BY AKIN OWOLABI
In March this year, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, through its spokesman, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, raised concerns over what the board described as illegal admission processes being perpetrated by some tertiary institutions with particular reference to the University of Abuja, UNIABUJA. What the board was saying was very clear – a dangerous precedence, nay admission conflagration, was being ignited with the potency of disrupting the already streamlined method of admissions into the more than 740 higher educational institutions in Nigeria.
The acussed – UNIABUJA – has boldly removed its veil insisting that what it did or was still doing was proper and in line with the powers conferred on it by law.
The university’s position cannot be true in every ramification. That would mean that JAMB, that has been in existence for over 40 years, has yet to be established. Simply put, the board’s existence and its newfound efficacy are a mirage. In other words, the board should be scrapped as some misinformed or uninformed Nigerians had demanded over the years.
While it could be correctly asserted that the outbreak of the Corona Virus Disease pandemic – COVID-19 – cast a pall of uncertainty on virtually every aspect of international life for most part of last year, it would be grossly mistaken for anyone to conclude that the huge lock down that characterised the year 2020 has also played yo-yo on everything Nigerian, including our collective pysche.
Otherwise, how could a new generation university boldfacedly be attempting to rewrite admission into tertiary institutions’ history? Why should UNIABUJA not be scourged for its admission travesty or parody. What UNIABUJA and its ilks has perpetrated is illegal through and through and must overturned for sanity to prevail. It must not stand. Otherwise, the well streamlined admissions into tertiary institutions in Nigeria would descend into the abyss which Nigeria could ill afford at this point in time. We cannot afford to allow those flies in the admission process to ruin, nay torpedo the entire system.
We should all admit that admissions into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions have never been so streamlined in Nigeria as in a situation which drastically changed from worse to better and is still improving phenomenally since the assumption to the Office of the Registrar of JAMB by Professor Is’haq Olanrewaju Oloyede in 2017 – August that year precisely. All obstacles to smooth admission processes have either been demolished or drastically tackled as to render the most destructive of these a thing of the past. Admittedly, dwelling so much on the achievements of these past few years would easily go by another name – praise singing.
It therefore beggars believe that any of the participating institutions would ever dream of licenciously rewriting the admission history or turning back the hands of the clock of the joint admission processes by insinuating that the universities’ enabling law gave that mushroom university the power of admission without deference to the overseeing board, in this case – JAMB.
What UNIABUJA and other institutions whose names are yet to be made public have embarked upon is tantamount to making barefaced attempt to throw spanner in the works of tertiary institutions admission system in the country. In fact, and except the ultimate authority in the land wants to sit on the fence while the system is being set ablaze, nay grotesquely askew, the UNIABUJA braggarddocio should not be taken lightly. Rather, it should be seen as rebellious and visited with the severest of sanctions. How do I mean?
JAMB, before the entry of the Oloyede administration, was plagued with many vicissitudes and the gross anomaly was stinking to high heaven. The credibility of the board’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, had been so eroded that majority of the institutions it was overseeing had lost faith in its efficacy. Hence, the crafting of post-UTME tests that were as fraudulent as the the highly impugned, infliterated examination of the board. During the times past, special UTME centres where all manners of examination malpractice were being perpetrated with impunity spread across the country. In fact, all manners of examination were the vogue. At that time, admission was for the highest bidder. It was an era of anything goes with monumental evil lustruating in every corner of the apex educational system.
“We should all admit that admissions into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions have never been so streamlined in Nigeria, as in a situation which drastically changed from worse to better”
Then, cyber cafés of every discription held sway, having a field day while admission hawkers seized the cyberspace, hacking into JAMB systems thus perpetrating heinous admission crimes with unimagined invincibility. The Oloyede administration has put paid to all the pollutants that rubbished the board’s primary objective of conducting credible UTME tests. Much have been done to document the current international rating of Nigeria’s own tertiary institutions’ admission czar.
What then is the excuse of UNIABUJA with respect to the controversy relating to the illegal admission of students in that institution? The enabling law says JAMB must oversee, nay approve, all admissions into more than 740 higher institutions of learning in Nigeria. Basic.
And to clinically deliver on its primary mandate, the board has assembled a formidable array of modern gadgets than anyone could think of. It can now monitor all the Computer Based Test Centres, CBT, (about 700 in number) spread across Nigeria from the comfort of its Bwari, Abuja Headquarters.
The most awesome of JAMB’s deployment of ICT system is nomenclature the Central Admission Processing System, CAPS. This is an omnibus solution to any admission crookedness. The whole tertiary institutions that offer admission to students cannot escape the prying eyes of CAPS.
The decision to conduct all admissions on CAPS is a ministerial directive to ensure fairness so that the human sentiment would be taken care of. Has the offending university forgotten that the law establishing the board says; “Notwithstanding the provisions of any other enactment, the board shall be responsible for the selection of candidates, thus making JAMB the reference, rather focal point of admission into all tertiary institutions both public and private. So, what is UNIABUJA telling rational Nigerians?
It is therefore worrisome that an institution in JAMB’s proximity, rather in its backyard, and a federal university at that, is the very one confronting the board and trying to encroach on, yes, erode its mandate. The situation is very simple and clear. Any admissions that has not passed through CAPS, therefore not approved by the board in accordance with the policy jointly adopted at the June 2020 virtual Policy Meeting is, in that respect null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
UNIABUJA should not take its bad case too far. Rather, it should capitulate and accept sanctions that the highest education authorities would like to impose. Otherwise, the steps and the affront of UNIABUJA, unless urgently nipped in the bud, would open a vista for a return to anarchy in the admission process and concomitantly return Nigeria to the woods. If the university’s bluff is allowed to fester this time around, Nigeria should be ready for another crippling insurgency, this time in the education sector. We can be sure that the gangrene infection would bluntly refuse to heal.
Akin Owolabi, a journalist of 42 years, is on the Board of Advisers of The Point Newspaper.