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Court declines to stop N10m suit against Oxford University

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An Igbosere High Court in Lagos has declined to stop a N10million lawsuit filed by a Nigerian lawyer, Ogedi Ogu, against the University of Oxford, England.

Justice I.O. Harrison dismissed the varsity’s preliminary objection filed by its counsel Funke Adekoya (SAN).

Ogu is alleging that the words “mortgagee’’ and “mortgagor” were wrongly defined in the Oxford Dictionary, published by Oxford University Press.

He claimed that he was embarrassed and suffered a loss of reputation as a lawyer when he relied on the definitions of the words in the Oxford Dictionary to offer legal advice to a professional colleague.

He said the professional colleague later pointed out to him that the words were wrongly defined in Oxford Dictionary and since then all his professional colleagues stopped seeking legal advice from him.

Ogu asked the court to order the University of Oxford and Oxford University Press to pay him N10m in damages.

But Adekoya prayed the court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent.

She contended that Ogu did not comply with Section 97 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act in issuing and serving his writ of summons.

She described the writ as incurably defective, adding that it was liable to be set aside.

The SAN further contended that Oxford University Press, which was joined as 2nd defendant, was a non-juristic entity, which could not be sued because it was only a department under the University of Oxford.

But in a June 30, 2020 ruling, seen by newsmen yesterday, Justice Harrison partly disagreed with Adekoya and dismissed one leg of the preliminary objection.

Contrary to Adekoya’s contention, Harrison said the writ was validly issued and service was lawful and regular.

However, the judge upheld the SAN’s submission that Oxford University Press was not a juristic entity and struck its name out from the suit.

Ogu, in his suit, claimed that Oxford Dictionary defined the word “mortgagee’’ as the borrower in a mortgage transaction; and “mortgagor’’ as the lender.

He said this was contrary to the definition of “mortgagee” as lender and “mortgagor” as borrower in many other dictionaries.

The lawyer said when he wrote to the University of Oxford to complain; the university admitted the error but refused to admit liability.

According to him, the university told him that its dictionaries were made available as a reference tool only; that they were never held out by OUP as being an alternative to seeking independent legal or financial advice, and therefore could not take responsibility for an individual’s decision to use them as such.

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