The Oloyede Phenomenon at JAMB


Akin Owolabi

Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede is just a little over one year as the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. He took over the reins of the 41-year-old board exactly on August 1, 2016. This Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin appears to be turning everything around for good and stirring controversies in the area of financial prudence and the management of a body designed primarily to coordinate admissions into the three levels of tertiary education in Nigeria.

By design, JAMB is not a money spinning organisation. It is a social platform that should be accessible to all candidates for the third stage of formal education. The admission seekers cut across the country’s socio-economic strata. The designers of JAMB (which went into operations 39 years ago) wanted it to be, and that is what it has always remained, government’s intervention in the admission into tertiary institution processes in Nigeria – a rectification of perceived skewed and individualistic unversity admission policies that tended towards winner-takes-all. Federal Government, in its wisdom then perceived that some states were, and are still educationally disadvantaged and charged the new board to address the imbalance.

The board is mandated to charge fees that would cover its operations. Going by the norms, JAMB should even be heavily subsidised to make its operations accessible to poor candidates.

In recent past, the board often resorted to borrowing big from the commercial banks in anticipation of an assured revenue. Yes, JAMB’s revenues have always been as sure as the fact that each year tens of thousands of students fall over one another to patronise the board which has remained the only gateway to tertiary education in the country. And for the 39 years of its existence, the JAMB board had barely made any appreciable returns to the coffers of the Federal Government and this could be excused in view of its weighty responsibility as a non-profit making organisation.
Suddenly, the seemingly tenable paltry financial returns from JAMB has been ‘magically’ reversed. And Oloyede is at the vortex of such reversal. How?

Hitherto, JAMB was consistent at posting a paltry N3 million annually as its left-over for the national till. Anything above this could simply be interpreted as exploitative of the candidates since admissions should not put a heavy burden on the parents and wards of the young ones so involved. Moreover, any high returns would draw the attention of the stakeholders, especially the big father – Federal Government – that there could be more to it than meet the eyes. Yes, it would signpost that the place was juicy which could spur a rat race for its plush post.

Magically, Prof. Oloyede, within one year as JAMB’s CEO, posted N5. 2 billion into the Federal Government’s coffers. He is not done yet with that superlative performance as JAMB still has another N2.8 billion to remit to the central purse. This is not only extra large in all ramifications but simply unprecedented – especially that the new helmsman did not invent new revenue generation strategies nor did he go outside the existing structures to raise JAMB’s income bars.

The Registrar merely implemented inherited parameters designed by his predecessors but attained dizzying heights that more than dwarfed the entire scope of those before him. This is graphically depicting that the new revenue attainment is 40 times more than the entire 39-year returns of JAMB. This development has nudged the Federal Government into wanting to know how past earnings were managed and this is logically necessary. It is a clear pointer to the fact that such monies had been dissolving into private bank accounts.

It is instructive that Oloyede expanded the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination monitoring teams and deployed hi-tech methodology in checking examination malpractices. That is to say that he spent more money on 2017 UTME than his predecessors. Yet he posted money that made the previous remittances a laughing stock.

No public institution in this clime ever exceeded its brief to the extent of becoming an income generating, profit-making organ of government. Government itself would never do this on the pretense that its mandate would be breached if it does. And this must have been the yardstick for Oloyede’s predecessors. Someone up there would have been pulling past registrars by their bootstraps, making them toe the path of (in)discretion.

What would have been the connecting rod these past years? Were the past JAMB’s helmsmen overly corrupt, eating with both hands or were they being goaded into playing the lucre game by their overlords in the parent Federal Ministry of Education? The latter is a sure bet while the former was quite latent.

Civil servants would never sit back and watch a field as ‘white’ for harvesting as the JAMB or any other in such plum situation. While registrars come and go, the civil servants are the patient dog that eats the fattest bones. These crop of Nigerians are the bulwark behind monumental corruption in the public system. Woe betide an appointee, JAMB Registrars inclusive, who would not play the game according to their dictates. The public officers have the suavity and the stickiness to waltz on very slippery slope without falling and could dance out of any precarious situation. Theirs is the D. O. Fagunwa’s fabled character – Akaraogun, baba Imulemofo.. (epic vanity).

It is therefore imperative that any attempt to unravel the deals prior to Oloyede’s current tenure should widen its dragnet to cover ministerial meddling in the board’s affairs. This is because no public institution could spin-off such large misappropriation without the connival of top officials of government. It must have been big bazaars all these years since no one ever sensed that such large chunk of money was flowing into JAMB and that very big fish was swimming in its river.

The truth is out at last but who and who would or should bear the brunt? The past JAMB helmsmen, of course. But limiting it to them would at best be surface scratching. There were the big ministerial masquerades behind the episode: those who were lining their pockets full from the slush and papering over it over the years. The books of the board were audited and JAMB given a clean bill of health. Capital projects were conceived and executed. Many things, cock and bull, and the like would have come into play. But one thing has been established and that is there had been fraud galore in the JAMB stable. Period.

Please don’t deny that Oloyede, who now stands high above the JAMB rot, would have been appraised of the goings-on and pressured to join in. He thus becomes the modern-day integrity keeping Biblical Joseph. Many would see in the professor a whistle blowing type of job. It goes far beyond that. It is the net sum of what public service should be. Oloyede is the epitome of transparency and integrity, yes, the very best of steely integrity. It is rare to combine capacity and integrity as Prof. Oloyede does.
–Owolabi is a veteran journalist based in Lagos