Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) Registrar, in this piece gave hints on how far JAMB has gone on knotty issues of admission into Nigerian higher institutions, the challenges and the way forward.
He also explained the new 2018 registration system, why JAMB introduced that innovation as a way of furthering the advancement of the Board, cutting cost, making operations easier and beating the fraud ring.
ROUGH, RIGHT ROAD
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 realize 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 interests. The capacity and network of such interests if care is not taken will derail plans and intentions to take the JAMB higher.
But 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 conduct 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 internalizing the process rather than outsourcing almost everything we do. We also believe that the technology we used was outdated.
Coming from me people would say no ‘how will you say that. You are the champion of the technology,’ because I started the CBT as Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin. We were the first university to start to use the CBT to examine and conduct 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, but 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.
SKEPTICISM ABOUT CHANGE
At that time many people asked why only one month for JAMB registration – some genuinely and some mischievously. The genuine ones worried that to register two million candidates, the time was too short.
But I believed that was the right way to go. For example prior to 2016 we used to sell JAMB forms 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, they say 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 criticizing 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.
Again, 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 look at it that 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 register with different names. That is why most of the time about 400,000 names are duplicated. Though, they pay us, but 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.
The difference in 2018
What have we done this year? 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 get your pin immediately a code is sent to your cellphone. Once you get that number take to where you will buy your form. The pin is already tied to your name.
TAMING CYBER FRAUDSTERS
That will give us accurate record.
Last year candidates registered with their ten 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. We couldn’t. The greatest problem came from the parents particularly, mothers who were paying any amount ranging from N50,000 to N200,000 to fraudsters.
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. With the government that is there now you are on your own. They couldn’t find support from the ministry, from the presidency to upturn what we were doing and that gave us the strength.
We have right backing
Since those entrusted with the responsibility back 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.
This year, we have introduced so many other restrictions to ensure 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.
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. All our CBT centres had between 90 and 150 seaters, but we have turned them to 270 seaters.
We also established new ones in addition to ones built for us by the 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.
BLOCKING LEAKAGES, MAKING MORE MONEY
We have also been able to reduce the cost and block leakages. During the year we made close to N12 billion 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 year’s examination.
We also 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 and Bwari many ladies were violated.
Online admission system
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 last year, many universities shouted in protest that it would not work, because people will always be afraid of new things. 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 don’t need to travel.
The second problem with CAPS is that the admission is not done in the universities more than before.