Ordeals of nurses in the hands of Nursing & Midwifery Council of Nigeria – Court comes to their aid.

The Story

Nursing & Midwifery Council of Nigeria v. Ogu [2019] 10 NWLR (Pt. 1680) 233.

A qualified nurse, Patrick Ogu, requested for a verification of his Nursing Licence to be sent by the Nursing & Midwifery Council of Nigeria (“the Appellant”) to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland. In treating his request, the Appellant made a clerical error in the date of birth recorded for Mr. Ogu by supplying a wrong date to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland. All efforts to get the Appellant to rectify the error proved abortive.

The case of another nurse, Theresa Ogu Onyedikachi, was even more pathetic. She passed the qualifying examination. However, she was issued with a certificate of registration bearing the photograph of a male person. The Appellant also refused to rectify the obvious error.

For almost ten years, Patrick and Theresa were held hostage by the Appellant, rendering them completely stagnant, professionally. Terribly aggrieved, they filed an action in Court. They succeeded. The sum of N5 Million was awarded as general and exemplary damages, as the Court found the defence of the Appellant as absolutely baseless. The Appellant’s appeal up to the Supreme Court was dismissed.

nursing and midwifery council of nigeria

The Supreme Court did not mince words

According to Kekere-Ekun, JSC:

“In the face of such obvious and unmistakable facts and in the absence of any allegation of fraud or misrepresentation against the Respondents [i.e., the Nurses], it was, in my considered view, unconscionable for the Appellant to persist in its error by raising vexatious technical issues to seek to defeat the course of justice. The Respondents have unjustifiably been denied the opportunity of practising their profession and earning a decent living therefrom either in Nigeria or abroad for almost ten years. The trial Court was right in awarding exemplary damages against the Appellant and the lower Court [“the Court of Appeal] was right in affirming the Judgment.”

The amount awarded should have been more

The Court is commended for coming to the rescue and restoring confidence in the system. Unfortunately, the challenge of delays remains a perennial problem. Having said that, considering this fact, and the magnitude of damage done to the Nurses by the Appellant and the always dwindling value of the Naira, the amount awarded in favour of the Nurses should have been a lot more.*

Government agencies and institutions must be more alive to duty

It is seriously disheartening how some government agencies and institutions allow their gross administrative bottlenecks and inefficiencies tamper with the future of many. The heads of these agencies and institutions must come up with brilliant ideas on how to adequately respond to requests and issues. No one is above mistake. However, prompt action towards rectification is quite necessary.

Even more saddening is the fact that tax payers money is often being used to pursue useless appeals and ensuring that citizens do not get timely justice. The Courts must help to address this issue by considering awarding costs to be personally paid by any person in authority responsible for the decision to pursue such appeals. This is similar to the costs now being awarded against counsel who file frivolous appeals on behalf of their clients.

The image of the country abroad is already suffering tremendously. The fact that the error was made in the first place was already a threat to Mr. Ogu’s integrity. The delay and ultimate refusal to rectify the error was even worse. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland will simply conclude that, here again is a case of a dishonest Nigerian. This is sad. We must work to change the narrative. Many Nigerians are honest and hardworking people.

*The courts must consider the current value of the Naira in awarding damages.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a Legal Practitioner, Consultant, Mediator and Social Entrepreneur. He is the Managing Attorney at Splendour Legal Consultants. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts. Desirous of implementing new legal solutions, he founded Stephen Legal, a firm in the business of providing innovative legal insights and easy solution in this information age. Stephen serves as a volunteer at Prof. Pat. Utomi’s Centre for Values in Leadership in Lagos, given his passion for capacity building and leadership development. He is also a member of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (Lagos Branch).
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