Oxford University Can’t Stop Nigerian Lawyer’s N10m Suit, Court Rules

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A Lagos High Court sitting in Igbosere has declined to stop a N10 million lawsuit filed by a Nigerian lawyer, Ogedi Ogu, against the University of Oxford, England.

Justice I.O. Harrison dismissed the varsity’s preliminary objection filed by its counsel Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN).

Ogu is alleging that the words “mortgagee’’ and “mortgagor” were wrongly defined in the Oxford Dictionary, published by Oxford University Press.

He claimed that he was embarrassed and suffered a loss of reputation as a lawyer when he relied on the definitions of the words in the Oxford Dictionary to offer legal advice to a professional colleague.

He said the professional colleague later pointed out to him that the words were wrongly defined in Oxford Dictionary and since then all his professional colleagues stopped seeking legal advice from him.

Ogu asked the court to order the University of Oxford and Oxford University Press to pay him N10million in damages.

But Adekoya prayed the court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent.

She contended that Ogu did not comply with Section 97 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act in issuing and serving his writ of summons.

She described the writ as “incurably defective,” adding that it was “liable to be set aside.”

The SAN further contended that Oxford University Press, which was joined as 2nd defendant, was a non-juristic entity, which could not be sued because it was only a department under the University of Oxford.

But in a ruling, Justice Harrison partly disagreed with Adekoya and dismissed one leg of the preliminary objection.

Contrary to Adekoya’s contention, Harrison said, “The writ was validly issued and service was lawful and regular.”

However, the judge upheld the SAN’s submission that Oxford University Press was not a juristic entity and struck its name out from the suit.

The judge held, “The court finds that not being a juristic person, the 2nd defendant can’t be sued and since they are a department of the 1st defendant, whatever affects the 1st defendant will naturally affect and bind on their departments.

“The notice of preliminary objection succeeds partially.”

Ogu, in his suit, claimed that Oxford Dictionary defined the word “mortgagee’’ as the borrower in a mortgage transaction; and “mortgagor’’ as the lender.

He said this was contrary to the definition of “mortgagee” as lender and “mortgagor” as borrower in many other dictionaries.

The lawyer said when he wrote to the University of Oxford to complain; the university admitted the error but refused to admit liability.

According to him, the university told him that “Our dictionaries are made available as a reference tool only; they are never held out by OUP as being an alternative to seeking independent legal or financial advice, and we cannot take responsibility for an individual’s decision to use them as such.”