The Chairman of Crown Insurance Brokers, Chief Felix Ohiri Amadi has enjoyed a successful career spanning over three decades in the insurance sector of the economy, having worked closely in chatting lasting solutions towards pension management, he knew exactly what the senior citizens go through after their active service years in accessing their pension benefits, the challenges of retirement age and reasons why people fail to plan for their old age. In his new book, Retirement in Nigeria, Amadi sought to highlight the need to build a robust retirement sector, where professionals would be trained on the intricacies of managing and caring for the aged. He recently engaged the media on why he embarked on the project, “Retirement in Nigeria”, his insurance career, amongst other sundry issues. Enjoy the excerpt.
How has it been with Crown Insurance Company during this time of the pandemic?
Crown Insurance Brokers Limited is a company that has been in existence for over three decades. We have had very good times and difficult times such as this season and it has caused us to scale down our operations at the moment in other to cope effectively during this challenging period.
How well has Crown Insurance been able to fair in the insurance sector of Nigeria since its birth?
There is no Federal Government Institution that Crown Insurance hasn’t managed either full or in parts from MPC, MPA, Police, Custom, DSS and much more. We have been part of their management over time and we have also managed some private institutions like Shipping companies, Oil and Gas companies, too numerous to mention. So, Crown Insurance Brokers Limited can be taken as one of the elite insurance companies in Nigeria. Our records are intact and the reference about us can be obtained from the Nigeria Corporation of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB).
With all the successes you’ve enumerated, it shows you’ve done well in the sector; what defines a good insurance company?
Insurance is a major aspect of risk management, whether it affects an individual or organization. Every insurance organization that cannot define the risk of an individual or the organization in a long term may not succeed because risk, if not properly managed to a long term can lead to a major hazard for either the individual or organization involved. Anybody that is managing another person’s risk and fails to define it well cannot have a lasting relationship and if an organization can’t keep a relationship then it will fail when its backups disengage. For the insurance companies that have succeeded, it means they’ve been able to define their client’s risks in a long term and have followed the procedures religiously.
What are the challenges of running an insurance company in Nigeria?
The challenges here aren’t different from the challenges of most other organizations. Economy is looking south and it’s been like this for some time that makes every organization that wants to remain in place to indulge in difficult management. Insurance as an area of endeavor is not considered most of the time as important as health and stomach care, so issues of risk management is put after the Medicare which is basic because people cannot combine them, even when they are aware they need it, the basics comes first. Historically, insurance in Nigeria hasn’t enjoyed deep penetration even with our efforts to create awareness and cause people to accept it.
What is the high point of your career as an insurance broker?
Well, over the years I have managed many public and private accounts and I have managed them veritably, it is difficult for me to single out one as the high point. When I was called by the Federal Ministry of Defense to review Military Pension as it was in serious crises; a lot of destitute were hanging round Ikoyi, claiming they were ex-soldiers who were waiting for their benefits so T. Y. Damjuma and Mrs. Delaja felt there was need to look critically into the reason the soldiers who claimed to be retirees were not being paid. That was where I was called to improve the management of retired soldiers in Nigeria. In 2015, Crown instituted what may have become the biggest Group Life Insurance Scheme other than the Omnibus scheme that is managed by the Head of Service in the Department of Security Services (DSS). That scheme has the signature Crown Insurance and it is one of the finest insurance schemes running now in the country. There are much more achievements to count regarding my high points in service.
If you weren’t an insurance broker what other business or career would you have ventured into?
I would have loved to retire as a professor; I would have functioned well as an intellectual. When I graduated from the University of Lagos, Akoka at the age of 23 the University enlisted me for post graduate studies in Colombian University, somehow I preferred going to work in other to support my younger ones, that was how I diverted my career in the world of academics. Before I decided to quite my dreams, I had calculated that at the age of 27 I would’ve gained my PH.D and if I kept working hard as I did at that time, I foresaw myself as a Professor at the age of 35/36 but all that didn’t happen because I diverted from it.
Some time ago you had a stint in politics, what was your intention when you delve into it then and currently are you still nursing political ambitions?
My sojourn in politics is still work in progress. When you see some people in the corridor of power in Nigeria, you’ll feel that they don’t have the indebt of love that is required from the leaders in a nation. Unlike some serious minded professionals that have attempted politics who go there to assist because they’ve seen some loopholes they think they can fill-in in order to move the country to a better place that was the motive that made me become a politician. I joined a political party, I was an active member of the party and secured a ticket to run for the senatorial seat of Imo East where I come from; I didn’t win but everybody says I made a very huge impact. You know that once you attempt a political position in Nigeria you are likely to sacrifice a lot of your personal savings so it’s not that I have quit politics but I am waiting to see my like minds come together to form a critical movement so that the country can be safe. If you are a reasonable human being in Nigerian politics and you have to go against fifty rascals out there, you cannot maneuver them; they’ll deal with you and make you seem useless. Our prayer is that more mature minds, more professionals and more of the ones that has the good of the country at heart should come up and work together to make this country a better place.
