Admission Scam: Why many VCs may be prosecuted – Oloyede

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700,000 unqualified candidates admitted outside CAPS
How I dealt with ‘corruption trap’ at JAMB
Many state universities shouldn’t be in existence

Uba Group

Conduct a poll to find out the head of a government agency that has been in the news more than any other for integrity and accountability, the name that would most likely be thrown up more is Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede. Oloyede, who was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin between 2007 and 2012, is serving a second tenure as the Registrar and Chief Executive of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. In this interview with The Point, the Registrar, a Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence and Secretary-General of the National Inter-Religious Council and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, speaks on the decay in universities in Nigeria; how he ended the era of lawlessness and blocked leakages at JAMB, among other important national issues. Excerpts:

How would you react to your recent reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari?

I just believe that it is a call to duty and that one should rededicate oneself to the services of one’s fatherland.

What has been your experience in the saddle as the Chief Executive Officer of JAMB?

My experience, or let me say lesson, is that for whatever you want to get done, there are good people in Nigeria, who need to be sensitised to work with you to achieve lofty goals. I am also aware that there are a few bad eggs who are, often than not, more vocal, and often than not, they use such noise as cover-up for the atrocities they commit underground. So, in whatever position one finds himself, one should be careful not to use one brush for all. There are good people. Many Nigerians are good people who are ready for mobilisation for national development. However, there are also bad people. We do not have more than one person out of 11 who are devilish. That is the global standard. So, the only problem is the silence of the 10 who make the less than one per cent dominant. Those who are good should continue, not only to condemn, but also participate actively in the reduction, if not the elimination of the insignificant percentage of those who are bad but properly connected (and) well networked, people who could virtually do anything because of the network of evil people.

Would you like to compare the present situation in JAMB to what you met there?

What I know is that the record clearly shows that the accumulation of 40 years before 2016 JAMB remitted about N50 million to national treasury, but that apart from what we kept for operational and capital projects, we have remitted close to N30 billion to the consolidated fund of the Federal Government. The other part of the story is that we can say that when JAMB started, we didn’t have the number of candidates we now have to turn in that amount being turned in now. But again, we put appropriate mechanisms in place to avoid leakages. What I observed was that people were allowed to do whatever they liked. It was a period of lawlessness immediately before I resumed office. But I believe that the lawmakers who made laws were conscious of the fact that if you allow something to remain for long, there might be problems, hence, appointment and reappointment.

“the Honourable Minister is saying that all violators, whether in or out of the office, would have to be dealt with. That is the position of the Honourable Minister. Ours is to prepare the list of those institutions and identify those who are chief executives at those times”

People are appointed to look at what is good and eliminate what is bad. What we have been doing is to strengthen those we thought were good and eliminate those things that were inimical to national interests. I must say that almost all those who are providing the services before we got there are those who are still providing the services. We did not go there with another set of contractors. We went in with policies. We renegotiated with them. We gave them what we believed was reasonable. Everybody is happy. The apprehension was that we had come with a new set of service providers to eliminate those who were there. But our intention was not that. Once they performed very well and did not break the rules of the Board or exploit the fact they were engaged to do something unwholesome, we would not kick them out. What we found was a good system but there are defects. We simply remedied the defects. So, we tried to relocate, reassign duties because when a staff has stayed in a location for 15/20 years, on one table, the probability of being tempted is there. So, we rearranged, and that created internal discomfort, particularly among those who benefitted materially from the office they were holding. Of course, naturally, they would not be happy. They tried as much as possible to subvert the system but we didn’t make those people our focus. We simply transferred them from where they could do maximum damage to where they could not. They were still doing underground damage. But we did not bother. We removed them from where they could damage the system. Even many of them are getting out of the system. Only very few of them remained, doing underground campaign.

You were given the mandate to strengthen what is good and eliminate what is bad as your predecessors and your colleagues in WAEC, NECO and NBTE.

Why is it difficult for them to do the same?

