Plagiarism is widely described as the act of taking someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own without giving credit to the source.
It is of Latin origin, from the words ‘plagiarius’ and ‘plagium’ which literally mean ‘kidnapper’ and ‘kidnapping’ respectively. Its initial use was by first century Roman poet, Martial who complained that another poet had ‘kidnapped his verses’. A dramatist named Ben Jonson was however the first to introduce it into the English Language in the 1600s when he described a ‘plagiary’ as someone guilty of literary theft.
It is, no doubt, against the law even as there is the wrong perception that no one gets punished for engaging in it. The internet has made plagiarism so easy that it is difficult to identify the original author of some contents onces they are found on multiple mediums without acknowledging the author.
Nigerian Copyright Act (1997) identifies literary works among those items covered by copyright and identified what constitutes copyright infringements.
We are all aware of the speech writer who plagiarised President Obama’s speech in President Buhari’s “Change Begins with me” speech got sacked back in 2016.
He took these Obama lines verbatim from his victory speech over Arizona Sen. John McCain some nine years ago.
“We must resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our country for so long.”
The incident was particularly embarrassing for the president because “Change Begins With Me” is a flagship policy meant to demand honesty and integrity from Nigerians. It was later alleged that the individual was not sacked in the first place.
Some 27 students who partook in the 2017 Mike Okwonkwo National Essay Competition had their essays rejected over plagiarism too.
Chief Examiner, Professor Hope Eghagha, in a statement, said 796 entries were received for this year’s edition of the contest.
“After applying standard criteria in the assessment, we concluded that 27 entries were not original; in other words, they were plagiarised.
“This was after cross-checking each entry carefully with internet sources to determine their originality. This is one of the problems confronting us in the education sector. Some students simply downloaded materials from the internet and submitted same as their original work,” Eghagha said.
We are also aware of the localised measure at finding a localised solution to identifying plagiarism in academic works. The University of Ilorin, along with six others universities had recently developed some software to handle that. They were mandated by the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) to do so.
The other participating institutions were Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Covenant University, Ota, Delta State University Abraka, Benue State University Makurdi, University of Jos, and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Identifying and exposing plagiarism is not easy
Some had even landed themselves in trouble in the process of exposes such monumental fraud. Recall the case of Professor Ugochukwu Uche of the University of Nigeria, Nnsuka (UNN) who got fired in October 2015 for attempting to expose Professor Uche Modum. Modum belonged to the Department of Accounting at UNN.
Uche had alleged that Modum made several questionable academic claims and falsifications of credentials, among which the university’s Registrar, Anthony Okonta acknowledged as alleged plagiarism. But Sahara Reporters reported that the university’s governing council then headed by Emmanuel C. Ukala fired Uche for talking too much and disrespecting her personality.
Modum once served as a Commissioner at the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). Her husband, Paul Modum, is a retired professor of French at UNN and a former Commissioner for Information in the old Anambra State.
We are not quick to forget the case of Dr. Doyin Odebowale who exposed plagiarism among his colleagues at the University of Ibadan. He was later sacked for refusing to apologize to academic colleagues he had accused of aiding and abetting plagiarism at the university.
After being relieved of his duty at the Classics department at UI, Odebowale was lucky to secure an appointment as the Senior Special Assistant, Special Duties and Strategy to the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu having played a vital role in the governor’s election.
I recall that while preparing my address of the issue in a lecture titled “Plagiarism among bloggers: Has it come to stay?” back in 2014 at the Ngozi Agbo Memorial Lecture organised by The Press Club of the University of Lagos, I had the enormous challenge of identifying particular instances of people being punished over plagiarism in Nigeria.
What the audience heard was an emphasis on how plagiarism was frowned at both in the media and the academia. Of course, I also added how one’s works can be protected from plagiarists. This is not to say that anyone who allegedly commits the offence goes scot-free. At least, these lecturers didn’t.
5 times Nigerian lecturers were sanctioned over alleged plagiarism
1. Janet Bamgbose and Akeem Bamigbade of FUNAAB in 2013
Dr. Janet Titilayo Bamgbose and Mr. Akeem Adesina Bamgbade, were until May 10, 2013 lecturers in the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB). The latter was an assistant lecturer while the former was a associate professor at the time. They both belonged to the Chemistry department at FUNAAB.
Their sack over alleged plagiarism was announced following the 76th statutory council meeting of the university. At the same time, the university’s governing council promoted, demoted, and sacked members of staff for other offences.
Unlike the duo, two other colleagues in the same department of the University simply got a demotion from Lecturer I to Lecturer II also based on alleged plagiarism.
According to an official release in the university bulletin, reference FUNAAB/VC/PRD.08/42 and dated May 10, 2013, the names of the demoted lecturers are Mojisola Nkiko and Ahmed Akinyeye. No specifics were available about the extent of the plagiarism.
