Nigeria: Lawyer sues Oxford University for false definitions of words

A Nigerian jurist, Ogedi Ogu, has lodged a complaint against Oxford University Press, publisher of the Oxford Dictionary, about an alleged erroneous definition of the words “mortgagee” and “mortgagor” in the dictionary.

The first accused in the lawsuit filed at the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere is Oxford University, while Oxford University Press joined the list as the second defendant.

In his statement, Ogu claims that he was embarrassed and lost his reputation as a lawyer when he relied on the definitions of the Oxford Dictionary, which he said were inaccurate.

According to him, in the Oxford Mini Reference Dictionary and the Oxford English Mini Dictionary, which he bought respectively in 2005 and 2006, the word “mortgagee” was defined as the borrower in a mortgage transaction, while “mortgagor” Was defined as the lender.

According to him, Oxford Dictionary confused the meanings of the two words.

In his statement, Ogu stated that he relied on the definitions while providing legal advice to a professional colleague, who later pointed out to him that the definitions were flawed.

According to him, his professional colleague drew his attention to “the right definitions” in many other dictionaries, with the exception of Oxford, which defines the word “mortgagee” as the lender and the “mortgagor” as being the borrower.

Ogu claims that he suffered a loss of professional respect from his colleagues, his legal opinion no longer being solicited.

In this regard, he explains that he instructed his lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, to write a pre-litigation letter to Oxford University and Oxford University Press on 4 November 2016, requesting compensation.

He argues that the defendants responded by letter dated 30 November 2016, by their legal director, admitting the wrong definitions denounced, but refused to accept any responsibility.

The letter, he said, said in part: “Our dictionaries are only available as a reference tool; they are never presented by OUP as an alternative to seeking independent legal or financial advice, and we can not assume responsibility for an individual’s decision to use them as such.”

Ogu said that it was after this that he filed the suit, claiming damages for the sum of 10 million Naira.

He also wants the court to order Oxford University Press to always ensure that all the dictionaries published by them warn readers that they are only available as reference tools and that anyone who relies on them as an alternative to a board legal or financial is therefore at his own risk.

The court has not yet set a date for the start of the trial.

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