As 2023 approaches, do you have any intention of coming out for an elective position and are you one of the people clamoring for Igbo presidency?
I have no such plans now and it is too early for one to come out and start telling what will happen in three years’ time. Instead of clamoring for either Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba president pray that only a person suitable for the position will come and let’s advice those in government starting from the local government that politics isn’t about getting rich in government and gaining firm and power. Let them understand that politics is about governing the people with good will. All the people that think about how to win the next elections at all costs are the traditional politicians who have nothing to offer and I am not one of them.
Talking about groups like minds and professionals, few months ago, Pat Utomi, Olisa Agbakoba and others came together to form a coalition for 2023, what’s your take about such moves and would you embrace their idea?
Of course their ideas are good, more people should join them. They aren’t forming a political party; they are uniting to realize what’s in the best interest of the people, people like them are good people. Anybody who has intention in just willing and dealing is making a mistake because at the end of the day there might not be a country for them to continue to deal if they don’t protect the one at stake now.
Generally speaking Sir, what’s your assessment of the Nigerian political space?
A lot of improvement is needed. There are good people but I would say that they are in the minority, the job is to bring more people that are ready to save Nigeria and impact the people in a way that will benefit the country’s future; people have to forget about the old ways of becoming a billionaire without lifting a finger. Let them bring in people that will make impact in a way that the future generation will look back and say “but for this people”, that’s the way forward.
You’ve done well with your new book, Retirement in Nigeria; can you talk about it?
Retirement is one of those areas that are still lagging behind particularly from the point of view of those that are retired and aged. You don’t need to stretch your neck to have a view of those who are suffering because they have not received their retirement funds from either the state or local government. So there is need for our government to champion the cause of these suffering senior citizens, they say little or nothing about it and it’s bad. I embarked on retirement management research for the reason of the suffering retirees; the same thing I realized when I was called to manage the military retirement. If you go through the whole of Nigeria you’ll see that there is no solid literature that can be used as reference or capacity building in terms of retirement so I decided to write about it.
No one talks about retirement till death and for one to be able to manage retirement in order for old people not to suffer it has to be well planned; between retirement planning and retirement management the time has come for further research for people both in the higher institutions and professional institutions to be trained for proper clarification so that when they are confronted by retirees or workers either as consultant or employees of Retirement Management organization, they would be adequately prepared.
Federal Government has done well through the Obasanjo regime that saw the decay in pension management and they put together in a reform act in 2004, now successive governments have been managing pensions based on the reform principles yet no refunds are needed, the states and local governments have to look into the affairs of pensioners in their areas. What affects a part of the country affects everywhere so they have to begin to take issues that concerns pensions seriously.
I do not want to review my book, let others do it for me but it covers a lot. The Retirement Management Industry has come, research is seriously needed in this area; we have Pediatricians everywhere who take care of babies but a lot of old people need care, they need a special hospital not General Hospital.
Look carefully, you’ll discover that the traditional system of children taking care of their parents has collapsed. The reason is the world is now a global village and your child can decide to go and live in another country; while you as the parent is here in Nigeria. All the child can do is send money to you and money can’t take care of an old parent but if there is a professional who has passion and ethics governed by the profession will take care of you and get paid.
An aged person doesn’t need money but care, but such things are lacking in this country and it’s in this book I’ve written. If you look around the entire world, countries that have the size and economic capacity of Nigeria all have elderly people whether they have worked or not, they collect a certain amount of money for their care but we don’t have that here and advocacy is needed. We don’t have so many elderly people in Nigeria who live beyond 70 and 80 years because of suffering, let this people live and be happy; let them not die cursing the government and the system. This book will help those that are making laws on social securities to begin to re-examine current positions to make amends where necessary so that those who will be managing pensions will manage better and those who will receive pensions will be happy and be thankful to the government.
What challenges did you face in putting up this massive volume of write-up “Retirement in Nigeria”?
Writing a book first of all needs a clear motivation. It is the motivation that guides and being that I’ve encountered a lot of retired people both as a consultant and individually, I know a lot of what they go through. Once you have motivation and you decide to do a thing out of your busy schedule you’ll create your time for passion because it is what you want to do properly not because of money but for impact and education; though it cost me time and money but for the sake that I wanted to do it and here it is ready to be presented to the world.
How soon should we expect the book on the shelves?
We delayed the public presentation because of the Covid-19 challenges but now we know that social distancing is the new order for safety so we’ll soon with safety measures adequately putting in place present it to the general public.