I think the major problem is that evil people are strong. They have a very strong network that it takes those who are determined to succeed extra efforts to succeed. They thrive in blackmail and that is why anybody who wants to do what we are doing should live above board. What they do is to force you to do what you should not have done so that they can use it against you. So, they tempt you but anyone who is conscious of his responsibilities to God cannot fall into such trap. So, they blackmail people and once they blackmail people and you fall, you become enslaved forever. You see, some of the chief executives here and there, that people found greedy or corrupt, the level of benefit they derived is not as big as those derived by those opportunistic staff of theirs. They use the opportunity of recruitment to use the leaders. That is why leaders should be careful to ensure that they are not blackmailed into such gangs because there are syndicates in and outside the Board, and if you are not conscious enough, you may fall into their traps. The second one is courage. Once you are courageous and you know you are accountable to God, that makes you to be on your guard. For instance, when I got to JAMB, some people in the Finance Department approached me, two times. The first time they offered me estacodes when I was traveling out. I looked at the estacodes and asked, would I be entitled to so much? They said yes. I did not take it. I was not convinced that I was entitled to it. When I returned, I called for the appropriate official and asked him to show me how I was entitled. He showed me the paper apparently brought to him by his deputy. I took the paper and later discovered that the paper was a forged document. What they did was to remove the head of another circular and make fresh photocopy and that was what they gave me. I knew it was fake. I confirmed it as such. I called them and asked why they gave me forged document. They were apologising that it was the work of the devil.

So, if one had not been conscious of his responsibilities, one would have taken the money. So the best for a person who wants to instill proper change is for him to be vigilant of the entrenched interests whose duties are to perpetuate and subvert the system from within. The right thing to do is to continue to do what is right and trying to avoid what is inimical to national interests.

Why is the template not working for other institutions?

For me, every institution is peculiar. For instance, JAMB is not like other institutions. It is the only assessment body we have in Nigeria.

Assessment is different from examination. It is wider than examination. Our counterpart in the United Kingdom do simply assessment and no examinations. Candidates apply to them. They look at their papers and approach institutions. They place them according to the achievements they make. No examinations for them. The demand is not more than supply. In cases where we have assessment being combined with examinations like we have in Nigeria, is where supply is not as high as demand. People misunderstood this. They are talking of archiving and extending the life of the examination we have conducted. If you go to the Republic of Benin, even all their graduating students take one examination. In our own case, we have the Board. We have the institutions. We do not want to tamper with the autonomy of the various institutions while we want to eliminate duplication. That was why JAMB was established. JAMB is not just an examination body; it is also an assessment body unlike WAEC, NECO and NABTEB.

That is why you don’t have letter ‘E’ in JAMB. In the case of JAMB, it is an assessment body because it is supposed to conduct admission and matriculation. That is why it is called Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board because, initially, what was recommended was the establishment of two bodies, one for examination and another for matriculation. Government could have established separate bodies for the two. The government felt that a body could combine admission with matriculation. So that is why we have the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. You could see that there is nothing like examination in the name because in some circumstances, JAMB may not conduct examination to place candidates. You can admit candidates because more than 15 per cent just come in through direct. But one thing that is constant is that through whatever means you come, there is matriculation. That is the other aspect of our work because we want to see the number of people (candidates) who were matriculated. Over the years, JAMB has not played much of that role and that is why many institutions commit a lot of errors in the matriculation process. JAMB is expected to provide for the Federal Government the list of Nigerians who were matriculated. This will enable quick checking of claims of attendance of an institution, so that anyone whose name is not there would be seen as not been properly admitted. The reason we have not been publishing the matriculation list is that we are conscious of the decay and we do not want to embarrass the nation. Many institutions are still doing under table admission. That is why we are giving them this year to stop the lawlessness. The honourable Minister of Education has directed that we should collate those who have violated the rule in the last one year. This list is enormous. We are having close to 700,000 candidates who have been admitted without due process. And 50 per cent of these candidates are not even qualified to be admitted into the university in the first instance. That is why we are coming out with an advertorial to alert the public about the evil of doing it. What we have been doing is not to hold the students responsible for the atrocities committed by the chief executives of their institutions. And our position was probably that the students (were) ignorant of the procedure. What we are doing now is to advertise the procedure to sensitise the public, and anyone who willingly allows himself to be exploited will be held responsible for the consequences of his actions. So, that is what we are now doing from this year but the Honourable Minister is saying that all violators, whether in or out of the office, would have to be dealt with. That is the position of the Honourable Minister. Ours is to prepare the list of those institutions and identify those who are chief executives at those times.

