Although Ocheni's biography describes him as "a man with a voracious appetite for knowledge, thoroughness and professionalism", "a thorough professional and technocrat with unblemished records" and as "a teacher and researcher of no mean repute", SaharaReporters can report that he plagiarised one of the papers with which he rose to the pinnacle of his job as a lecturer before he was given his current post. The original work was done by Duc Hong Phan in collaboration with Bruno Mascitelli and Meropy Barut, all of the RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.
There are fool-proof evidence that Stephen Ocheni, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, plagiarised one of the papers he used to rise to the pinnacle of his job as a lecturer before he was given his current post, Saharareporters can report.
According to documents obtained by saharareporters, the paper submitted by Ocheni, a Professor of Accounting, was lifted, with thin disguise, from a paper submitted by another academic in RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, by the name Duc Hong Phan, and with collaboration from Bruno Mascitelli and Meropy Barut.
Many facts obtainable by comparing the two papers lend credence to the claim that Ocheni’s paper is not original but a plagiarised work.
Ocheni Tinkered With The Title, Left The Thrust Intact
One of the traits of plagiarism is the theft of ideas and a look into the title of Ocheni’s paper shows that it is not even original. However, in a bid to conceal the unoriginality of his title, he made few changes here and there, changing noun to adjective. Ocheni titled his paper ‘Perceived Challenges Of Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Adoption In Nigeria’, while that of Phan, the original owner of the idea fleshed out into an academic paper, used the title ‘Perceptions Towards International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS): The Case Of Vietnam’.
A close look at the two titles shows that the essential words in both titles are the same; and the Ocheni, the plagiariser, just changed the noun “perceptions” to “perceived”.
The other essential change in title is that of the case study, which Ocheni changed from 'Vietnam' to 'Nigeria'. This he supposedly did to create the impression of originality. But a close reading shows that the thrusts of the papers are the same. There are even instances when Ocheni could not resist using Phan’s thought word for word, verbatim.
Masked But Still Bare Introduction
Another trait of plagiarism is theft of "language and expression", which is intrinsic to the part of Ocheni. In the introduction/Abstract of his paper, there are sentences and words used wholly by Ocheni the same way Phan put them. Ocheni only changed figures. Intimating potential readers of his paper with the purpose and intention of his paper, which is what an abstract does anyway; a portion of Phan’s introduction read: “This study examines the perceptions, concerns fears and expectations of the Vietnamese accounting community and, in turn, assists the Vietnamese accounting standard setters in making favourable accounting decisions affecting accounting practices. An aggregate of 3,000 questionnaires was sent to 3,000 Certified Public Accountants, Chief Financial Officers/Chief Accountants and accounting academics in Vietnam internally in 2012. The study reveals that the Vietnamese accounting professionals are optimistic about potential benefits from IFRS adoption, indicate expected costs and challenges in implementing IFRS and suggest strong support for a gradual switch from VAS to IFRS, though the level of support varies amongst the three different groups of accountants.”
Juxtapose that sentence culled from Phan with this from Ocheni’s work: “This research paper, therefore, investigated the perceptions of Nigerian accounting professionals, regarding the perceived challenges of IFRS adoption in Nigeria. The population consists of three different sub-groups of accountants (i.e., auditors, accountants, and academics. Stratified random sampling method was adopted, and primary data used to elicit responses with a structured questionnaire administered. The survey instrument was developed after review from recent literature. The questionnaire was pre-tested, 30 targeting audiences and a questionnaire survey were conducted. The mailing questionnaire was designed as a booklet.”
To buttress the plagiarism claim look out for this, though thinly masked, in Ocheni’s sentence: “This study examines the PERCEPTIONS, concerns, fears and expectations of the Vietnamese accounting community… Certified public accountants, chief financial officers/chief accountants and accounting.”
Are these not the three sub-groups Ocheni’s paper used for his examination? Not even the fact that he excised — for the purpose of concealment — "concerns, fears and expectations" makes the sentence original.
This is just one of the many sentences and paragraphs Ocheni lifted from Phan’s paper. Often, he tried to cover up the plagiarism with ridiculous disguise or synonyms, yet the sentences left trail of hard evidence or giveaway.
How Close Are The Two Papers?
