BY NKECHI NAECHE-ESEZOBOR—Following it’s expulsion from the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), Standard Alliance Insurance Plc, is demanding a N10 billion damages for loss of reputation resulting from the malicious publication from the association.
The insurer also demanded an immediately withdraw of the letter of suspension, termination and expulsion not exceeding seven clear days.
According to a letter entitled: RE: Purported Expulsion of Standard Alliance Insurance PLC From The Membership Of Nigerian Insurers Association, dated Monday, July 5, 2021, signed by its lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) and addressed to the Director-General of NIA, Mrs. Yetunde Ilori and made available to BusinessToday, the insurer accused the association of denying it right to fare hearing before proceeding to publish its expulsion.
The solicitor alleged a circumvention of his client’s right to fair hearing as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, stating that there is nothing in the Association’s Constitution or within professional ethics in the insurance industry which entitles the Association to publish to the general public such expulsion and to give such malicious reason so calculated to damage the credibility and reputation of his client to the insuring public and indeed the whole world.
“In the light of the foregoing, we have our client’s firm instructions to demand the immediate withdrawal of the letter of suspension, termination and expulsion not exceeding seven (7) clear days from the date of receipt of this letter. the same to be published with an unconditional apology in all the national newspapers wherein it was advertised, with similar or greater prominence. In addition, our Client demands from the Association, the payment of N10,000.000.000.00 (Ten Billion Naira Only) as damages for loss of its reputation resulting from the malicious publication,” he said.
He noted that if at the expiration of the seven clear days from the date of receipt of the letter. he request on behalf of his client is not met, they shall have no further recourse to NIA but will proceed to execute his client’s further instructions to explore all lawful means of redress against the Association. including taking steps to nullify the purported expulsion and to seek damages.
The letter reads in part:
RE: PURPORTED EXPULSION OF STANDARD ALLIANCE INSURANCE PLC FROM THE MEMBERSHIP OF NIGERIAN INSURERS ASSOCIATION
We are Solicitors to STANDARD ALLIANCE INSURANCE PLC subsequently herein referred to as “Our Client”, on whose behalf and instructions we write. Our Client has briefed us concerning the following disturbing developments:
- That on or about the 8th of November. 2018. the Nigerian Insurers Association (“the Association”) wrote a letter to our Client demanding. that it should pay its annual subscription to the Association as well as pay certain claims stated in the said letter.
- That on or about the 13th of February. 2019. as a follow-up to the demand notice above stated, the Association invited our Client to appear before its Membership/Discipline/Legal Matters Committee, which invitation our Client honoured and despite doing so and proffering a very tenable defence. the Association informed our Client on the 9th of April. 2019 of its suspension as a member thereof.
- While the suspension of 9′ April. 2019 was still pending and unresolved, the Association proceeded again on the 23′ of October. 2019 to invite our Client to appear before its Membership/Discipline/Legal Matters Committee to explain why it had not fulfilled the conditions requisite for the lifting its suspension. Our Client again honoured the said invitation and after deliberations, the Association on the 13th of February. 2020 claimed to give a final warning and sixty (60) days extension to enable our Client pay the purported outstanding claims and offset its obligations to the Association.
- That further to paragraph 3 above, our Client settled all its obligations to the Association, for which a receipt was duly issued dated 22’4 December, 2020. The Association also acknowledged the facts stated in paragraphs I to 4 herein through the letter dated 18th February, 2021.
- That the Association erroneously, without proper investigation, proceeded vide its said letter of 18th February instant, to terminate our Client’s membership with effect from 22nd February, 2021 on the following premise:
“Although your company has settled its indebtedness to the Association, it is of great concern that no progress was made in settling the outstanding claims reported against your company by the insuring public and some insurance companies (see attached schedule)’: (Emphasis ours).
- That the reason proffered for terminating our Client’s membership is glaringly and demonstrably false, considering that:
a. In 2018. our Client made a cash premium receipt of N3,757,303.000 (Three Billion. Seven Hundred and Fifty Seven Million. Three Hundred and Three Thousand Naira) and it paid claims of N2,707.875.000 (Two Billion. Seven Hundred and Seven Million. Eight Hundred and Seventy Five Thousand Naira) inclusive of individual life policy claims.
b. In 2019. our Client made a cash premium receipt of N2.427.120.000 (Two Billion, Four Hundred and Twenty Seven Million, One Hundred and Two Thousand Naira) and it paid claims of N1.907.834.000 (One Billion. Nine Hundred and Seven Million. Eight Hundred and Thirty Four Thousand Naira) inclusive of individual life policy claims: and
c. In 2020, due to the effect of the Corona Virus Pandemic lockdown. our Client made a cash premium receipt of N967.753,000 (Nine Hundred and Sixty Seven Million. Seven Hundred and Fifty Three Thousand Naira) and it even had to resort to other reserve funds to enable it pay claims of N1.148.327.340 (One Billion. One Hundred and Forty Eight Million, Three Hundred and Twenty Seven Thousand, Three Hundred and Forty Naira) inclusive of individual life policy claims.
