The recent burning and looting of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) headquarters by suspected arsonists masquerading as EndSARS protesters has left the management in a quagmire, having kicked up a lot of dust for the ports authority. The management is not only worried about the losses the agency sustained as a result of the unfortunate incident, which some stakeholders are suspecting to be an insiders’ attempt at covering up alleged frauds, it is also worried about the keen public interest regarding the insurance of the affected property as well as the status of premium payment to the insurance firms.

Stakeholders, especially the media are taking the government agency to task to ensure that the right thing is done with regards to the rebuilding and replacement of the damages. The public is intent on ensuring that the cost of reconstruction and replacement of the affected properties are underwritten by the insurance firm or firms whose responsibility it is to do so.

Following the arson and looting, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) did not waste time in informing the public that insurance companies had swung into action, saying that loss adjusters had started working with its relevant units to ascertain the extent of damage caused by the fire. But that was as far as the agency could say as it has since refused to disclose further information concerning its insurance transactions. The apparent reluctance of the management to disclose the identity of the insurer/s or what they are doing to indemnify the authority of the losses, or even to put a figure to the damage is what has raised the interest of the media who are asking too many questions more than the management can answer.

This apparent reluctance to make public the insurer or insurers of its property in particular has sparked speculations as to whether NPA really has insurance cover for the affected property, and if it was actually up to date in paying the premium which should place on the insurer the responsibility to underwrite the losses. Some have even declared outright that NPA has no insurance cover for the property. But NPA should have, as provision of funds running into billions of naira were made in its approved annual budgets, including the current year.

The media is peeved that NPA may have taken the magnanimous offer by the national assembly to adjust its 2021 budget to cover the cost of rebuilding the burnt building. The National Assembly had asked NPA management during their sympathy visit to NPA to adjust its 2021 budget to include the cost of redressing the losses. The legislators also demanded prompt action on the budget as they would pass the 2021 Appropriation Act before proceeding on Christmas vacation.

But the media and most stakeholders insist that it is the responsibility of the insurers to underwrite the losses if actually the properties were insured and there was no default in the payment of the premium. Both the media and the stakeholders maintain that the Federal Government has no business budgeting taxpayers’ money for the rehabilitation of the burnt headquarters, since NPA said there is insurance covering the property.

Taking the national assembly offer, and government paying for the losses, they maintain, will amount to double losses for the tax-payer, as well as effectively shielding NPA management if it had failed to take out the required insurance cover for the properties, or had compromised in the payment of premium.

They insist that since, as claimed by the NPA’S General Manager Corporate and Strategic Communication, Engr. Adams Jato, that the headquarters building has insurance cover for ‘fire and theft’, NPA is entitled to full compensation by the insurers.

But Jato refused to disclose the insurance firm. In response to a reporter’s enquiry he snapped, “I have had more than 1001 requests on the names of the insurance companies. I think we should let them carry out this assignment devoid of any distraction, please.” This has been more or less the attitude of the NPA management in the matter.

In a bid to compel NPA to disclose the property insurer/s, a media group in the industry has threatened to invoke the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act on the Ports Authority, insisting that NPA must not use government funds to cover its damages as it is the responsibility of the insurance company to do so.

Curiously, while the controversy rages, NPA came out with a Public Notice 4133: Prequalification for Provision of Insurance Cover for Nigerian Ports Authority-National Shopping List, inviting insurance firms to tender to provide insurance services for NPA from the end of this year to the next.

This Public Notice 4133 coming after the fire incident is fueling speculations that NPA has no valid insurance policy prior to the fire incident. But on this, and in response to enquiries, Engr. Jatto said:

“Please read properly the introduction on the advert. We carry out National shopping list for insurance companies every two years through public advert in line with public procurement act. So the current ones engaged two years ago have an expiring date at the end of the year 2020 that was why we started the procurement process in earnest for a new national shopping list to be engaged effective 1st January 2021 to 31st December 2022.”

But this explanation has not been able to douse the speculations. The media are asking why NPA should wait until there is an arson on its property before commencing their ‘shopping list’ of insurers for 2021. They also question how an insurance company will be hired and discarded after two years, and still be expected to cover their losses within the period.

Whatever is the case, shopping for insurers at this time coupled with the refusal to disclose the insurers before the fire incident, can only feed the speculation that NPA may not have insurance cover for the burnt, damaged and looted property as provided in the budgets, or may have compromised in the payment of premiums.