There were instances when Ocheni presented expressions as though he was the owner of the original idea, but when scratched beyond the surface, the ideas, language and expressions too close to those presented in Phan’s paper are easily noticeable. And this trend runs through the whole length of Ocheni’s paper despite his efforts to conceal this act of intellectual dishonesty. While the similarity of sources or references can be permitted to some extent, there are still instances when one is hard pressed to ask the question whether there are no other sources from which Ocheni could have quoted to drive the chief points in his subject matter other than those ones used by Phan in his paper which actually predated Ocheni’s
Looking at the Literature Review of the both papers one will see that there is absolutely no iota of difference between their wordings.
Phan: “Over the last two decades a considerable amount of literature has been published on the topic of IFRS harmonisation, convergence and the feasibility of a single set of globally accepted accounting standards. For the purpose of this paper, we highlight the more recent literature that addresses both desirable and non-desirable characteristics of IFRS convergence as well as the potential challenges of a smooth IFRS convergence process.”
And this is the Literature review for Ocheni: “Over the last two decades a considerable amount of literature has been published on the topic of IFRS harmonization, convergence and a feasibility of a single set of globally accepted accounting standards. For the purpose of this paper, we draw our literature review on more recent literature that addresses both desirable and non-desirable characteristics of IFRS convergence as well as the potential perceived challenges of a smooth IFRS convergence process in the accounting process in Nigeria.” Ocheni
Similarity In Conclusion
Even while trying to round off the paper, Ochonu lifted a whole lengthy paragraph from Phan’s work.
This is the concluding paragraph from Phan’s paper: “The research findings are subject to the limitations of any survey study. First, there is a possibility that some respondents might have a bias toward providing average or noncommittal answers to the questions in the questionnaire. Second, the non-response bias may be present in the results although a non-response bias test was conducted. Finally, the results should be interpreted with care because of the relatively small sample size. Future research should examine the perceptions from other groups of report users (e.g., financial analysts, stock-brokers, investors, government officials).”
And why concluding, Ocheni wrote this: “Conclusively,(sic) the research findings are subject to the limitations of any survey study. First, there is a possibility that some respondents might have a bias toward providing average or non-committal answers to the questions in the questionnaire. Second, the non-response bias may be present in the results though non-response bias test was conducted. Finally, the results should be interpreted with care because of the relative small sample size. The researcher recommends that FRCN should ensure that increased volatility of earnings is addressed. The government should not mind the cost of implementing IFRS in Nigeria and do well to embraces it financially. Experts should be employed to educate to help in the interpretation of the standards in order to elicit every ambiguity in the practice.”
Looking critically at these two “quoted” sentences, apart from a few fillers added by Ochonu, one will see through the guile he employed to cover his tracks.
Similarity Of Findings
Not even the findings used by Phan was spared by Ocheni in his word-for-word and ‘figure for figure’ lifting. Ocheni copied the whole table of findings used by Phan and made slight changes to the figures obtained by Phan.
Phan’s findings shown in a table, with the heading 'Perception on the disadvantages of IFRS in Vietnam'.
|Survey items||Respondents agreeing|
q208 Too complicated for SME
|q203 Time consuming||327||58.9%|
|q205 Hard to understand||297||53.5%|
|q210 Impossible global standards||292||52.6%|
|q207 Not yet globally accepted||253||45.6%|
|q206 Political intervention||119||21.4%|
|q212 Vietnam has no voice||113||20.4%|
|q204 Lack details||84||15.1%|
|q209 Fraud risk||82||14.8%|
|q213 Compromise national pride||72||13.0%|
|q211 Vietnam doesn't need||22||4.0%|
|Survey items||Respondents agreeing|
|q208 Too complicated for SME||394||71|
|q203 Time consuming||327||59|
|q205 Hard to understand||297||54|
|q2010 Impossible global standards||292||53|
|q207 Not yet globally accepted||253||46|
|q206 Political intervention||119||21|
|q2012 Vietnam has no voice||113||20|
|q204 Lack details||84||15|
|q209 Fraud risk||82||15|
|q2013 Compromise national pride||71||13|
|q2011 Vietnam does not need||22||4|
Comparing The Tables
Ocheni’s findings are in a table with the heading, ‘Stakeholders Of financial reporting perception on the problems of IFRS in Nigeria’.
Three things should be compared in the two tables. First is the heading, second is the survey items and the third are the deductions or inferences made from the tables.
