A Nigerian businessman based abroad has lamented the refusal of the management of Zenith General Insurance to pay him compensation, despite several years of paying premiums to the firm to secure his business.
The businessman, Paul Okolo, told SaharaReporters that he had set up his company, Triburniser Limited, an exploration and mining company in Benue State and a relation (who worked with Zenith Bank) had advised him to key into the insurance packages provided by Zenith General Insurance.
According to him, he insured major equipment including a generator set, a brand new Cummins 17.5KVA power generator purchased from Cummins Nigeria Limited in late 2016 at the cost of N4.8 million.
The generating set was insured with a full and comprehensive package provided by Zenith General Insurance at the rate of N5million and monthly premium payment was made for the insurance, Okolo further noted.
However, two years after, the generating set was stolen and a major suspect was arrested by the police but as a result of internal changes at the police station, the suspect was released.
Okolo said he further proceeded to Zenith General Insurance for compensation over the loss but this was declined as the company claimed the theft of the generator was staged particularly as a former employee of Triburniser was involved.
He said, “I paid all the premiums, in 2018, this terrorism issue started and my brand new generator which I bought at N4.8 million and insured at N5 million with Zenith General Insurance, it happened that the generator was stolen in August 2018. We reported the incident at the police station and by this time, we had shut down the site, there were only security people on the site, because of the terrorism going on in the area.
“It was only the security personnel that were left there, I had asked the other employees to go home. So, I reported at the police station and the police arrested the security personnel, took their statement, during the interrogation, the security man said one of my former staff planned the robbery so the police decided that they were going to arrest the former staff.
“Police said they needed money to apprehend him, I paid. By September, I filed a claim with the insurance company; because it was not only the generator that was stolen, a flat-screen TV, three computers and so many other things were stolen. I filed a claim with Zenith General Insurance and they sent an investigator to investigate and the investigator reached out to me; I directed him to my operation people on the site. I told them to give him all the necessary assistance.
“After doing his job, he went back to Zenith General Insurance and I got a letter from them that they would not cover the claim for generator theft, I asked why? They said they believed that the generator was not really stolen that they believed this was just an internal issue that one of my staff said they weren’t paid salary, I asked them what sort of nonsense was that? They said the generator was not really stolen because the lead suspect was yet to be arrested and I told them I’d given the police every information needed to apprehend the suspect. How they do their job is not my business?
”That area is a remote area, nothing can work there without power, there’s no electricity, no road, nothing. Zenith General Insurance and I started dragging it back and forth till now, this is 2021, that business is almost dead, since 2018, you cannot power that place. The generator now; the brand new one costs N10 million, I bought it for N4.8million that time. But because we could not replace the generator, that business has almost crumbled.
“The lead suspect that they were telling me was not yet arrested, was finally arrested by the police in 2020; he was part of this terrorist group, the Gana group. He was arrested as part of the operations.
”I sent the news article to Zenith General Insurance about the arrest but I got no response. The company basically just stonewalled me; they refused to pay my claims, I wrote a complaint letter to the insurance regulator in Nigeria, NAICOM, I didn’t hear anything from them, it’s more than 2 months. I invested a lot of money with my partners in that venture so when we discovered we had no insurance coverage, we had to move things out of there. Based on this incident, we discovered that Zenith was not covering anything.
“I later saw that they’ve started ignoring my emails, messages and the rest and even when they don’t ignore them, they don’t get back to me. The firm just killed my business. I will sue them soonest.”
Okolo, in a letter addressed to the Commissioner, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) had stated, “I hereby submit this complaint about Zenith General Insurance, a subsidiary of Zenith Bank PLC, regarding the theft of my brand new Cummins 17.5KVA power generator purchased from Cummins Nigeria Limited in late 2016 at the cost of Four million Eight Hundred Thousand (N4.8 million naira).
“The generator was insured with a full and comprehensive package provided by Zenith General Insurance for Five million naira (N5million naira) and monthly premium payment was made for the insurance (attached is the evidence of payments and other supporting documents).
“The generator was stolen from my mining site in Benue State on the 27 of August 2018. The – police was notified about the incident immediately and arrested the security guard onsite on the day of the incident.
“According to the police, the investigation is ongoing and eventually the case went cold due to internal changes at the police station in the very remote area of Ayelamo in the Logo Local Government Area of Benue State.
“My company applied for insurance claim from Zenith General Insurance, which was subsequently declined on the opinion that the theft of the generator was staged and therefore an internal incident which was orchestrated by Mr. Simon Reuben Igundanase, a former staff of my company to defraud the insurance company according to independent investigations by Benefit Loss Adjusters. I have protested this conclusion for several years now as being an absolutely erroneous conclusion.”
Meanwhile, in its reaction to SaharaReporters, Zenith General Insurance forwarded a letter dated October 3, 2019, in which it had explained that the circumstance surrounding the theft was indeed a breach of the agreement.
The letter reads, “We write to acknowledge the receipt of your recent email and your follow up telephone calls to our Miss Precious Ezekiel on 9 September 2019 in respect of the captioned incident.
“We will like to reiterate that we engaged the service of Messrs’ Benefit Loss Adjusters to objectively investigate the circumstances surrounding the theft of your Generating Set on 27 August 2018 and they subsequently carried out a detailed investigation into the matter, it is the outcome of their investigations which was in consonance with the policy terms and conditions that were communicated to you.
“Without a doubt, the investigations affirmed that your generating set was indeed carted away. Nevertheless, the circumstance leading to its theft and how it was done and by who is important in any insurance claim. This is important and there are specific provisions contained in your Plant All Risk Policy which invalidates your claim.
”The underlisted are undeniable facts of this claim so far: 1. First, the onus of proof of loss lies with you, the insured. Interestingly, in proving your claim, you submitted two different versions of police report and we are at a loss as to the reason for this, or the one to rely on since they emanated from the same Police Station,
“Specifically, a police extract signed by one Supol Utim lor Celestine dated 17″ September 2018 indicted Orban Gwa and Simon Igyundunase (see appendix 1). Another confessional Statement by the security man, Orban Gwa, dated 31 August, 2018 stated that the theft was perpetrated by some unknown who were authorised by your former employee Simon Igyundunase (appendix 2). Both reports are consistent on the fact that known persons not outsiders are responsible directly indirectly for the theft.
“Secondly, your email dated 2 October, 2018 confirmed that you either employed or you were aware of the employment of a security man in the name Orban Gwa who was securing your premises and same has been identified as the prime suspect in the theft of your generating set.
“Your email also established that one Mr. Simon Igyundunase was your staff before he was recently sacked. Also, you affirmed that the police are already tracking the sacked employee and his apprehension is imminent. (see appendix 3).
“We wish to reiterate that we value our clients and would not shy away from paying any genuine claim where our liability is established in line with the Policy terms and conditions. However, the cause of loss in this instance is not covered by this policy. We advise that you hold your former employee and your security man responsible for the theft of your generator.”
The letter was signed at the time by Olusegun Oderinde and Chris Owuamanam of the Claims/Legal and Compliance Department.