“The reason why we have not been publishing the matriculation list is that we are conscious of the decay and we do not want to embarrass the nation. Many institutions are still doing under table admission. That is why we are giving them this year to stop the lawlessness”

Apart from the huge financial success, the other achievement is the integrity of the examination under your watch. How did you achieve it?
Hmmmm! Integrity of the examinations? I think it is that of discipline versus indiscipline. I do not think any sane chief executive would deliberately go into the leaking of his own examination. But a careless chief executive would allow such lapses. And where technology could be utilised, that would be checkmated. Technology is two sided. Transparency comes into it. Anything you do can be tracked down. But if you want to do something, you can do it. I think the use of technology and the fact that staff are conscious of the fact that once they are caught, they would face the music. The fact that our colleagues in the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, particularly chief executives, are also conscious of the evil effects of lawlessness is giving a helping hand. They come on board monitoring and supervising the examination because it is conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. That is why it is “Joint”. Another aspect is that the law says JAMB would operate in conjunction with tertiary institutions. That is why we extend hands of fellowship to those institutions and, fortunately, 99.9 per cent of the institutions are on board. They carry out all the assignments. They detect (fraudulent practices). That is why we asked the institutions to appoint disciplined staff for the examinations because the examinations are not only for the Board. That is why apart from our staff, we give other stakeholders to engage at least 30 per cent of the adhoc staff to serve as checks and balances rather than all of them coming from one source. We bring people in because there is the need for checks and balances. Many of those we bring in are from outside the Board, those who are not looking for jobs but are interested in serving the nation. They are not looking for remuneration. Whether you give them remuneration or not, they are satisfied with serving the nation. How much would one give (Prof) Peter Okebukola, for instance, that one would now ask him to come and be managing the affairs of the blind? You will see many people like that (working for the nation) out of their desire. Look at vice chancellors who are chief examiners, when I go on monitoring and I see Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts rolling up their sleeves to ensure that everything works out, I thank God because it shows that when you allow people to participate, it would make people to do things that you as the chief executive would think are not possible.

Can you now say JAMB is living up to expectations because some people, out of malice, or nothing, are saying that JAMB should be decentralised for institutions to admit on their own?

There would be anarchy if that is done. I think in Nigeria, we give undue attention to aberrations. You see, even a mad person has the right to express his madness. But who cares when he speaks? And so, anybody who knows what is on ground and what we are doing and what is left undone would not say that. I used to tell my colleagues that if today you are made the chief executive of JAMB, your position would change because you do not have all the facts. It takes somebody who is involved to know all the nuances. I tell people that when you say that this governor is not doing this and that, (it is because) they are looking from outside. It is possible that when you get to the seat, there are inhibitions (that are making the governor to act as he did). For those of us who are in JAMB, I believe that what the government is doing is considering what is happening in other places.

So, where there is supply problem, there must be examinations. But examination is not prima facie for admission but a ranking. That is why there is pass or failure in UTME unlike WAEC and NECO. There is only a benchmark. If not, those who are changing, we would have excluded candidates into Agriculture and Education (courses) from examination because the demand is not as high as supply. The purpose of our examinations is to rank. If you don’t mind in Nigeria, people who are least qualified will pontificate on issues they don’t know anything about.

In this year’s admission process, the general assumption is that JAMB has abolished cut-off points. What is the situation?

I want to thank communication experts because what they did, I didn’t know the advice would work. What we have this year is not different from what we have done in the last 10 years. But people keep talking of national cut-off point, which did not exist in the last 10 years. What people interpret as national cut-off is the minimum score tolerated by JAMB. It is a tolerant point. People say I want 110 as my cut-off. I would say I wouldn’t want 110; the minimum I can tolerate is 120,130,140 and 160. Every institution has its own, but I don’t know why the emphasis has been on the lowest. What we did (this year) is that rather than emphasising the least, we just announced that every institution should determine its own. Only two institutions came up with what was low and we told them that it was too low and they went back and upgraded their cut-off. That is one aspect. The second aspect is that what we are calling cut-off can by any reason not be called cut-off. Sixty per cent of institutions do not rely on UTME alone. They conduct post-UTME. Not only that, some of them also evaluate O’level results .They consider UTME, O’level and post-UTME before ranking the candidates. And so, somebody who scored 300 in UTME may not be Number 30 on the list. We had a peculiar case at the University of Ilorin two years ago when the university said that only candidates with 250 and above would be admitted for Medicine. And we felt there was nothing, and we said anyone who did not attain 250 should change to something else. There was this brilliant boy or girl who changed from Medicine to Physiology and was allowed to take post-UTME. He or she took post-UTME and with UTME and O’level added together, at the end of the day, he or she became Number One in Medicine. The boy or girl simply wrote that, given my score, I am number one, and so we had to call the university that if you add the three together, she scored 230 in UTME and A in O’ level and scored 90 per cent in post-UTME. She became number one in Medicine and she was given.

The University of Ilorin is very proud of your accomplishments so far. How would you say the institution has influenced you?

