Nigerian sues Oxford University over ‘wrong’ definition

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Ogedi Ogu, an activist, has asked a Lagos state high court Igbosere, to order Oxford University Press to pay N10 million as damages, over an alleged wrong word.

Ogu, counsel representing a claimant, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, urged the court to direct Oxford to ensure that all dictionaries published by them include a caveat which says that :

”The dictionaries are made available as a reference tool only, and that anyone who relies on definition of words in their dictionary as an alternative to seeking independent legal or financial advice, does so at his own risk.”

Joined in the suit as first defendant is the University of Oxford, while Oxford University Press is sued as second defendant.

In the statement of claim, Ofoegbu, the claimant, said English is not his mother tongue, adding that the first defendant is reputed to be an authority in English.

He argued that a great majority of people around the world rely on its definition of English words.

According to him, in 2005 and 2006, he purchased the Oxford Mini reference Dictionary, and the Oxford English mini dictionary respectively, published by the second defendant.

He said in the dictionaries, the word “mortgagee” is defined as a borrower in a mortgage transaction, while “mortgagor” is defined as the lender.

He said he had relied on this definition and during one of his legal advice to a professional colleague, he had boldly stated that a mortgagee is a borrower while a mortgagor is a lender as extracted from the authority of Oxford dictionaries.

According to him, his professional colleagues then drew his attention to the correct position in many other dictionaries apart from Oxford, which defines “mortgagee” to be the lender and “mortgagor” to be the borrower.

He said he was thoroughly embarrassed, and he has since then suffered loss of professional esteem,as his colleagues had stopped asking for his opinion or advice on any legal issue.

The claimant said on November 4, 2016, he instructed his lawyers to issue a notice to the defendants, of his intention to institute action to seek redress against them, for the wrong definition.

He said on November 30, 2016, the defendants replied his letter by its legal director, admitting wrong definition complained of, but refused to accept any liability and added as follows:

”Our dictionaries are made available as a reference tool only; they are never held out by us 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.”

The claimant, therefore, argued that the loss of his professional esteem was occasioned by the defendant’s negligence and therefore, claimed N10 million in damages against the defendants.

The new suit is labelled Temp/36433/2018, and no date has been fixed for hearing.

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