The regulatory bodies should be alive to their responsibilities

An apparently worried Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara said last week that quacks have infiltrated the engineering profession in Nigeria with “all kinds of persons” now parading themselves as engineers.” The resultant effect, according to Dogara, was that “our lives are put at risk by collapsed buildings and potholed roads as well as failing equipment and machines, among others.”

While we agree with the speaker on the danger of quackery in the field of engineering, the same thing can be said of many other professions. Even when Nigeria has surfeit of professionals in any field of human endeavour, the failure of the regulatory agencies to properly perform their supervisory roles has given way to situations where quacks have taken over in most industries with the effect that some land speculators have also become estate developers and construction experts all rolled into one, such that building collapse is now an everyday-affair in our country..

 However, quackery has become such a national malaise that it is not restricted to any industry or profession. Two years ago, a fake medical doctor was discovered to have served in the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) for nine years. To worsen matters, the “doctor” rose to Grade Level 13 in the ministry and had worked in the Departments of Hospital Services and Health Planning Research and Statistics (HPRS) before he was eventually detected as a fraud. According to the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, the quack doctor secured his fraudulent employment by using the stolen documents of his childhood friend and best man who happened to be a medical doctor. With that, he was offered appointment by the commission on August 30, 2006 and was posted to the Federal Ministry of Health in September same year.

Such is the level of decay that when some Nigerians walk into some hospitals, they would be lucky if they are attended to by medical doctors and not impostors or glorified ward attendants. Many make claims they cannot substantiate and there are no consequences while the media cannot be exonerated from this national parade of shame. When people arrange for some of these dubious titles or certificates, especially politicians, the media immediately begin to address them by these bogus labels – ‘Professor’, ‘Doctor’, ‘Engineer,’ etc. Soon the title sticks and becomes a manner of speaking.

However, if our society must advance, we have to deal with this quackery that is so pervasive in every sector. But more worrisome is the realisation that many top decision makers in our public service are people who conned their way into critical positions without the qualifications they claim.

In Nigeria today, fake policemen are all over the place, doing damage to both the institution and the society just as fake soldiers are rampant. In fact there is hardly any professional field today where these fraudsters have not invaded. From fake pharmacists whose prescriptions are often fatal for hospital patients to fake teachers whose pupils/students are candidates for failure to fake journalists who write to blackmail, it would appear as if it is difficult to distinguish between genuine and fake professionals in our country today with all the dire implications for the society.

Underlining the danger that impostors pose to the system, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria once said: “Indeed, judges find it difficult to identify which counsel, appearing before them, is genuine or otherwise. Of even greater concern is the fact that members of the public are often left in a quandary over who they can place their trust, property and even lives in.”

 We call on the regulatory authorities, including of professional bodies, to put in place measures that will checkmate the antics of these fraudsters.