Mohammed Kari: Nigeria’s Insurance Czar, By Alwan Hassan
It speaks volumes about Nigeria’s current national psyche, when in the national political realm, the fear of a disciplinarian like President Muhammadu Buhari, is considered the beginning of wisdom. In the same light that the Nigerian national psyche has been eroded overtime, the Nigerian insurance community has over the years become a biased system that favours the few over the many, and functions solely on partiality to the pockets of those in charge, than to the formation of a working insurance system.
This is why following President Muhammadu Buhari’s July 30th appointment of Mohammed Kari, as the new Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive of the National Insurance Commission, many of the ‘old-boy-networks’ in the Nigerian community became unnerved, and now, there are new whispers in those circles that “The fear of Kari in the insurance community, is the beginning of wisdom.”
As an insurance expert who first started his career with the Royal Exchange Assurance Company in 1979, I first had the opportunity to work under Kari in 2009 – thirty years into his professional journey. During Kari’s four year stint at unityKapital Assurance– which began in 2007 and ended in 2011 – he was known as a no-nonsense reformer, who cared mostly about institutionalizing sweeping policy precedents that would sanitize an already flawed system, than wasting time on the trivialities that often come with such administrative powers.
Additionally, the Kari that I served under was a vocal protester against the corrupt ‘return premium’ activities of other insurance companies. ‘Return Premium’ – as demonstrated in that time – is a siphoning mechanism adopted by many insurance companies and public office holders that works by placing huge amounts of public funds – sometimes running into billions – in insurance schemes with the sole aim of having the parties concerned profiting of the interest generated from the public’s collective wealth.
Although not as popular as its other brothers in the corruption family index files, return premium is an act of gross misconduct on the same level as public office embezzlement and contract fraud. As it stands all 59 registered insurance companies and over 600 brokerage firms in Nigeria have silently frowned on Kari’s appointment, with many of their staff calling it “the beginning of the end.”
Having worked with Kari before, I must admit, I didn’t like him but I was forced to due to his seasoned intellect and outstanding commitment to duty. He comes to work at 7am & closes at 9pm.. However, I came to consider him a leader demonstrated by his actions, and less by his words.
In this regard, if “the beginning of the end” that many of the insurance companies have grumbled about means that things in Nigeria’s insurance administration are about to change, then I, and the millions of other Nigerians that can benefit from a working insurance system, will welcome such an end. Furthermore, if this end signifies an end to the degenerating act of using the insurance scheme as a conduit for self-profiteering at the expense of the country’s commonwealth, such a change cannot come too soon.
As I said before, it says a lot about our country when positive reformers are feared, simply because many of those in our nation’s public system have skeletons in their cupboards. However, I have come to believe that if Kari must expose these skeletons by sending the ‘bonemasters’ to the chopping board – then he should go for it.
For the greater good…
-Alwan Hassan is a former employee of UnityKapital Assurance Plc and President of Alsad Group of Companies.-