Cameroon: Activa Insurance Sued for 2019 Sonara Fire Outbreak

The General Manager of Activa-Cameroon insurance company, Richard  Lowe is expected on July 28, 2022 at the  Special Criminal Court…


The General Manager of Activa-Cameroon insurance company, Richard  Lowe is expected on July 28, 2022 at the  Special Criminal Court (an exceptional jurisdiction set up by the State of Cameroon to track down embezzlers of public wealth.)


He who is also CEO of  Activa Insurance will be heard “as a suspect” in “the case of the Public Prosecutor and Sonara, for suspicion of embezzlement of public funds and systematic negligence leading to the incident of May 31, 2019 at Sonara,” reads a summon signed on July 20, 2022 by the Divisional Commissioner William Oko Petis, head of the Investigations Division of the Specialized Corps of Judicial Police Officers.

It is not yet known why exactly suspicions are directed at Activa. However, there were reports after the fire at Sonara on 31 May 2019 that Sonara had not paid the insurance premium at the time of the fire. The same information can be seen in the communiqué signed in August 2019 by the Director General of Sonara, Jean Paul Njonou, on “cancellation of the call for tenders No. 011.19/Aono/Sonara/Cipm/2019 of 1 April 2019 relating to the three-year program (2019-2021) of insurance” of Sonara.


Indeed, if he explains the cancellation of this call for tenders for insurance covering three financial years by “the change in the configuration of risks following the fire of 31 May 2019“, the GM of Sonara also mentions, as justification, the conflict between the public refinery and the insurance company Activa, member of a group of insurers bidding for this call for tenders, relating to the settlement of the claim following the fire of 31 May 2019.

The reasons for the conflict between Activa and Sonara regarding the fire of 31 May 2019 are not officially known. To date, neither Sonara, nor the State of Cameroon, the main shareholder of this refinery, let alone Activa have ever pronounced themselves on this issue.

However, various authorized sources claim that the conflict is due to the fact that the insurer refuses to initiate any compensation procedure, because at the time of the disaster, the required insurance premium had not yet been paid by the victim, for reasons that are still unclear.

The general manager of Activa Cameroon had already been summoned in July 2019 as part of a “flagrante delicto investigation” jointly conducted by the police and gendarmerie services of the South West region, headquarters of Sonara. According to the magazine Jeune Afrique, the investigators were concerned about the reasons for the non-renewal of the refinery’s insurance policy. According to the same source, Activa presented, in its defence, two reminder letters sent to Sonara, warning it that if the payment was not made, it would no longer be insured as of 30 May.