The recent arrest of a top government official who had been working as a doctor in the Federal Ministry of Health for almost ten years using practice license he allegedly stole from his friend by the police is another pointer of how porous the system is and how many have slipped in there, working for donkey years undetected.
According to reports, the man has been identified as Martins Ugwu and was a top official of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), where he has worked since 2006 under the name of Dr George Davidson Daniel until his arrest recently in Abuja.
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, which registers all Nigerian doctors and regulates their practice, called for his arrest after its own investigations uncovered two Dr Daniels--the same name on two separate identity photographs. The council had been petitioned to investigate complaints against Dr George Davidson Daniel who worked at NCDC, but the photo in its database was not Daniel, the lead investigator, Dr Henry Okwuokenye said.
"When we looked at our archives, we discovered there is actually somebody that bears the name Dr George Davidson Daniel but the picture is not the same as was sent to us," he said.
The Daniel under investigation had photocopy of a practice license and a provisional license-- the first temporary documentation for new doctors valid for only two years--but the unique folio number matched a real Dr Daniel on MDCN files.
"The actual person that bears that name is a doctor doing his residency at teaching hospital in Jos," said Okwuokenye.
For nearly ten years he has being in the Federal Civil Service ,worked in the heart of the federal ministry of health headquarters in Abuja, under the ministers of health and the head of the National Centre Disease Control.
All this while, he escaped being caught by routine civil-service reviews, verifications and assessments and even taken his most recent promotion in 2010 that's placed him on a fast track to director cadre.
Ugwu was among government committee members that met more than 200 contingents returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea where they had volunteered to help fight Ebola under an African Union mission. However, the council said it was investigating or prosecuting some 40 cases of quacks in courts so far, which is alarming, considering that fake doctors work in a field that can lead to the death of people.
Though fortunately, Ogwu did not work as a clinician, seeing patients, prescribing drugs and so on, but probably, the ministry is a safer place to hide. No matter what, some people that are supposed to do their work, neglect, refuse or compromise to do it, because if you are employed, you are on probation for six months where verification can be done within the months.
But this case is not confined to doctors; there are fake lawyers, engineers, journalists, police, army, professors and in almost every profession. Ironically, it is easier to get a job as a professor than a driver where you would be grilled. But by producing fake certificates, you would get the job as a professor!
One of the main problems we have is that people are usually required to submit photocopies of their credentials, whereby anybody can give another person's as his own. In the past there were lapses, but in this day of technological advancement, e-government should address such lapses quickly. This is wake-up call for the Federal Civil Service Commission, establishments, including states own to strengthen the regulation andbe up and doing in their verification.
This is more so particularly where people present certificates from foreign universities or institutions, and before you know it they are given more advantage over those with certificates from Nigerian universities, without even verifying if the foreign universities actually exist. Apart from the medical council, other professions should also fish out the quacks among them to sanitize their professions.
However, it is commendable that the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA) has introduced a seal and stamp policy for authentication of lawyers, whereby any lawyer qualified to practice must have it to check fake lawyers.
In addition with digital registration it is easier to verify and therefore, we don't need excuses for dereliction of duty, and those found culpable should be dealt with by the relevant agencies.