– Allegation against me over pension fraud insincere
The Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Is-haq Oloyede, says it is unwise to extend the validity period of UTME results and explains why the 2017/18 UTME registration is being delayed. He said contrary to a claim by ASUU, he was not involved in pension fraud.
You pledged to publish the financial dealings of the board weekly when you became registrar some months ago. We haven’t seen any report yet.
I made that pledge because I thought it was a simple matter. After we made the manuscript of the first edition of the publication, my attention was called to certain things we cannot publish, unlike in the University of Ilorin where I served as Vice Chancellor. We’d expose some of our service providers if we publish names. However, we are thinking of how to go about it. There is a suggestion about using pseudo names but I am not comfortable with that because I believe that if we are to disclose names, we must disclose them properly. We are coming up with a way out.
There was a move by the Senate to extend the validity period of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) by three years. What benefit will the extension be to admission seekers?
I believe it is not desirable to extend the validity period of the UTME results and we are going to engage the policy makers to have a reconsideration of that position. The reason given for it was cost but in the long run, that will not reduce cost. You do not extend the validity of a screening examination; what JAMB conducts is called the screening examination.
You do not screen a person for a particular purpose and extend the validity period of the results. It is not a certification examination, it is meant for a purpose. It’s just like somebody writing screening examination for NNPC employment and you say the result should be extended. What certification examination entails is that it is not a one chance exams, you do a continuous assessment over two or three years as the case may be and the exam is not only one sitting, it can be more sittings.
Even when you do the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) apart from the fact that 40 per cent is continuous assessment, 60 per cent that is written is not one examination; you have parts one and two but that is not the case of UTME which is structured as screening examination. In a screening examination, there is no pass or fail; it depends on the availability of space.
May be my predecessor made this known to them but what I found on record is that my predecessor had made it clear that it is undesirable and I think it is not in the interest of this nation because it will make us a laughing stock in the comity of examination bodies because you don’t extend the type of questions we set. Again, when you say it’s for three years, each of the examination is linked with the syllabus the candidates are going to meet at the higher institutions; so, it will create a lot of problems. The Senate will be persuaded by reasons to drop that type of extension.
The board was said to have adopted what it called ‘flexible cut off marks’ for candidates looking for admission in different institutions. What does that exactly mean?
What that means is that we want to expand access of qualified persons and as I said, what makes candidates qualified for admission is their O’ Level and A’ Level exam results as the case may be. The exam conducted by JAMB is just to screen and bring some order on how many candidates will get admissions because we can’t admit all of them.
If that is the case, we are removing obstacles in access, for example people want to go to colleges of education to obtain NCE which is not a degree programme or they want to go to polytechnics for a two-year Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and then you insist on the same condition for those who want to do degree programmes, that is unfair. Even when they graduate, they won’t be on the same salary; OND is level 6, NCE is level 7 and degree is minimum of level 8, so, why are you giving them the same condition?
What we have done is to make it flexible for a college of education, a university and a polytechnic to say ‘look, considering the number of candidates that applied, I am prepared to take 130 or 140 marks and above’. And when you look at that, it will be across board rather than having vacant classrooms. They must have taken all those that are qualified. And if there are still vacancies, you say, go down below the cut off mark for those who have the requisite O’ Level or A’ level, but the only problem is that they did not score the required cut off marks instead of leaving the classrooms empty or for the candidates to be roaming the streets and becoming social problems.
We will be helping the country if we allow such qualified candidates to get admissions. In any case, if you look at it critically, if they are not allowed to go to the university, it is because of the poverty of their parents not the poverty of their brain. If their parents had money, they could send them to Ghana and in Ghana, they will not ask them for UTME results, they will ask for only their O’level result. Those who had more money can send their children to the UK and they will only ask for their O’level results.
There seems to be inconsistency in admission processes because both JAMB and the higher institutions are constitutionally empowered to admit students. Why?
In Nigeria, more often than not, we pursue the shadow and leave the substance and for me, both JAMB and the institutions offer admission to students. They complement each other because there is no institution established by law where it is not said the Senate or academic board of that institution will be responsible for admission by law. And the same law gave JAMB the coordinating power of admission. I believe there is no contradiction, it is when people want to ‘flex muscle’ they begin to say this is your territory. For me, as far as JAMB is concerned, we are at the service of the institutions, to work together on admission. I am not interested in drawing the line.
What we are supposed to do is to supplement and coordinate so that there will be no double admission, there will be equity and justice. We are like a referee; we do not admit anybody, unless he or she has been recommended by his institution. So, if somebody says it is the institutions, he is right and if he says it is JAMB, he is also right because no institution will admit a person without the endorsement of JAMB and that is why I said we both admit and there is no quarrel about that. My colleagues, who are the heads of higher institutions, have been cooperating with me to make sure there is no conflict.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) recently accused you of pension fraud while you were serving as the VC of the University of Ilorin. What is your reaction?
I want to believe this is part of our problems; we have the problem of institutional memory that any media house could publish such a thing. They could have gone behind to do an investigation. Since the contributory pension Act of 2004 started, has any institution of government been the one paying to PFA or anybody? It has never happened, the law is so clear, I can give you circulars.
It is deducted at the source by the accountant general’s office since 2004. So if a group of uninformed persons, three or four of them, made such allegation that when Oloyede was there, he took the money and did not remit it to PenCom, don’t you know that is not true?
Ab initio, it was a false allegation; it is not the work of the VC to deduct the money, it is deducted at source. But a responsible VC is mandated to reflect totally what has been deducted from source and that is exactly what I did during my tenure. I believe that those who made the allegation knew they were making a false allegation. I believe that any reasonable person will not give value to that because what they were saying is that I deducted money and I did not remit.
Number one, I was not the one deducting money; it was the federal government that was deducting at source. Number two, the issue of not remitting does not arise. Then they said I was over deducting; Am I the one or the law? The issue is that people are not critical of what comes to them, to be able to decipher what is right from what is wrong. I felt very hurt when I read the allegations by the media that did not interview PenCom or go to PenCom website to see whether what I was accused of deducting – 27.5 per cent of consolidation not just basic salary, was what the federal government asked me to do.
When will the board start selling the 2017/18 UTME forms?
Very soon! We are changing the major trust of the sale which is the scratch card. Candidates used to buy scratch cards to access the forms online and that has been abused thoroughly. What we want to do is for students to pay directly to government coffers and we are working out the process of doing so to avoid the type of abuse that it has been subjected to. So, we want to sell directly and to make sure that candidates pay into TSA account. We have cases of students saying their scratch cards got burnt, others saying their scratch cards were swallowed by snakes or lost in an accident. I believe my predecessor did his best. Shortly before I came, he dismissed 12 staff on issues relating to the sale of scratch cards or e-facility cards as we called it. I need to build on it by cancelling the whole process. Another reason is that we do not want our students to suffer as a result of clash in timetable. Students have to take NECO, WAEC and NABTEB exams. That is why we held meetings with examination bodies and agreed to realign our timetable. There is no time yet for the sale of forms.
Fraudsters thought we are going to sell scratch cards and they have started selling fake forms and we are now arresting them. We have to thank the security agencies, particularly the NSCDC. Between August last year and now, not less than four people have been convicted by courts and have been sentenced either as students or as fake business men. So that is the kind of signal we want to send.