•1,000 centres inadequate for nationwide enrolment, says NIMC
Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has rescinded its decision to make possession of the National Identification Number (NIN) a registration requirement for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Registrar of JAMB, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, announced the suspension of the earlier directive on NIN on Saturday in Abuja following public outcry over difficulties intending UTME applicants underwent in trying to enrol and obtain the NIN from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
Oloyede spoke at a news conference jointly addressed with the Director-General of NIMC, Mr Aliyu Aziz, as the NIMC director-general regretted the inadequacy of enrolment centres and irregularities observed in the process.
The limited NIMC centres had been overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of Nigerians seeking enrolment in the last few weeks ahead of the UTME registration exercise.
Apart from the chaotic situations at the enrolment centres, there were allegations that NIMC personnel demanded bribes to facilitate enrolment. Oloyede explained that even though the national identification exercise was statutory, the use of NIN for UTME registration had to be suspended till next year. He said this was due to observable lapses and logistics challenges on the part of NIMC, which made it difficult for the commission to cope with the upsurge in the number of those wanting to enrol for NIN.
The JAMB registrar said candidates should simply text their names to 55019 to commence registration for 2020 UTME, as it was done in the previous year. He said it was sad to announce the suspension in view of the fact the original intention was to eliminate examination fraud perpetrated through multiple registrations. He, however, warned candidates against multiple registrations and said the board was aware of a deliberate campaign against NIMC by “professional examination takers” – fraudsters – to discredit the enrolment exercise “because the commission was about to break the backbone of their corrupt practices”.
Oloyede said the collaboration with NIMC had enhanced the capacity of JAMB in identity management. He stressed that many persons were prosecuted last year and that JAMB was even more prepared now to expose identity fraud and multiple registrations by examination fraudsters.
He explained, “You will recall that in compliance with statutory provisions, we commenced making NIN prerequisite for registration for 2020 UTME. This decision was based on law, on directive, but more importantly, is the fact that this is the right way to go.
“All nations of the world go that way and we have no option because we cannot be an island on our own. It has been very productive but we got to a point yesterday (Friday), knowing fully well the registration for 2020 UTME and Direct Entry will start on Monday 13 January to 17 of February, which is five weeks to complete the registration process. “Everything in the education sector is programmed. UTME examination must be written before 4th of April, because WAEC starts the 6th of April and immediately after WAEC, NABTEB and after NABTEB, NECO.
“So, every minute counts in the education sector. When people are making a suggestion to us to shift the registration forward, they did not know what we know. On the basis of this, we came to a very sad position yesterday (Friday) that for 2020 we are not going to use NIN as a prerequisite for UTME registration.
“We are, therefore, suspending this till the subsequent year, 2021, when all candidates would have been given what appears like a one year notice that they would have the opportunity to enrol for the NIN.
“This does not affect our staff. All our staff, permanent and ad hoc, who are going to participate in this year’s exercise would be required to submit their NIN for verification.”
Oloyede disclosed that about 11,000 officials, comprising permanent and ad hoc staff, would be participating in the 2020 UTME exercise. He commended NIMC for the enrolment exercise, noting, however, that after going around the country in the last one week, it became obvious that the desire to use NIN for registration by candidates was not attainable.
The director-general of NIMC, in his remarks, admitted that the commission lacked the capacity to cope with the upsurge in enrolment in the last few weeks, saying NIMC has only 1,000 centres nationwide while over 4,000 enrolment centres are required for the exercise. He corroborated Oloyede’s position that the purpose of the collaboration was to eliminate fraud and examination malpractices related to identity.
Aziz emphasised that it was the role of the government to provide proof of legal identity in the form of unique digital identity for citizens to give them access to services, rights and protection.
Aziz said, “The upsurge and demand for NIN within the limited centres and facilities have caused us to review and rethink, for us to consider a shift in the commencement date for the use of NIN as a prerequisite for JAMB examination registration.
“This is to give more time to intending applicants to obtain NIN, roll out more registration centres and equipment nationwide under the digital identity Ecosystem and provide identity authentication and verification services anytime anywhere.”
He added, “Though, we have about two million JAMB registers when they come to our centres, they come with their parents and siblings to say that let’s do this thing once. We calculated and it results to like 10 million people coming to our centres within a short period of time.
“We have only 1,000 centres and based on the standard, we are supposed to have at least 4,000 centres. In the coming year, with the Ecosystem in place, we believe that we will have more than 10,000 centres across the country to eliminate all the rush.”
The NIMC director-general noted that from JAMB data, over 15 per cent of applicants was in Lagos while each of the other states had less than five per cent. He said the crowd in Lagos was about four times the number in the other states.
Aziz appealed to the public to register to obtain the NIN within the timeline to avoid the effect of any future enforcement drive.