Let me tell you that if a bank for example, fails, anybody who has worked in that bank would go and eliminate the period he spent in that bank so that he would clean up his CV. Remove the University of Ilorin from my CV, I would be nobody. So, as a result of that, I am totally connected with the University because without the University, I am not complete. Once you take out University of Ilorin, that means I would be left with my Diploma or O’level to fall on. If that is the case, then without the University of Ilorin, I am nobody. It therefore means that the University of Ilorin plays very significant role in what I am. The University of Ilorin has been a well-established University. I have been to many universities in the course of my career. Only very few universities are as fortunate as the University of Ilorin. If you want to see ingenuity and the quality of founding fathers of the University of Ilorin, just look at our Block 1 to 10 at the permanent site. It is a combination of architectural and intellectual works. It is not just something given to an architect. I understand that the Vice Chancellor and his principal officers sat down with the architect to tell him what they wanted. You will walk through the University without being exposed to either the rain or sun. I have gone to almost all the universities in Nigeria, there is nothing to compare it with. That is a product of thinking. When I became the Vice Chancellor, I set a goal for myself to restore the university to what it was when I was a student. And I thank God that at the end of my tenure, I could beat my chest and say, yes, that I returned the university to what it was. When I was leaving as the Vice Chancellor, I left such hostels that are decent. By the time I was leaving, we had hostel of a single room that anybody who could afford stayed. We had room with a TV. I believed that the University of Ilorin had trained so many people that if you allow University of Ilorin to go through you as you go through the University of Ilorin, I can assure you that you would be successful. You can even look at the newly appointed NCDC chief executive. The same with Irukera, who is the chief executive of the Consumers Protection Council and NEITI, Adekunle. These are very critical anti-corruption bodies. I think those looking very well know that the University of Ilorin is not only training people for the knowledge alone. That is why the motto of the University is Probitas Doctrina, which means Character and Learning and not just learning. And so, I know that the University of Ilorin has played critical roles in the making of myself.

So far, you have headed two institutions, the University of Ilorin and JAMB. Which one would you consider more challenging?

I found the leadership of the Association of African Universities, when I was the president, more challenging than either the University of Ilorin or JAMB. Because, that was the first time I would be involved in regional and international politics where 2 plus 2 is not always 4. I can say that there are peculiarities in each of the institutions. One thing I know is that universities are still sane and I pray that our universities should continue to keep their sanity. This handshake between the university and town if not curbed would create monsters in the universities. The universities are still very sane but they have capacities to do more evil if they are tutored by the outside world because they would deploy their knowledge to perfect whatever they want to do. That is why I suggest that the Federal Government’s position on IPPIS should be reconsidered. I do not believe that is the way it should go. I believe that in the process, the university will become more corrupt. I believe that the autonomy of the universities should be retained. I believe that the universities should be supervised thoroughly. Let the National Universities Commission play its role of superintending over all federal universities and accrediting all other universities. That is why federal universities forward their budgets to NUC. That is why NUC defends the budgets of all federal universities put together before the National Assembly. But to allow each university to go cap in hand to request for money (is dangerous). It would not take five years before we see the negative effects. I, however, believe that there must be supervision. For instance, when I was the Vice Chancellor, I went to the United States and found a brilliant Nigerian that has contributed significantly today to the University of Ilorin. Because I knew I had the power, I immediately recruited him on a temporary basis, because I knew we had that gap. You can see what he is contributing today. I know there could be abuse, that is why we have the Governing Councils. You can appoint for one year and within that year it will be subjected to scrutiny, and if someone is not found appointable, (he will be fired). The university has inbuilt mechanism to ward off aberrations but if we over-centralise or we want to over supervise, it would have negative effects on the university. And my own advice as a participant (and) as a university person is that railing everybody to IPPIS will be disadvantageous to the nation and the university system.

Funding is a major factor. Apart from government funding, what other sources of funding are available for universities?

There are many other funding opportunities. Universities all over the world are supported by companies and establishments. But the truth of the matter is that where are the industries in Nigeria? The industries we have here are largely outposts of foreign establishments and the real decisions are taken at the headquarters. So you can’t be talking of generation of funds in isolation of the society itself. The situation we have is that it would be difficult for universities to generate funds as their counterparts in other parts of the world. They should, however, continue to explore. I also believe that the little the Federal Government offers, particularly to federal universities, should be properly managed. The issue of management of funds is very important. I believe public institutions can be improved. But we are only talking of what comes in from the national budget. What of the percentage that comes from TETFUND? What about the percentage given by the PTDF? There are others like CBN, NDIC. It is that we have not been able to harness and collate the source. If you put them together, my guess is that not less than 70 per cent of what tertiary education gets through the budget, they also get from other Federal Government agencies. And if that is the case, I think what we need is harmonisation and proper utilisation of resources.

