African elders have a saying that when the bird decides to perch on a rope, both the bird and rope will know no rest, as both will begin to oscillate continuously till one leaves the other. In which case, it is either the bird flies out or the rope breaks to end the vacillation.
Could this be said to be the case with the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on the board’s decision to make the National Identity Number (NIN) a compulsory element for the 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) registration?
However, with barely less than two weeks to the registration deadline, the examination body had to face the reality on the ground to announce a new date for the 2021 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. The examination now holds from June 19 to July 3 while 2021 Mock earlier scheduled for May 20 would now hold on June 3.
The deadline for registration was also extended by two weeks to May 29.
Observers believe that the new shift in dates by JAMB was caused by the difficulty experienced by many candidates in obtaining the NIN, which is a requirement for the UTME registration.
About 450,000 prospective candidates have been reported to have been in limbo struggling to get their NIN enrollment to enable them to register for the UTME
When the policy was announced in September 2019 by Professor Ishaq Oloyede, the Registrar of the Board, those who are aware of his unequivocal stand against examination malpractices and corruption at the Board know that his fight against these ills is being taken to another level.
In explaining the rationale behind the move, Oloyede said the use of NIN would work against all forms of “registration infractions, which is the foundation of examination malpractices.”
He stated that the policy was in line with the directive of the Federal Government that the NIMC should be the primary data collection centre.
“Registration infraction is the foundation of examination malpractices and other unwholesome acts perpetrated by candidates.
“Because of the compliance with the Federal Government’s directive that the NIMC should be the primary data collection centre, the board will be using the NIM number of prospective candidates for registration in the next exercise. The board is, at the moment, discussing with the NIMC to work out the grey areas for seamless implementation in the next exercise,” he said
Prof Ishaq Oloyede.
However, JAMB last year bowed to public complaints and outcry over the frustrations and difficulties that candidates were subjected to before getting NIN. It suspended the use of the NIN for the 2020 UTME and shifted it to 2021 to allow candidates to have enough time and opportunity to get their NINs.
“We were forced to review our strategies and we arrived at a point that it was obvious that we could not go ahead with NIN as a pre-requisite for registration because of the challenges that might affect the participation of a large number of candidates.
“To this end, we have decided to suspend the use of NIN for the 2020 UTME exercise. We have unanimously agreed to shift the use of NIN to 2021 when candidates would have been given enough time and opportunity to get the NIN,” Oloyede said.
Since the announcement of the policy thousands of prospective JAMB candidates has been besieging NIMC offices and accredited registration centres across the country, even despite the Covid-19 fears and restrictions.
It has not been a pleasant experience for many students, especially those who left the registration late and are yet to get their respective NINs, needed for registration for the UTME. The approved schedule for registration and examination for the 2021 UTME is from Thursday, April 8 to Saturday, May 15, 2021.
Ibrahim Afe, a Student, said he went through some stress, including skipping classes before he could get his NIN for the UTME registration.
“I had late registration because of the stress of getting NIN linkage to my phone. I skipped my classes so that I will able to register for NIN. The crowd at the NIMC centre was something else. It was not easy and not encouraging at all,” he said.
Tolulope Oyeyemi, another candidate, said many of them are subjected to harrowing experiences at the NIMC registration centres and JAMB’s CBT centres.
“The queue for the collection of NIN was unbearable. We are faced with another problem of getting the registration done owing to the slow speed of internet services at CBT centres and we paid almost five thousand Naira before obtaining the registration form,” she lamented.
The Educational Tide investigations revealed that despite Oloyede’s warning to the owners of the Computer Based Test Centres (CBTs) not to register any UTME applicant for NIN enrolment some of them are doing so and charging the students as high as N5,000 and more to register them for the UTME and the NIN enrolment
Oloyede at a virtual meeting with the CBT owners, service providers and other stakeholders to kick-start the 2021 UTME registration, warned that any CBT centre caught registering candidates for NIN would be sanctioned.
Since the start of the registration exercise, Oloyede, in his usual practice had personally led verification committees to ensure that all the rules for UTME registration are complied with across the nation.
But there is no hiding the fact that many candidates are being exploited at the CBT registration centres while also been subjected to lots of hassles at the NIN enrolment centres. This development has made some parents kick out against the use of the NIN as a prerequisite for UTME registration.
Mrs Florence Ojeme, a Parent, said it was inhuman to expose candidates to unnecessary stresses and the risk of contacting the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Ordinarily JAMB registration system is faulty and stressful, not to talk of insisting on NIN before candidates can register. If they truly want to checkmate examination malpractices, there are many better ways to do that than to impose NIN, especially in the face of Covid-19”, she said.
Mr Francis Edeh, another Parent, cautioned that while JAMB officials are determined to fight examination malpractices, the policy should be executed with caution considering the present situation in the country, especially with the mad rush for NINs by other Nigerians to link their mobile phone numbers with NINs.
“Examination cheating is wrong, and I condemn it in all totality. However, I think JAMB’s approach to checkmating it is wrong also. Take, for instance, NIN registration is not within the control of JAMB, and the Board cannot enforce any instruction to NIMC; yet JAMB is insisting on getting NIN,” he said.
But some believe that JAMB’s directive for the use of NIN for UTME registration is a good decision.
Timothy Inyang, a Teacher in a private school, said JAMB as the examiners for UTME has the right to set standards to safe-guide the integrity of the examination. But he was quick to point out the timing.
“If you ask me, I will tell you that JAMB committed no crime by instructing UTME candidates to get register with their NIN. Come to think of it, the umpire body had given this directive since 2019 when it first experimented with the exercise. What I feel is the problem here is that the 2021 UTME registration coincided with the Federal Government mandate that cell-phones users must be linked with their NIN and that was in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic. So, the fault is not directly of JAMB but the Federal Government,” he said.
But Wale Adeyemi, a Senior Secondary School (SSS 2) student, strongly believes that the JAMB’s timing for the policy is wrong.
“How could Government expect students to be dragging with their parents and senior ones over NIN registration in the face of the Covid 19 pandemic? I think I would prefer to have my SIM blocked than to contacting the Coronavirus. JAMB might mean well for the candidates, but the approach and timing are out rightly questionable,” he said.
But some Nigerians are also arguing that the JAMB’s policy is been attacked by many, especially parents because of the stance of the JAMB management to examination malpractices and also because of the Nigerian attitude of late response to policies and directives.
Mr Jide Adebiyi, a Public Analyst, said the directive for use of NIN enrolment for Nigerians as well as the possible use of such for some basic registration was announced many years ago.
“The NIN enrolment exercise started more than five years ago while JAMB announced its use about two years ago. Yet many Nigerians, especially the parents, did nothing about that until the enforcement was announced. It is in our habit to delay compliance and later turn around to blame the government for insensitivity,” he said.
Mr John Ohwere, a Lecturer in a tertiary institution, said the JAMB’s directive is a right step by the JAMB management, which he commended for ensuring that the UTME’s integrity is upheld.
“The JAMB team has always been ahead in checkmating examination malpractices and the results is there for all to see. It announced the new policy for last year’s examination but jettison the idea after the initial outcry. This is enough time for any serious student to get the NIN and be ready for the UTME registration,” he said.
Now that the National Assembly is wading into the issue the prayer of many is that the legislative or even the Executive will be able to prevail on JAMB to rescind the issue of NIN as a prerequisite for UTME registration. At least again for this year’s examination. While the affected candidates do the needful on time for next year;’s exercise.