Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede, in this interview with BIODUN OYELEYE exposes some of the strange cultures he has had to deal with since assuming office.
How has it been at JAMB?
At the level of JAMB, it has been very rough, very challenging but it has also been very rewarding. When we started in 2015 we did not realise that we were going into a serious war. Initially we thought it is a call to duty, but when got there we realised it was not going to be easy because of entrenched interest. With the capacity and network of such interest if one is not careful, one will derail.
What is your coping strategy?
With the support of all of you we have been able to sail through, principally because we were conscious of the fact that we have a specific term in that office. We will not allow the first year to go and then the second year to plan and at the end of the day the third year.
We felt that we should start what we believe we should do. That was why we had to change the process and procedure through which we are conducting our examinations; through which we are registering. We needed to do that because we believed that was the right thing to do.
By our previous engagements, we are conscious of the fact that, bodies outside Nigeria conduct examinations of this type, and it had not been that expensive and as tortuous as it appears to be in Nigeria. So, we were committed to changing the process by internalising the process rather than outsourcing almost everything we do.
We also believe that the technology we were using was outdated. Coming from me people would say no how will you say that? You were the champion of the technology, because I started the CBT as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin. We were the first university to start to use the CBT for the purpose of examining and conducting our screening. We were immediately followed by the University of Lagos. That was why we had to speak with the telecommunications company for us to start the new technology. It was rough initially not because it would not work, because many people thought that it should not work. Many people were even afraid that it would not work, but we were committed to it as that was the right way to go and we were able to do it.
We have conducted the first exams with the new technology in 2017 and now we have started selling the registration forms for 2018 UTME. At that time many people were saying why only one month for JAMB registration? Some said so genuinely and some mischievously.
The genuine ones wondered to register about 20 million candidates is too short a period. They were genuniue. To me I believe that is the right way to go. For example prior to 2016 we used to sell JAMB form for between five and six months in theory, but in practice we sell 90 percent of the form in 30 days over the past five years.
Because many people did not have the fact of the new method, even the National Assembly said we should extend it to two months. We said no problem. We continued what we were doing but we opened the registration for another two weeks after the closing. Before the closing we had 1.7 million candidates that had registered. For the two weeks after closing we had over 1000 additional. By January we should be registering about 30,000 every day.
That means the last one month is for registration. So those criticising do not have the facts. But within the last 30 days a lot of people will be saying we should extend. It is the tradition that the last one week to the expiration of the deadline that people will be rushing.
Why did you say that some cybercafe operators extort candidates?
We discovered that last year, most of the cyber cafes were extorting candidates because of opening of email addresses. But that is not the major issue, the major issue is that they were opening the email addresses and retaining the passwords. That is why the cyber cafe operators are hauling curses on Oloyede now.
They are not making the required money. Within the last one year, students across the country had paid over N300 million to JAMB for correction of names for wrong spelling at the CBT centres. We looked at it and asked, why would a large number of the candidates have mistakes in the spelling of their names? Another aspect to the story is that some made the mistake deliberately. Some registered with different names. That is why most of the time about 400,000 names are duplications.
Though, they pay us, it does not pay the nation. They pay N5000 for every registration but it is not in the interest of the nation because the nation will not be able to have accurate statistics about the number of candidates.
We will be going with the false impression that we have 1.7 million registered candidates and out of that 300,000 might get admission. And we will be planning for non existing candidates. That is one side of the story and we felt that despite the fact that they pay, this is not good money. We blocked that process.
How have you handled this?
What have we done this year is that you write your name yourself on your phone. You cannot say in the process of writing your name you made a mistake. But once you register that name and go to your PIN immediately a code is sent to your cellphone. Once you get that number take it to where you will buy your form.
The PIN is already tied to your name. That will give us accurate record. Last year candidates registered with their 10 fingers. I was boasting all about that nobody can register twice, not knowing how dubious some Nigerians could be. In our findings, we discovered that Nigerians beat us to it. They did what they called combination. They would go to cyber cafe operators, pay N20,000 per person for the fraud.
The greatest problem came from the parents, particularly mothers who were paying any amount -ranging from N50, 000 to N200, 000 to fraudsters. This year, we have introduced so many other restrictions. That whatever, people do in their cafes we could monitor from Abuja apart from the CCT camera. We have devised a system that once you switch on your system we could monitor what is going on with or without the CCT camera.
Were some of your staff involved?
We have a case of two of our staff who signed an agreement with a fraudster. That is the environment we have found ourselves. You can see that we are making effort to see that as people are coming from one angle, we are devising ways of blocking them. Many people thought it is business as usual.
They would go to the minister, the Villa etc, but anywhere they go, they found out that government has changed. The government that is there now says you are on your own. They couldnt find support from the ministry, from the Presidency to upturn what we were doing and that gave us the strength.
Since those who entrusted us with the responsibility are backing us by doing what is right, we believe that the onus is on us to make sure that we continue to do what is right.
Do you have enough facilities?
We expanded JAMB facilities too. During the year we expended a lot of money on expanding our facilities. Facilities belonging to JAMB directly across the country were less than 2000 in 2016, but within 2017 we have expanded them close to 15,000 now. What we have done is that all our CBT centres between 90 and 150 seaters, we have turned them to 270 seaters.
We also established new ones in addition to ones built for us by National Communications Commission (NCC). While doing this, we have also created a better way of doing things. Last year our staff would have to be looking for how to download the questions. This year, we want to do the push system.
The onus is not on our staff to download, the onus is on us to push the system. We realised that some other people are taking advantage of that. That means our staff simply go with the server and await instructions.
How huge is your income?
We have also been able to reduce the cost and block leakages. During the year we made close to N12 billion in terms of income. Of course,we have to spend money to generate money. We paid over one billion naira to CBT owners. We paid our examiners and so on.
At the end of the day we had our surplus of N7.8 billion which we returned to government coffers. We retained a little to conduct this years examination. What we have also done is that, we believe that JAMB is not a money generating centre.
Our intention is not to generate money, but we are also not a money wasting centre. We have not increased any service charge rather we are reducing cost. Everything is done online. Candidates would not need to go to Bwari.
Those days in the process of traversing between their stations, many ladies were violated. We have gone a bit further now by looking inwards. That is why we created the Central Admission Processing System (CAPS). That means no tertiary institution is expected to come to Abuja for admission. It is now done online. When we started the admission this year, many universities were shouting that it would not work, because people will be afraid of new thing. We told them that any one that has problem should come to Abuja.
Then we concluded that there were some social issues related with admission. Many of our admission officers go for admission and they are paid night allowances. If you now say do it online, they would no longer be paid those allowances and that would not make things work. Even staff at my own end too, when they travel they are paid night allowances, but with this system they dont need to travel. The second problem with CAPS is that the admission exercise is now being done in the universities more than before.
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