As for state universities, there are gaps. If you go to many state universities today, you will think that they are TETFUND institutions because any building of significance is funded by TETFUND. And so they (state governments) have abdicated their responsibilities to those institutions.

Some have even gone further than that by not giving any type of support, including salaries and overheads and so on. They are borne directly by these institutions. Many of the institutions established by the state governments are not needed. They must have been organised for other reasons. There are states that vacancies existing for them in federal universities are more than what their school systems produce. And yet they go on establishing one or two universities. They must be establishing them for some ulterior motives. So, as far as I am concerned, if we properly harness and channel our resources, we could do better.

“Many of the institutions established by the state governments are not needed. They must have been organised for other reasons. There are states that vacancies existing for them in federal universities are more than what their school systems produce. And yet they go on establishing one or two universities. They must be establishing them for some ulterior motives”

There are general concerns that the percentage of national budget that goes to education is too low compared with international standards. What is your view?

I don’t believe in the figures being bandied about. But I believe it is low. And the President promised to increase the percentage and I think that should be done. Even if that is done, what we are saying is that if we are to add it to what is coming from the federal agencies, we would see that the figure we are talking about is seriously enhanced. What I am saying is that if we cannot manage and we hide under the seven per cent and we are now getting 15 per cent, even if we are getting 20 per cent, which I believe is not so, it will still not make much impact if we do not manage them properly.

Despite the activities of Nigerian Inter-Religious Council, we still have serious inter-religious problems. Why is it so?

I will give you an illustration. It is just like people saying that despite the police, we are still having criminals. If you eliminate the police today, you will know the difference. So, the truth of the matter is that NIREC, to the best of the ability of the Council, tried to address as many as possible. It is only a few that they were unable to address that come to the public, that is why you are still blaming them.

If there is no NIREC and they all allowed all problems to occur, the situation would be different. For example, the way the leaderships of NSCIA and CAN handled the recent Jos crisis, if you knew what had been averted, you would know that the Council averted a greater problem. Now, that has been averted, nobody credited NIREC. You can see the Sultan and CAN President flying with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to Jos to see what could be done. There are so many problems in this nation and the fact that we are not able to control or douse tension is not an indication that the Council is not doing well. I believe if there was no NIREC, there would have been more problems. This is because there are people whose living is based on religion. Their means of livelihood is religion, and because of that, they create controversies to create problems in the country because they know that in a sane country, they would not control people’s mind with licentious things they are doing in the name of religion. They know that they must position themselves as oppositions to the government so that when government wants to do what is right, it would be seen as a result of persecution of enemies. There are criminals who are parading themselves as religious leaders.

Apart from your achievements in JAMB and the University of Ilorin, and even as the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, people see you as a man of integrity. How did you make it?

I believe that parents should discharge their parental responsibilities to their children. Whatever would happen would happen. The percentage of those who derail will be minimal if parents do all they should. I must say my parents; oh my father, as I do not know who my mother looked like.

It was my father and other parents, as in the Yoruba culture, that brought me up. They brought me up in a way that you do not do what is wrong.

Although there are many people who enjoyed good parentage while growing up and would still derail in public service. This is particularly due to our poor reward system when those who control billions of Naira are given peanuts and once devil come to their mind to justify the stealing, that after all, I am in control of such a big amount. It takes people who understand that stealing a kobo is as bad as stealing billions to remain sane in the presence of temptation.

And so you need to realise that what is not yours is not yours.

Finally, the public perception of your personality is that of a rigid and uncompromising public figure. Is it so?

It can be so. I am uncompromising if it involves doing something bad. I can’t join anyone to do that. If someone wants to do something that is bad, I will tell him that I am not going to be part of it. If that is to be uncompromising, then I am. But if it is to say that I am not flexible. That is not me. I take decisions critically. But whatever we all agreed is bad, once we all agreed that this is bad, I would not be part of it. But at the time of deciding whether it is good, I am flexible. But once we come to conclusion that this thing is bad, from that point, I cease to be flexible. We must go for what is right. If that is what people say, I have no apology, but if it is about not accommodating other views, I believe I am one of the most democratic persons around. Even in my family, I don’t dictate what happens. We discuss and decide.