MALICIOUS LIBELOUS PUBLICATION 7. That despite replying your letter of 18” February. 2021 via our Clients’ letter of 26’h April, 2021 giving the Association an update of its claims settlement portfolio, the Association proceeded to rely on Section 4 (5) of its Constitution in the letter of termination dated 18d’ February, 2021, to give our Client sixty (60) days to settle all outstanding claims failing which the Association will proceed to publish the expulsion in the national newspapers, which threat was consummated on Wednesday the 23’d day of June. 2021, when the Association published thus on page 27 of The Guardian newspaper:
The Governing Council of Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) has approved the expulsion of the following companies from its membership for failing to meet their obligations to policy holders thus negating the basic principles of Insurance.
I. Industrial and General Insurance Co. Ltd.
- Niger Insurance Plc.
- Standard Alliance Insurance Plc.
The affected companies should cease forthwith from using the Association’s logo on their letterhead and other official documents.
Members of the Public should take note. SIGNED
- That funds which our Client reported to the Association that Continental Re-Insurance Co. Ltd was supposed to refund to it were wrongly classified as outstanding claims against our Client.
- That despite the purported termination of our Client’s membership of the Association, the latter still proceeded to demand that our Client should pay its annual subscription fees and other levies. This demand is most recently contained in the letter to our Client dated le May, 2021.
BREACH OF RULES OF NATURAL JUSTICE
- That our Client views its abrupt and unfair expulsion and malicious publication in the newspapers as premeditated. knowing that the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Association is Mr. Ganiyu Musa. who is also the Managing Director of Cornerstone Insurance Plc. Whereas there is no contention as to the fact that Mr. Ganiyu caused his company Cornerstone Insurance Plc to author a petition against our Client to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) (which petition is still pending at EFCC and the Federal High Court. Lagos). it is most unprofessional if not suspicious. that the said Mr. Ganiyu Musa did not recuse from all deliberations and the eventual decision of the Governing Council in approving the purported expulsion of our Client, against which he had a pending grievance. Neither did he avail himself the provisions of Section 4(12) of the Constitution of the Association in relation to the petition against our Client to the EFCC. Rather than allow a thorough and unadulterated confidence in the Association’s disciplinary system against our Client, it provided its platform for Mr. Ganiyu Musa. the Chairman of the Governing Council. as the arrowhead of this unsavoury onslaught against the integrity of our Client, all in the bid to de-market our Client and frustrate its business, reputation and goodwill.
ILLEGALITY AND UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE EXPULSION
Under and by virtue of Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), all courts of law and administrative tribunals. inclusive of the Disciplinary Committee of the Association, are bound by the rules of fair hearing which guarantee the independence and impartiality of every court of law/administrative body in the determination of the civil rights and obligations against any person. To all intents and purposes. Mr. Ganiyu Musa was not qualified to sit in judgment against our Client, since he already had vested/personal interest against our Client by the involvement of his company (Cornerstone Insurance) in the subsisting dispute pending before the EFCC and the Federal High Court, leading to conflict of interest, palpable partiality and real likelihood of bias against our Client. This has polluted and indeed vitiated the entire proceedings leading to the purported expulsion of our Client, being unconstitutional, null and void and liable to be set aside.
This view finds support in the decisions of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in several cases on the point, particularly that of Adigun v. A-G., Oyo State (No.1) (1987) 1 NIVLR (Pt. 53) 678, where it held as follows:
“The right to fair hearing being a fundamental constitutional right guaranteed by the Constitution, the breach of it in any trial or investigation or inquiry nullifies the trial, investigation or inquiry and any action taken on them is also a nullity … If the principles of natural justice are violated in respect of any decision, it is, indeed, immaterial whether the same decision would have been arrived at in the absence of the departure from the essential principles of natural justice. The decision must be declared to be no decision.” Be that as it may. even where the Association claims to be entitled under its Constitution to expel our Client, it is our considered view that the process through which our Client was sanctioned is manifestly tainted with fundamental infractions and a circumvention of our Client’s right to fair hearing as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Association’s Constitution or within professional ethics in the insurance industry which entitles the Association to publish to the general public such expulsion and to give such malicious reason so calculated to damage the credibility and reputation of our Client to the insuring public and indeed the whole world.
In the light of the foregoing, we have our Client’s firm instructions to demand the immediate withdrawal of the letter of suspension, termination and expulsion not exceeding seven (7) clear days from the date of receipt of this letter. the same to be published with an unconditional apology in all the national newspapers wherein it was advertised, with similar or greater prominence. In addition, our Client demands from the Association, the payment of N10,000.000.000.00 (Ten Billion Naira Only) as damages for loss of its reputation resulting from the malicious publication.
TAKE NOTICE that if at the expiration of the seven (7) clear days from the date of your receipt of this letter. our request on behalf of our Client is not met, we shall have no further recourse to you but will proceed to execute our Client’s further instructions to explore all lawful means of redress against the Association. including take steps to nullify the purported expulsion and to seek damages.
While thanking you for your kind consideration and prompt action, please accept the best assurances of our warmest regards, always,