In his heading, Ocheni changed the word ‘disadvantages’ used by Phan to 'problems'. He also used synonyms to hide the act of plagiarism; however, it is not hidden to a close reader.
Going further in his act, Ocheni used all the survey items that were used by Phan in his table. Not that alone, Ocheni was so consumed by his drive to commit intellectual theft that he forgot to change 'Vietnam' in his survey items to 'Nigeria', where the survey was carried out. Check q2012 ‘Vietnam has no voice and q2011 ‘Vietnam does not need’. Yet this was supposed to be a Nigerian research.
Even while drawing inference from the table, Ocheni used the exact words and figures — percentage to be precise — used by Phan in his inference as well. Below is the inference drawn by Phan:
“Despite the diversity of views regarding the disadvantages of IFRS, the respondents have a general consensus about the challenges that they likely to face if IFRS conversion occurs as seen in Table 7. The majority of the concerns (over 80 per cent) focused on the training/education fields and guidance material (see the top 5 items in Table 7). Concerns over the transition procedures and the availability of timely translation of IFRS into Vietnamese language were also significant at over 70 per cent (see the last 5 items of Table 7)”
And this is Ocheni’s inference from his own table: “Despite the diversity of views regarding the problems of IFRS, the respondents have consensus about the challenges that they likely to face if IFRS conversion occurs as seen in Table 5. The majority of concerns (over 80%) are focused on the training/education fields and guidance material (see the top 5 items in Table 5).”
The only slight difference in the inferences is that of the number of the table. While Phan named his table ‘7’, Ocheni named his ‘5’. However, this doesn’t absolve the paper of plagiarism, especially when other factors such as survey samples, table headings and even inferences are the same.
Ocheni's Career In Brief
Ocheni, currently Nigeria's Minister of State for Labour, hails from Kogi State. He is a Professor of Public Sector Accounting, and until his ministerial nomination in April 2017 was the re-elected Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences, Kogi State University, Anyigba.
He hails from a village called Uwowo, in Igalamela/Odolu Local Government Area of Kogi State. He obtained his West African School Certificate from Idah Secondary Commercial College, Idah, in 1979, and bagged a Higher National Diploma from the Federal Polytechnic, Idah, in 1983. He obtained an MBA (Finance) from Enugu State University of Science and Technology in 1990 and bagged a Ph.D. in Financial Management from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 2004.
His biography describes him as "a man with a voracious appetite for knowledge, thoroughness and professionalism", citing these as the reason he "took his quest beyond the shore of Nigeria as he embarked on series of professional training in the United States and the United Kingdom. These endeavours fetched him a Certificate in 'Strategies for Home ownership', from Howard University Washington DC, USA, Certificate in Internal Auditing with Computer Application from Worthing, West Sussex U.K, and Certificate in Project Financing and Sustainability, USA".
He has been a Fellow, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, FCNA; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, FCTI; Fellow, Chartered Institute of Local Government and Public Administration, FCPA; and Fellow, Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria, FCE.
He has at various times served as Financial Controller, World Bank Assisted Kogi State Essential Drugs Programme; Director (Office of the Accountant General, Kogi State/State Programme Accountant, UNDP) and Permanent Secretary in Kogi State, all between 1992 and 2003. At the federal level, he was Deputy Director, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development; Director, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation; and Director, Finance and Accounts, Ministry of foreign Affairs all between 2003 and 2013. He was also a lecturer in Accounting, Taxation, Cost Accounting and Management Accounting at the Federal Polytechnic, Idah, Kogi State, between 1985 and 1993.
Ocheni's biography further describes him as "a thorough professional and technocrat with unblemished records" and as "a teacher and researcher of no mean repute". It claims that "his zeal for and commitment to research is demonstrated in the number of books written and scholarly articles published in reputable journals". These include six books in Accounting, Finance and Management issues published by the Spectrum Books Limited, Ibadan, 42 articles published in reputable international journals with many of them available online and six others published in local journals".
Fruitless Effort To reach Ocheni
SaharaReporters made a series of efforts, that ultimately proved unsuccessful, to reach Ocheni. The official telephone number on the website of the Ministry of Labour and Employment was unreachable. The 'Contact Us' section of the website was also filled, but nothing ame out of it. SaharaReporters obtained the telephone number of the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, to try to reach his deputy, but the calls went unaswered. A text message left on the line was also not replied.
THE ORIGINAL AND PLAGIARISED WORKS