â€¢ Special preference given to Seventh Day Adventist worshippers
Funmi Ogundare in Lagos and Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
Despite a hectic registration exercise for candidates, the Joint and Matriculation Board (JAMB) saturday commenced its week-long Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) where no fewer than 57,000 candidates sat for the 2017 examination in 642 centres across the country.
Saturday marked the first day of the 2017 edition of the entrance examination into the nationâ€™s tertiary institutions in which about 1.7 million candidates are participating.
Many candidates had complained that this yearâ€™s registration was one of the most hectic they experienced as they had to labour for hours and days to register.
The registration process begins with purchase of electronically-generated personal identification number (PIN), and ends with obtaining a print-out after registering personal details.
Following complaints, the board had extended the closing date for registration to May 5, and by midnight that day, 1.7 million candidates had been registered. The board also noted that â€œMore than 1.2 million registered in 2016â€.
Addressing newsmen at the Digital Bridge Institute in Abuja yesterday, the Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, noted that the examination was starting off with two sessions rather than three, to allow the centres cover for any contingencies.
According to him, the examination started late in few centres including the Digital Bridge Institute centre, where the first session started at about 8 am, an hour behind schedule.
While noting that the UTME will not hold on Sunday, the Registrar said special preference was granted to candidates who worship with the Seventh Day Adventist church, as they had been reassigned to write their examinations on Monday.
â€œThe first day we are having a little above 57,000; we want to be skeletal today. We do not want to have the three sessions today, this is the first day and we expect that they will have some wiring problems because we know that most of the centres have been abandoned since last year but by Monday, we will start three full sessions.
â€œI have heard what is happening all over the country and we are pleased with what is happening. Technology is reliable; to have technology failure is an exception. What is normal is for technology to work properly and I think it has worked properly and now we are enjoying the value of technology,â€ he said.
Oloyede also disclosed that four centres, which were confronted with challenges caused by some individuals who were out to sabotage the process, were being closely monitored to forestall further hitches.
â€œOut of 642 centres, we have problems with four. We have two problems in Bauchi, one in Kano, one in Ekpoma not from technology problem but from those who are cutting corners in the centres, those who have not put the centres in place and for the ingenuity of certain people and criminals that do not know that we have put technology in place to detect what they are doing.
â€œThere was a little disturbance in Ekpoma and we are monitoring what is going on, there is a little problem in Uturu; we are monitoring what is happening there too,â€ he added.
By 7am yesterday, some of the centres monitored in Lagos and its environs were seen screening and accrediting the candidates, while some experienced one challenge or the other. For instance, in Shom International School, Ikotun, there was the issue of internet and generator which went bad but was later replaced.
At Governor Road, Igando, JAMB Regional Coordinator, Mr. Sunday Aladegbaye instructed a CBT administrator not to allow journalists to access their centres and that they can only monitor the exercise from the gate, adding that it was the boardâ€™s directive.
Journalists who were trying to gain entrance to monitor the exercise at the International Office of the West African Examination Council (WAEC), Ikeja, were not allowed in by the security personnel, who insisted that the media cannot go beyond the gate.
In a telephone conversation with THISDAY, the boardâ€™s Spokesperson, Mr. Fabian Benjamin expressed disappointment at Aladegbayeâ€™s action saying he would contact him.
Perhaps acting on the boardâ€™s spokesperson directive, the media were later allowed into the premises where exams supervisors had to delay the start-off for one hour so as to accommodate the late arrival of some of the candidates. Some of the students, who spoke with THISDAY, said the examination went well and they had no challenge using the computers.
THISDAY recalls that 1,736,571 candidates bought the forms and 5,540 of them did not register, thereby creating a decline in the number of candidates who registered.