times. This along with fire and flood incidences is endangering the lives of Nigerians, hence, spelling the need for proper insurance.

Call to action

The recurring spate of hazards in the form of building collapse, fire, earthquake, storm and flood in Nigeria has taken lots of lives and still threatens more if proper measures are not taken.

While insurance may not be able to restore lives, building insurance would go a long way in cushioning the effects of the disaster and availing funds to victims or their families in the event of loss of life – especially of the breadwinner.

Calling for the interference of government, Ilori said this is not the time for blame games but sober reflections and a call to action. Those who are vested with the power to enforce the laws of the land owe it a duty to ensure that laws are obeyed.