The Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, speaks on the fraud uncovered in the JAMB state offices among other issues in this interview with OLALEYE ALUKO
In the 2018 UTME, the board listed a number of prohibited items. Are you not bothered about the ban on wristwatches and eyeglasses particularly?
Yes, we have listed the items which are prohibited from the examination with reasons. For instance, it is not that eyeglasses are totally prohibited. We have a list of particular eyeglasses that we know are being used for illicit purposes. Such eyeglasses are being identified and shown to our supervisors with a view to stopping anyone from wearing such communicable or communicative eyeglasses.
But wristwatches of any kind are prohibited because we are putting wall clocks in the CBT centres. Pens and biros are also prohibited for obvious reasons. Only pencils are allowed and they should be ordinary pencils. Mobile phones and other electronic devices remain banned. Reading glasses, which could communicate, would also be banned.
Other banned devices are calculators, USB and other storage devices, cameras, recorders, microphones, earpieces, rings, pen readers, rings, jewellery, smart buttons and bluetooth devices. These are all the devices that we have identified as tools of examination malpractices and they have been banned.
What has really changed in the UTME registration between last year and now?
If you look at our statistics, anyone, who is not reflective, will think that we have fewer candidates this year than last year. In theory, that may be true but it is not true in practice. Last year, the point at which students paid was when they generated the profile at banks and there were about 1.7 million candidates who paid for the profile. The number of those who generated the pins was lesser compared to the number of candidates who sat for the exams. However this year, we have taken some measures that would prevent people who do not need to pay from making payment.
This year, we allowed free generation of profile codes. Now, we have 1,973,081 who have generated the profile codes which is higher than last year. But that is not the number of people who paid. The number of those who paid is 1,662,778 which are those who bought the PIN for the UTME. If it were to be last year, over 1.9million candidates would have paid again.
This year, we are saying ‘don’t pay until you are registered’. We are not interested in money but we are also not interested in throwing money away. Anybody who does not need to pay should not pay. Another step we took this year is that last year, the same candidates took the UTME and the Direct Entry forms separately. But this year, we have told candidates that they do not need to buy two forms. If you buy the UTME form, and you then have Advanced levels, there is provision for upgrade to Direct Entry level, which is free of charge.
We have also discouraged those duplicating and buying multiple forms in order to choose a lot of options. That has been eliminated this year. We have told candidates that anyone who bought more than one form for the 2018 examination will be disqualified.
What is the update on the investigations into the allegations of fraud perpetrated by the board officials and what is the board’s next move?
For the people who stole our money, we gave them an opportunity. I mean those people who stole the JAMB’s money. When I came in, I just didn’t inquire for who stole what. We only told everyone ‘account for whatever money that is with you’. We are not auditors but we found out that some people cannot account for past monies.
The first option we gave was that ‘pay back whatever that is with you’. All those officers who paid back what they had with them, had no problem and they remained on their jobs.
However, those who felt that they had stolen the money and that they were not ready to make any refund were handed over to the security agencies. It is not for me to determine whether they are going to be prosecuted or not. They had enjoyed the privilege of payment without prosecution in the first place but they did not take that option.
If they refund the money to the police or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and they are given an option of plea bargaining, that is still open. But that is not within my purview.
Within this timeframe, do you have an estimate of how much has been paid into the coffers of the Federal Government?
I will not be able to say that with specific assurance. What some officers needed to pay back in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and in 2017, which they are now paying back in 2018, you know that everything will go back to the coffers of the government.
Apart from the police and the EFCC, which other agencies are involved in the investigation and prosecution?
We are making use of necessary government establishments including the security agencies like the police, the EFCC, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Department of State Services and everybody has been very helpful. The National Information Technology Development Agency and the Nigerian Communications Commission are also involved.
We have received cooperation from other agencies in monitoring these frauds and other sharp practices.
We would not have had the wherewithal to detect some of the things we are detecting if not for the cooperation of these agencies.
Do you have the number of JAMB ex-officials being investigated by these agencies?
I wouldn’t be able to say the number because it is an ongoing investigation. We still sent people out on investigation last week. I have been telling my colleagues in JAMB that nobody should engage in fraud again. Anyone caught by this administration to have involved in sharp practices will face prosecution. We will be as ruthless as possible. There will be no option of pay back and sin no more again.
According to the Treasury Single Account policy, no JAMB official must collect cash from anyone. Anyone who collects cash has violated our laws. Even in cases where we are supposed to collect money and there is no easy way to collect the money, we will offer the service free.
An example of this is that candidates who sat for the mock examination last Monday in the CBT centres owned by JAMB did not pay the N700 that their colleagues in other CBT centres paid.
What challenges do you have with the Central Processing Admission System last year that you wish to rectify in 2018?
The CAPS has been a good experience for all parties in the admission system. I have spoken to my colleagues across the institutions and they are very happy. All good people will be happy with CAPS but it also has some dangers for those who do not want transparency in what they are doing.
CAPS brought out a level-playing ground for all the candidates, but this does not mean that there are no rooms for improvements. Last year, there were complaints about how to use CAPS. But we trained more than 1,000 admission officers, vice-chancellors, provosts and rectors on the use of CAPS. We believe that this year, they would not need to be retrained. They would simply need to be updated.
It is observed that last year, the board gave one month for the registration of candidates, but the board gave two months in 2018 and with an extension. What brought about this long duration?
In 2017, we felt that one month was enough because over the years, 90 per cent of the candidates usually registered for the UTME within a month. But this year, there was unnecessary apprehension from the public that how do you register 1.7million within a month? But because some people were interested in doing some illicit things and were involved in the campaign for extension, there was a lot of pressure on us and we further extended it by two weeks.
This year, we said let us have two months for the registration. But for the first one month this year, we registered less than 5 per cent. So all the 95 per cent of the registration took place in the last one month. So, when it was two or three days to the end, there was pressure on us and we further extended by a week. And that was when we ended the exercise.
It has an implication. Some fraudsters, under the Association of Tutorial Classes, extort money from parents, looking for original questions and claiming they would assist the candidates. But this year, because they failed and failed woefully in all their illicit practices, they are looking for room for those candidates they promised manipulation to disrupt our activities.
We have their files with us here and we are going to hand over all of them to the security agencies. They are professional blackmailers. They go about to mobilise protesters and fake crowds to ask for undue extension. There is one of them who has been doing this work for seven years. I have a tab on them and at the appropriate time, I will show them.
The Sultan of Sokoto and other notable Nigerians attended a book presentation in your honour on Wednesday. Were you anticipating such presentation?
Yes, I was expecting it after I had been told about it, two or three months ago. I agreed to that request which was made by my colleagues who are my former Ph.D students.
What do you want Nigerians to take away from that event?
It is just that there are still good people in Nigeria. I did little or nothing to assist those colleagues of mine and they did a lot to encourage me. It is indicative of the fact that whatever little you do, there are still people who are willing to appreciate you.
With about two years at the headship of JAMB, are there still areas or challenges you want to address in the board?
Of course, there are so many things to be done in any living organisation. And this is an organisation which is a growing concern. The management will be picking on those things as they come. We will look into our strategic plan and ensure that we keep within the spirit and the letters of the plan.