JAMB as Nigeria’s Newfound Haven of Probity

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    Akin Owolabi

    Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, the Executive Head of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, is one man who appears to have immigrated from another planet of the solar system and like meteor, there is no stopping his avowal for probity. He, with the board he steers, operates like the fabled one-man army, Rambo, of the entertainment industry. JAMB has emerged as the oasis in the massive desert Nigeria has become when integrity, capacity and probity are called to mind.

    The other time I tried to explain the current transformations in the admissions into Nigeria’s three-tier tertiary institutions, my interlocutor resorted to abusive insinuation that a piper was calling the tune. Efforts to disabuse my co-discussant’s mind further incensed him to firing more tirades, though jovially. I cannot but pitied my friend who ardently believes that no Nigerian in a position of authority and with vast appropriation powers could be trusted or even be trustworthy and as such nothing worthwhile could be achieved by anybody in the befuddled Nigerian setting.

    That is to say that admissions into the tertiary institutions can never shift a millimetre from the man-knows-man, cash-and-carry syndrome. To most Nigerians, revolution of any form, even in the admissions system, belongs to the dreamworld. The plain truth is that such supposition is not true of the institution I providentially come to know intimately at the monitoring level since 2017. And my personal integrity would patently prevent me from telling a lie, not even exaggerating.

    It is an ascertainable fact that the lackadaisical, business-as-usual syndrome has been shoved aside in the administration of admissions into tertiary institutions and the best global practices have come to berth at Nigeria’s gateway to all the 790 third-tier institutions of learning since Prof. Oloyede took over the reins of the now 40-year-old board on August 1, 2016.

    JAMB’s last-year feat that puzzled Nigerians – the record remittance of about N8 billion to the Federal Government coffers in two tranches – has been repeated for the second consecutive year with the payment of N7.8 billion in what appears to be the first tranche. Other things being equal, more money may still pour into the Federal till before long. Before now, it used to be paltry sums like a couple of hundred million naira remittance.

    This year’s initial remittance is even more puzzling than the previous year’s. How? Deploying a state-of-the-art technology, JAMB was able to eliminate multiple registrations. The board was able, for the first time since inauguration in 1978, clipped the wings of admission hawks. Hackers’ seemingly supersonic computer and Internet maneuvers met more than a match in new JAMB that is always ahead of all the admission crooks of all ramifications.

    That is to say that JAMB’s admission peddlers have been rendered impotent and are virtually out of job. Those caught in the act are already chaffing under the rigours of the law.

    During the 2017 admission year, a hitherto successful admission maestro collected N150,000 from a neighbour, hoping to secure a place for her son at the University of Lagos. Success that had always smiled at this crook blinked this time and he was at his wit’s end to deliver. The hawker oiled his contacts at UNILAG as usual but still no result. Pressure to recoup the money from the unpatriotic citizen resulted in arrest but no prosecution ensued. The new cast JAMB would have herded the peddler to the court of justice if brought to its notice.

    The essence of the curtailment of excesses of admissions’ crooks was reduced registrations for the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, which by corollary means less revenue for the board.

    The new JAMB has not been parsimonious about spending either as it explored and harnessed every avenue necessary for the conduct of credible and international standard UTME. The examination monitoring was overhauled and expanded to embrace all the critical stakeholders in the society’s creme de la creme.

    Oloyede did all that his predecessors did and even ventured into areas considered impossible. Nigerians residing abroad and foreign candidates could sit back in their countries of residence and be assured of unbiased participation at the 2018 UTME exercise. At the 2018 JAMB policy meeting in Gbongan, Osun State on June 26, this year, the JAMB Registrar pleaded with the individual universities still conducting post-UTME tests to spare candidates in overseas countries the harrowing experience of traveling to Nigeria for the exercise while still adhering to the individual institutions’ admission standards. He also pleaded for less stringent measures in respect of handicapped candidates.

    For the first time, JAMB is living up to its name as the gateway to tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The board’s motto – Service and Integrity – is in full swing by all standards. This is a plus for a country in dire need of life-sustaining transfusion, a country which shortfalls, are all time high and conversely too low in probity and capacity.

    The board now captures and monitors all the admission processes in all the tertiary institutions in the country through the instrumentality of hi-tech Central Admissions Processes System, CAPS. The wonders of this system was demonstrated by Prof. Oloyede at a session with top media practitioners in Lagos in February this year. The demonstration clearly showed that all processes of admission – from individual UTME registration to final admission by all the institutions, more than 790 in number, cannot escape the prying eyes of CAPS. Oloyede’s JAMB was able to track down attempts at registration of candidates for the UTME at past midnight, thus raising an eyebrow.

    The power to offer admissions still lies with the individual tertiary institutions but JAMB’s gateway role is such that all the laid down rules to which the institutions are signatory, must be strictly adhered to. It is no longer business as usual for the vice chancellors and their varsity notchers. They have to tread the path of sanity in admission matters or court the ire of JAMB.

    The June policy meeting agreed on admission deadlines and these are not for fun. Any prevarificating institutions risk losing all their candidates which would be evaluated from their portals after a short period of grace.

    The laissez-faire of yesteryears have been consigned to the refuse heap of the past while probity of the finest quality is the in-thing at modern-day JAMB. The current practice is that admission into individual institutions must be on the agreed basis of 90 per cent with respect to laid down rules, leaving a marginal 10 per cent for the notchers and that too must not deviate from the rules.

    JAMB, as an organisation, is currently moving with time and time’s computo-crazy. The prudent utilisation of the huge human and material resources available to it enables the board to be way ahead of individual crooks and has been able to clip the wings of the enemies within the system. The board was able to document the fraudulent practices that characterised the pre-Oloyede scratch card era. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is currently looking into possible mismanagement of financial resources prior to the new era.

    JAMB candidates has unfettered access to the Integrated Brochures and Syllabus System, IBASS, and can stave off the deviousness of cyber cafe operators, using the approved Computer Based Test centres spread evenly over the country. Corruption tests have protected the interests of not-too-literate candidates. In essence, JAMB has become our board not the sky-bound organisation of yester-years.

    One sad note still bedeviled the tertiary educational system and that is the unwholesome activities of trade unionists in public colleges. The unions have wreaked monumental havoc on the future of Nigerian students and reduced tertiary education to trashes through all manners of industrial actions, some lingering for the better part of a calendar year. This topic is for another day.

    * Owolabi, a veteran journalist, writes from Lagos