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The Cry Of The Poor! By Yusuf Alhaji Lawan — Africa Daily News

"Don't kick a man when he is down, help him up by saying encouraging and positive words." Alcurtis Turner.

In Marketing, products are classified into convenience, shopping, specialty, unsought, etc. Unsought goods are defined as products which consumers are unaware of or are not that interested in actively pursuing them for purchase. A high degree of marketing including heavy advertising and aggressive sales techniques are often necessary to sell them. In other words, Unsought goods are those products that are hard to sell, consumers have to be persuaded or compelled in some cases to make patronage. Examples are Insurance products, funeral services, encyclopedia, fire extinguishers, reference books, etc.

A conversation with insurance agent(s) will reveal how it is to secure a voluntary purchase of the services introduced to the market. This may not be unconnected with series of reasons including customers' perception, economic situation, income level, value of the product and/or utility an insured stands to derive after indemnification. Perhaps, the insurance companies contribute immensely to the resistance by customers due to some of their actions and inactions.

Ordinarily, if all insurance products are made voluntary, majority of Nigerians may not purchase. This is likely part of the reasons why the Federal Government of Nigeria chose the path of coercion to make citizens purchase some due to perceived benefits understood by them.

The motor vehicle (Third-party) insurance Act 1950 mandates motor vehicle owners plying Nigerian roads to hold motor vehicle insurance policy. In a Third-party insurance policy, the policy holder purchases a policy for protection against the claims of another. It is referred to as Third-party cover since the beneficiary of the policy is someone other than the two parties involved in the contract.

At present, vehicle owners pay the sum of Five thousand Naira (N5,000) only as Third-party insurance. Depending on the type of vehicle and may be the State where the vehicle documents are obtained, a private car owner pays the range of Ten to Fifteen thousand Naira for complete vehicle particulars.

Recently, I came across a circular from National Insurance Commission (a Federal Government agency responsible for the regulation of Insurance practice in Nigeria) unveiling an upward review of premium rates for motor insurance. The circular dated 22nd December, 2022 was duly signed by one L. M. Akah, Director (Policy and Regulation) for Commissioner of Insurance. To my amazement, I observed that private vehicle owners are now to pay 200% increase of the usual payment from 1st January, 2023 amounting to Fifteen thousand Naira (N15,000). (This is likely their New Year present to poor Nigerians).

This is coming from a public agency whose emoluments are paid by taxpayers who are meant to stand for the generality of citizens against exploitation. Unfortunately, the poor Nigerians got the opposite. This is understood to be an act of injustice and tyranny meted on poor Nigerians by those employed to protect them.

From the time I became a car owner, more than a decade ago, for once, I have never seen or heard of a sensitisation lecture, town hall meeting, public program or their likes organized by insurance companies to vehicle owners on how to access compensation when the need arises. They are more of ghosts who only appear when they want to collect premium. For all my life, I have not seen or heard a story of a person who got compensation on the ground of Third-party insurance cover in Nigeria which we are compelled to purchase. This raises more concern to motorists. I pray a time shall come when the law would be refilled to make all insurance policies voluntary. That will be the time when the insurance industry will wake up from deep slumber and bell the cat for its survival. It is then the companies will stop eating fat on vulnerable Nigerians who have no one to stand for them in situations like this. With this increase now, who knows if Nigeria's minimum wage can pay or renew vehicle particulars?

In the same vein, Federal Road Safety Corps also made upward review of the costs of Driver's license which have soon taken effect. The license for 3 years that used to be N6,350 is now around N12,000 while that of 5 years that was N10,450 has been jacked-up to around N15,000. These are 47.08% and 30.33% increase for the 3 and 5 years licenses respectively. Federal Road Safety Corps is an agency through which government render services to the citizens. It is not a revenue generating agency. Then, why the extortion against the innocents for a simple plastic card?

Laws are supposed to be flexible for easy implementation. Compulsory levies are expected to be very affordable so as to encourage easy compliance. Exorbitant charges and harsh policies are capable of influencing resistance and diversion in law-abiding citizens.

It is a known fact that Nigerians live in an unfavorable economy and there is high inflation rate in the land. However, there is no justification for whatsoever of the 200% increase as well as others. Information made available by National Bureau of Statistics on its website www.nigerianstat.gov.ng reveals that in July 2022, on year-to-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 19.64%. This was 2.27% points higher compared to the rate recorded in July 2021 which was 17.38%. Then, why will an inflation of 19.64% lead to 200% increase?

Based on a worldmeter elaboration of the latest United Nations data, the current population of Nigeria as at Thursday 29th December, 2022 stood at 218,843,820. The Federal Government of Nigeria through the National Bureau of Statistics, on 17th November, 2022 launched the results of the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) survey. The survey was a collaborative effort between the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), The National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHDI). The survey which sampled over 56,000 households across 36 states of the federation and FCT was conducted between November 2021 and February 2022 and provides Multidimensional Poverty estimates at senatorial district levels.

It has it that, 63% of persons living within Nigeria are Multidimensionally poor. The national MPI is 0.257, indicating that poor people in Nigeria experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations.

Now, look at the population and the number that falls within the percentage. The country that has 63% of its citizens in Multidimensional poverty, why will a government agency compel these poor people to pay 200% more than the usual without a just cause?

It is a sad reality that in situations like this, no one cares to side with the poor masses. I knew about Consumer Protection Council (CPC) right from my secondary school days as a commercial student. However, I am yet to witness its impact on its core mandate. These are the situations where the voice of the CPC is supposed to be heard.

The country that has no robust public transport system, owning a car becomes a necessity for those that can afford. However, the treatment relevant government agencies afflict on car owners seems as if it's an offense to get one. What justifies the high rate of customs duty, high prices of petroleum products and their scarcity, increased fee for Driver's license, 200% increase on Third-party insurance and others numerous to mention in a country blessed with huge, abundant and untapped resources?

Poor Nigerians are passing through a lot of hardships from multifaceted angles. Everyone tries to take undue advantage on these poor populace for flimsy and selfish reasons. Then, who, when, where and how will the cry of the poor be heard?

Lawan, a public affairs analyst wrote from Hausawa Asibiti Ward, Potiskum Yobe State and can be reached via email: nasidi30@gmail.com.

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