However, the sacked duo secured a court judgement declaring their dismissal null and void in January 2017. The presiding judge, Justice J. D. Peters, agreed that the sack was “wrongful, unlawful, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever being contrary to the procedure and staff discipline outlined in Section 18 of the Federal University of Agriculture Act. Cap. F22 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
“The defendant (FUNAAB) is here ordered and directed to pay to each of the claimants the sum of one million only as compensation,” the judge added.
Besides, the judge agreed that due to the wrongful termination of Bamgbose and Bamgbade’s appointments, they were entitled to their salaries and allowances without loss of position and privileges from the date of the purported termination of their employment until the date of judgment.
2. Iloeje and co of UNICAL in 2013
The University of Calabar sacked four lecturers also for plagiarism in March, 2013. Another was sacked for financial fraud.
“The academic staff dismissed for outright plagiarism include Dr Azubuike Iloeje and Dr Maurice Bisong of the Department of English and Literary Studies, Mr. Oden Ubi (Department of Marketing) and Dr Paulinus Noah of the Department of Linguistics and Communication Studies,” the Registrar of the University, Julia Omang had said back then.
The other one, Dr Damian Agom was dismissed for overpayment of salary to the tone of N7, 268,044. 95 over a period of 11 months.
The registrar also added that 10 academic staff that were demoted for chosing to publish their works in fake or cloned journals and proceeding to submit same and obtaining promotion in the process.
The demoted lecturers are Professor Udoayang, Dr. Asuquo Akabom, Dr. Sunday Effiong and Dr. C. O. Udoka, all of Accounting Department, Professor Molinta Enendu Department of Theatre and Media Studies and Dr. E.S.Akpan of Banking and Finance.
Others are Dr. A.I. Afangideh and Dr. Francis Okpiliya of the Department of Geography and Environment Science and Dr. K.B.C Ashipu of the Department of English and Literary Studies.
Professors Udoayang and Enendu were demoted to the rank of senior lecturer, while Dr. Okpiliya, Dr. Afangideh and Dr. Ashipu have now moved down to position of lecturer 1.
Besides their demotion, they are to refund all monies earned from their unmerited promotion and barred from promotion for the next six years, the release stated.
3. The DELSU 17 in 2017
17 lecturers at the Delta State University (DELSU) were reprimanded for plagiarism back in August, 2017. Among them were demoted to Readers in their various departments and others lowered in ranks to up to Assistant Lecturers.
According to a statement which was published on the school’s website and signed by the university’s Registrar and Secretary to the Council, Daniel Urhibo, the decision was taken based on recommendations made by the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee (SSDC) to the university’s Governing Council after the institution’s 101st regular meeting held on Friday, 18th August, 2017.
Notable among them were Professor B.O. Okaba and Professor Mrs. O.D. Ogisi. Okaba is the Provost of the Oleh Campus of DELSU and also of the Department of Political Science. He would no longer hold any position in the university for a duration of 5 years, beginning from November 2015.
Ogisi is of the Department of Agric Economics and Extension, and the then Dean of Post Graduate School. She was immediately removed from that position and given a strong warning.
4. The YABATECH three in 2017
Three lecturers of Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) were allegedly involved in plagiarism. They are all in the School of Engineering, and are within the ranks of Senior Lecturer and Principal Lecturer. Three other lecturers in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a Principal Lecturer in Department of Civil Engineering an Acting Head of Department of Metallurgy and Senior Lecturer jointly authored the contentious journals.
The Sun Newspaper, which reported the story in September 2017 did not particularly state the names of the lecturers but was able to confirm from the institution’s spokesman, Dr Charles Oni that the incidence actually happened. He had attributed the delay in the trio facing the disciplinary council to the non-constitution of the governing council as at then.
Their act became manifest after an external assessor who wrote a report submitted to the YABATECH management dated September 5, 2016, said two of the three journals presented for assessment were plagiarized.
The report of the assessor, who the paper simply identified as Olubajo made it impossible for the three to be promoted. In his report, he had written thus about one of them:
“I could not in good conscience recommend the candidate for promotion having found out that he submitted two plagiarized works for assessment. Moreover, the works submitted by the candidate span disparate fields of engineering. By now, one would have thought the staff would have specialized in one field of electrical engineering. As a result of the foregoing, I do not consider the staff suitable for the post of Principal Lecturer.”
5. Nekede Polytechnic lecturers in 2015
In July 2015, an official of the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State had told the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) of the demotion of 25 lecturers over plagiarism.
Chairman of the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Monitoring Unit (ACTU) of the school, Mr. Chris Chukwuma disclosed this during a working visit of the ICPC, Imo state office led by the Head, Mr. Sakaba Ishaku to the polytechnic.
In his words, “ACTU has been very vigilant on issues of indiscipline. This has resulted in the demotion of about 25 staff members of the school in the past 12 months. ACTU has been able to effectively minimize cases of illegal sales of academic literature, gratification, sorting and sexual harassment in the school.”
He did not state identities of the said persons at that instance. Efforts by EduCeleb.com to get specifics related to their alleged plagiarism yielded no tangible results too.
As we end this list, we encourage you to be mindful of plagiarism, especially if you belong to the academics at any level. What other cases of plagiarism do you think we missed out?