The rainy season is completely predictable and we all know that between April and September, it will rain. Each year seems to come with greater concern but this July, nothing could have prepared Lagos residents for the prolonged torrential rain that rendered many roads impassable and hundreds of homes flooded.
We live in uncertain times. Violent floods and storms, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes; the list goes on. Such disasters have one thing in common; they are “catastrophic risks” that are not likely to affect you in your lifetime, but if and when they do happen, the consequences can be devastating. Because such risks are so rare and unpredictable, often striking without warning, they can be badly underestimated. Yet just being prepared can save you from untold distress.
How fortunate we have been in Nigeria. Whenever natural disasters happen in other parts of the world, we say to ourselves, “By the Grace of God it will never happen here.” Sometimes “religion” has a way of reinforcing complacency! Yet global climate change seems to be right here at home. Our local weather has never been more unpredictable; heavy rains fall even in the middle of the dry dusty harmattan season and there are long, dry spells in the thick of the rainy season. We now experience exceptionally hot weather with the temperature climbing to scorching levels more common in northern Africa and the Middle East. The frightening rain we have recently experienced has been heavier and more prolonged.
Insurance is a crucial instrument that, sadly most Nigerians still ignore; that is, until they need it most. Indeed, according to a United States survey, two out of every three homes are underinsured. In Nigeria the question isn’t about under-insurance, it is about how many Nigerians are insured in the first place; most are not.
Are you one of thousands of Nigerians who suffered terrible damage to your property from the recent deluge of rain in July? There is no better time to revisit the issue of insurance than when we have a live and practical situation that brings home this critical issue. How well are you protected against flooding and indeed other disasters? You will find that the insurance premium is a small price to pay for the peace of mind of having your belongings insured.
It can be tedious to plough through the finer details of your insurance policy, but the onus is on you to read the fine print and be aware of its limitations; you need to know what is and isn’t included before you sign off and pay for cover. It has to do with the policy wording.
Do you live in a flood prone area? While it might seem logical that homeowner’s insurance would cover risk from flood, fire and other disasters, this might not always be the case as some standard policies may exclude some catastrophic risks including flooding. If you know that you face an increased risk of flooding, you can opt for additional coverage for such an eventuality. Of course the premium may vary significantly, depending on whether your home is considered to be at high or low risk of flooding.
Review your homeowner’s policy annually as it comes up for renewal. Don’t just forward the same premium you have been sending to your insurer each year. Whenever you make significant improvements to your property, inform your insurance company so that cover may be adjusted to reflect the new value. Your premium will go up, but at least you won’t find yourself unable to replace some of your precious belongings in the event of a disaster.
Revisit your policy annually before renewal and adjust the values of significant items as appropriate to ensure that your belongings are adequately covered.
The worst time to find out that you are underinsured is when you have tried to make a claim and find that you are not fully covered for the cost of repairs or replacement. Different insurers offer varying levels of replacement cost coverage, so you need to check your policy or with your insurer to see what is actually covered and what the limits are.
It is important to emphasise that in spite of government being prepared to address the effects of the changing weather patterns on our cities, we as citizens also have a responsibility to protect our environment. The appalling and indiscriminate dumping of plastic and other waste in gutters, canals and large drainage channels, as well as erecting buildings on these channels, have blocked the water flow and have been cited among the reasons for the catastrophic flooding.
To protect our cities, we must all embrace a culture of proper hygiene, waste disposal and recycling, comply with building regulations and take pride in our cities. This is the only way that we can prevent the devastating impact on lives and property from happening again.
The overwhelming losses numerous Nigerian families have suffered should serve as a wake-up call for us all. There is only so much that a government can do to protect life and property; the responsibility is yours to do all you can to protect yourself from such risky events. Insurance is a critical part of your financial life and you cannot afford to ignore it. If you haven’t already done so, call a reputable insurance company today.
Nimi Akinkugbe has extensive experience in private wealth management. She seeks to empower people regarding their finances and offers frank, practical insights to create a greater awareness and understanding of personal finance.
For more personal finance tips, contact Nimi:
Email: [email protected]
Contact: [email protected]