BY NKECHI NAECHE-ESEZOBOR--The Commissioner for Insurance, Mr. Sunday Thomas, President of Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria/ Chairman Insurance Industry Consultative Council, Mr Edwin Igbiti, Chairman Nigerian Insurers Association, (NIA), Segun Omoshein and President of West African Insurance Companies Association,( WAICA), Mr Eddie Efekoha, among others, have paid a glorious tributes to the late Prof (Chief) Joseph Ogbonnaya Irukwu.
Irukwu, was the pioneer Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Government owned Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation and founder of the African Development Insurance Company Limited.
Irukwu was a great lawyer, whose academic contributions, especially in the field of Insurance Law, led to his elevation to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
His death on July 7, 2023, was announced by Prince Harrison Eze Okorie, the President-General of Amaokwe Item Welfare Union, Abia State. As a prolific author, Irukwu published so many works about the insurance industry in Africa. He died at age 89.
He was born on July 20, 1934. He obtained a degree in Law and Insurance from a British university in 1962.
He later worked with West African Provincial Insurance Company, a British firm operating out of Lagos. From his position as a legal adviser, he rose within the firm and joined the managerial cadre of the firm’s insurance department in 1965.
Irukwu was appointed the chief executive officer of Unity Life and Fire Insurance Company in 1970 and it was while working at Unity that his profile began to rise. In 1972, the government appointed him head of the student loans board, a committee with the responsibility to disburse loans to thousands of students.
In a fitting tribute, Thomas, who was represented at the Insurance Industry tributes held yesterday by Director, Corporate, Governance, Enforcement and Compliance, National Insurance Commission, Mr. Leo Akah, said “Prof. Joe’s journey in the insurance world began with an insatiable curiosity, a thirst for knowledge, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.
“From the moment he stepped into the realm of insurance, he demonstrated an unwavering commitment to understanding the intricacies of management, underwriting, and actuarial science. His profound insights and pioneering research have illuminated the path for countless professionals who follow in his footsteps.”
He said that one of Prof. Irukwu’s most notable achievements is his contribution to risk assessment and actuarial science. His ground-breaking research has not only deepened our understanding of risk but has also paved the way for more accurate and efficient risk modelling.
His work has enabled nsurance companies to better serve their clients and protect them against unforeseen events.
In a signed tribute, Chairman of IICC, Edwin Igbiti said Chief Irukwu was a dynamic insurance practitioner, and distinguished legal luminaire who fashioned the nexus between insurance and law; an epitome of intellectualism, who saw insurance business as a tool for sustainable future, even in those days.
According to him he was referred to as the father of insurance law; in him, law and insurance converge.
Also, the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) in its tributes signed by it Director-General, Yetunde Ilori, said Irukwu was one of the founding fathers of the Nigerian Insurers Association and chairman of the Association from 1981 to 1983 during which he contributed immensely to the growth of the Association and was reputed to be the finder of the present NIA House.
She said though he exited active insurance practice many years ago, he remained a member of the Governing Council and a strong pillar of support to the Association. He was an astute professional, devout Christian, legal luminary, great author and sound administrator.
“Needless saying that Prof. was an ‘insurance encyclopedia’, a repertoire of knowledge in governance and the connection between insurance and law which he deployed in his numerous articles and books.”
President of ILAN, Diipo Olanrewaju, said the Irukwu journey with ILAN was a saga of tireless dedication, marked by a quest for knowledge and a relentless pursuit of excellence that inspired all who had the privilege of working alongside him.
He said he was maestro in the realms of insurance and legal intricacies, Chief IRUKWU was a trailblazer, navigating the complex terrain with an intellect that could only be described as transcendent.
The West African Insurance Companies Association (WAICA) in its tributes, signed by the Secretary General Davis Iyasere, said Prof. Irukwu, was a founding father of WAICA and Chairman of the sub-regional body in 1982 when the association needed leadership.
It added that through his administrative acumen and dexterity, he steered the ship of WAICA to an enviable heights, resulting in its growth and a meteoric rise in relevance, visibility and status for which the association witnesses today.
It is indubitable that during his time, WAICA reached its apogee of relevance and influence.
While noting that Prof Irukwu was an incurable advocate of a strong, united, cohesive, and virile insurance market in the subregion, a thoroughbred professional, devout Christian, legal luminary, author, risk management expert, astute administrator, and gargantuan boardroom guru. He was, indeed, a colossus.
Appreciating stakeholders at the event, Chioma Irukwu- Sideso, the daughter of late Irukwu, promised to sustain and built on the legacy of her late father.