As part of efforts to launch out a well-coordinated response to the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the federal government of Nigeria constituted a high-powered committee of experts to champion the country’s response.
Among the committee was Martins Ugwu, who was working as “Dr. George Davidson Daniel” and is currently standing trial for forgery, impersonation, and criminal intent.
Mr. Ugwu, a staff of the federal Ministry of Health, was deployed to the National Centre for Disease Control, Nigeria’s highest medical organ tasked with assessing, confirming and declaring a state of emergency in the event of a public health crisis.
He was discovered to be a quack doctor, that is, an imposter who had not completed medical training, by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). It was revealed that Mr. Ugwu stole the educational documents of his friend, Dr. George Davidson Daniel, and used it to gain employment with the federal Civil Service Commission from where he was posted to the Ministry of Health.
Before he was exposed as a fraud, Mr. Ugwu served as chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), a chapter of the Ministry of Health. In the course of his nine-year tenure at the ministry, Mr. Ugwu was assigned various strategic responsibilities related to the implementation of the nation’s health policy in the Department of Administration, Research and Statistics before been deployed to the NCDC.
After Mr. Ugwu’s true identity was revealed, Linus Awute, who served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health during this time, said that the ministry would demand a refund of the salaries and allowances paid to the fraudulent doctor in the nine years he worked in the ministry.
“Mr. Martins Ugwu Okpe who hails from Ogbadibo Local Council of Benue State got himself employed fraudulently using the stolen documents of his childhood friend and best man, Dr. George Davidson Daniel, who has offered to appear in court to clear his name,” Mr. Awute said.
“Mr. Ugwu was an argumentative and bellicose officer who tormented the lives of other colleagues, serving as a confidence trickster and an extorter. He was found to have perfected his trade of extortion not only as a member staff of the main ministry, but often harassed heads of agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health.”
Despite these revelations, Mr. Ugwu is currently roaming the streets as a free man, as his case was heard and the principal witness, the MDCN, was not invited nor informed of the proceedings nor carried along to be part of it.
As the country was recovering from the case of Mr. Ugwu, the police arrested another suspected quack doctor, Victor Akpan, in the Gwarinpa area of Abuja, who had been running a private hospital for 10 years with forged and stolen certificates.
He was performing caesarean sections, removing fibroids and delivering babies at Luna Maternity and Surgery Hospital, an outfit he opened in 2006 after the MDCN refused to grant him a license to practice as a homeopath.
The suspect, however, has yet to have his day in court.
In a similar case, Sunday Angwar Enyi had worked as a medical doctor at the Faith Medical Centre in Nasawara State for several years, where he pockets a salary of N300,000.
But unknown to the owners of the hospital, Mr. Enyi was never qualified to practice medicine. Upon discovering this, the MDCN handed him over to the police.
Mr. Enyi was subsequently charged to court for forgery, impersonation and criminal breach of trust. He was then granted bail when he presented his uncle as a surety.
The uncle, according to the MDCN, has been in detention for the last one year as Mr. Enyi jumped the bail and has yet to be found.
Cases like these are all too common in Nigeria. MDCN records show that over 50 similar cases are pending before the police and courts of law nationwide. But in most instances, the police and courts do not inform the MDCN of such cases.
Dr A. A. Ibrahim, MDCN Registrar/CEO, told Code for Nigeria that the council has the mandate to regulate the practice of medicine, dentistry and alternative medicine in the most efficient manner that safeguards the best healthcare delivery for Nigerians, but that the inability of the council to prosecute quacks is threatening the implementation of that mandate.
According to him, quacks thrive most in the private sector where hospital owners seek cheap labor in their efforts to cut costs. Dr. Ibrahim said that the council has investigated many cases that were handed over to the police but nothing has been heard since then.
Without cooperation between law enforcement and the MDCN, fraudulent doctors will continue to go unpunished, and will further endanger the health of all Nigerians.
If you believe you know of an unlicensed or quack doctor operating in Nigeria you can report your concern to the MDCN here. If you want to know whether your healthcare provider is registered you can search for them in the ‘Dodgy Doctor’ tool on the SaharaHealth website. If you are a medical professional, and know you should be on the MDCN registry but have not found your name, you can report your concern to them here: [email protected] or i[email protected].