Police have arrested a man who had been working in the federal ministry of health as a doctor for nearly 10 years on a practice licence he allegedly stole from his friend.
The man, identified as Martins Ugwu, was a top official of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), where he has worked since 2006 under the name of Dr George Davidson Daniel until his arrest on Thursday in Abuja, officials told Daily Trust.
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, which registers all Nigerian doctors and regulates their practice, called for his arrest after its own investigations uncovered two Dr Daniels-the same name on two separate identity photographs.
The council had been petitioned to investigate complaints against Dr George Davidson Daniel, who worked at NCDC, but the photo in its database was not Daniel, the lead investigator told Daily Trust.
“When we looked at our archives, we discovered there is actually somebody that bears the name Dr George Davidson Daniel but the picture is not the same as was sent to us,” said lead investigator Dr Henry Okwuokenye.
The Daniel under investigation had a photocopy of a practice licence and a provisional licence-the first temporary documentation for new doctors valid for only two years-but the unique folio number matched the real Dr Daniel on MDCN files.
“The actual person that bears that name is a doctor doing his residency at teaching hospital in Jos,” said Okwuokenye.
Daniel, based in Jos, appeared before the council on invitation, and identified the ‘doctor’ under investigation as his childhood friend, Martin Ugwu, and was the best man at his 2006 wedding.
Daniel admitted he had lost his documentation when both men visited an uncle in Abuja on a job hunt but did not report it stolen because he thought he had misplaced them.
He said Ugwu returned the documents a year later, claiming a Good Samaritan had found them and sent them back.
Investigators believe Ugwu took on Daniel’s name and got employment between the times Daniel’s documents were lost and returned.
Since then, he has being in the federal civil service for nearly 10 years, worked in the heart of the federal ministry of health headquarters in Abuja, under the ministers of health and the head of the NCDC, beating routine civil-service reviews, verifications and assessments and taken his most recent promotion in 2010 that’s placed him on a fast-track to director cadre.
Ugwu was top on a government committee that met more than 200 contingents returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea where they had volunteered to help fight Ebola under an African Union mission.
Video footage showed him ushering volunteers off their plane at 21.38 am on May 24 as the Ethiopian Airlines flight landed and hurrying them through interviews and onto buses waiting to take them to their hotels.
On June 3, when news broke that volunteers were stopped from checking out because their accommodation bills had not been paid, Ugwu as George reportedly turned up at Summit Villa at Life Camp and placed a call to permanent secretary Linus Awute who pleaded with hotel management to let the volunteers go.
‘George’ had to deposit his identity card with the hotel standing as surety, Premium Times reported on June 3, the same day he told MDCN investigators searching for him that he was away on official assignment in Bayelsa State.
In the lead up to his arrest, he had told AIG Medical, Dr Grace Okudo that he was in Minna.
On Thursday, he was traced to Summit Villa from where plainclothes police officers invited him for questioning at the Apo police division.
On the drive to the station, he phoned his friends and brother-in-law that he was being arrested.
“They haven’t told me [the reason] but it cannot be unconnected with the N5 billion fraud I uncovered,” he said on his call to friends and relatives.
He also called his wife, with whom he has five children, sent N150,000 for her upkeep and told her: “I am not calling you to be worried. It is not a big deal, I’m not a criminal, I didn’t kill anybody.
I am talking to you as your husband. You know what is on ground right?”
But he calmed when confronted with allegations of working years while impersonating a registered doctor.
The council says it is investigating or prosecuting some 40 cases of quacks in courts so far.