JAMB And The Quest to End Admission Fraud in Varsities, By Ujunwa Atueyi
POLITICS DIGEST – It all started in 2017, when the leadership of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) declared that it would no longer overlook illegal admissions in the country’s ivory towers. Consequently, it introduced the Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS) with the sole aim of monitoring and eliminating fraud in admissions exercise.
According to the board, offering admissions through CAPS will not only monitor and ensure that no abuse is found, it will also help candidates to track admission in the spirit of transparency.
But some dubious university management and members of staff, The Guardian learnt still boycott this directives and issue admissions to candidates through its own portals.
This act, attracted the attention of the board, which as a result warned that any candidate, who accepts admission not conducted through its Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS) from any institution, would risk being mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) upon graduation.
In this era of forgery and falsification, the board also cautioned candidates not to accept any offer of admission not printed on its official letter headed paper, as they might pay dearly for it at the end of their studies.
This latest decree by the board, however, has generated hues and cries from certain quarters, as many described the verdict as using a disproportionate force to overcome a minor problem.
Though they lauded the board’s initiative and effort to sanitise the process of entry into the country’s institutions of higher learning, the approach as to penalising infractions they said need to be harmonised.
Rather than punish and frustrate students after a four, five or six years academic journey, depending on course of study, stakeholders insist JAMB must find way of detecting such wrongdoings as well as penalise institutions and individuals involved in it.
They also suggested that the board can arrest the situation by linking its portal to all the institutions’ portals as that will enable the body to get prompt response from every of their deeds.
In fact, as revealed by the Head of Information, JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, “Institutions are again reminded that admission made outside CAPS would jeopardise the participation of the innocent candidates in the compulsory NYSC mobilisation exercise of any job placement which requires the certification or endorsement of the board.
“Institutions cannot publish any admission list which has not been approved on CAPS. Therefore publishing an admission list prior to its processing on CAPS is improper and a source of confusion as many of such admissions were found to be inappropriate and had to be reversed.
“In order to circumvent the rights of candidates, the institutions are now using their own portals to unlawfully persuade and pressurise candidates to accept another course and then make a change of course on the JAMB portal to the new course supposedly offered on their own portal. These tricks are improper and should be disregarded by the candidates.
To make matters worse, the board said, “Any candidate who accepts such offer of admission, made outside CAPS, does so at his or her own risk, as there shall be no regularisation of any irregular admission.”
The board stated unequivocally that they would sanction students whose admission is not authorised by the board.
But some stakeholders feel JAMB is being hasty and harsh with its pronouncement as the tendency that many candidates might not be able detect the irregularity in their admission letters is high.
They suggested that the board should first and foremost embark on a sensitisation drive for students and parents, so as not to penalise innocent students at the end of the day.
Professor of African History, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan, Isaac Olawale Albert, was one of those who think JAMB was being inconsiderate on the part of students.
“I think that will be highhandedness, if at the graduation point you tell them that they are not properly admitted and therefore not qualified for NYSC scheme. I think what JAMB should do is to look for a way of clearing those affected if any. Rather than sanctioning the students, the schools should actually be the ones to blame.
“One would have expected JAMB to come up with a sanction against the university staff that engages in that type of infraction. But punishing the students is like destroying a generation Nigeria needs for promoting sustainable development. If the students are told that they have to go back to another round of admission, to progress in their career, I don’t see that as a wise decision. So, my recommendation is that institutions should be sanctioned, not the students,” he said.
Also, pro chancellor and chairman, governing council, Chrisland University, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju, said in as much as he supports every attempt to curb forgery or any form of violation of admissions process, he does not subscribe to punishing innocent students.
“From the look of things, JAMB might end up punishing innocent people who may fall victim of this law. A lot of these candidates who are so determined and focused on gaining admission might not even know they are carrying a dead letter.
“If JAMB wants to implement it, there should be an interim period. It is even about awareness now. There should be a period of awareness and period of implementation. Any new thing we want to do in Nigeria given the vastness of the country, the size of the population, and the fact that not everywhere is developed; you must operate it under a period of time.
He continued: “For instance, you cannot say you want to change currency and begin to implement it today. This is something that affects life and career, so, there should be a method of redress. I’m saying this because so many laws are made and victims are cut in the trap, not because of their fault, but because someone innocently made a mistake. So there should be clemency, there should be flexibility of application. Whoever that is caught in the trap should be given the benefit of the doubt first, so that the laws will err on the side of caution.”
For vice chancellors being accused of engaging in admission racketeering, Olukoju said, “lets make allowance for mistake and human error, asides that, if there was a racket, people caught should be punished. But then the question is how do you punish someone who is probably out of the system or who has retired. My concern is that they should be careful not to punish the innocent with the guilty. But if there are proven cases of fraud or racketeering, surely the law must take its full course.”
Concluding, the two-term vice chancellor of Caleb University, said, “If we are to overlook a 100 guilty people, I will prefer that, to us punishing an innocent man or woman.”
Former Vice Chancellor, Bells University of Technology, Ogun State, Prof. Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, affirmed that it is good to check and monitor the process of admissions in various institutions, but advised that the board should deploy technology in doing so.
He regretted that most leaders are always in a haste in taking decisions that affects life and wellbeing, urging the leadership of JAMB to always give a timeframe before taking decisions.
“The intention of the board is to sort of check and ensure there is no irregular admission. But, unfortunately in this country, we prefer to do things in a rush manner without giving it a timeframe. What I would have expected is that JAMB should set a timeline in the next two or three years, by then candidates sitting for JAMB would have been educated about it and when they see fake admission letter, they can easily detect it.
“Usually when students are offered admission they should have JAMB letter and without the letter there is no way they will graduate, because by the time they are even graduating, it will be requested that they submit their JAMB admission letter. But to just wake up over night and then issue a directive, which will adversely affect some of these candidates, doesn’t seem right. Give them a timeline, let the candidates be educated.”
When The Guardian contacted the spokesperson of the board, Dr. Fabian Benjamin to ascertain the number of institutions involved in the alleged fraud, he promised to call back, but never did. Even the SMS sent to him was not responded to.
Hitherto, only University of Abuja (UNIABUJA) was allegedly involved in the admission irregularities according to reports, as the institution recently suspended its admission processes including the payment of acceptance fees by shortlisted candidates.
A copy of memo signed by the vice-chancellor of the university, Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah read in part, “It has come to my notice that JAMB admission guidelines of uploading all admissions on CAPS have not been fully met. This is totally unacceptable.
“I hereby direct that all admission processes and payment of acceptance fees should be put on hold pending when all shortlisted candidates have been uploaded to CAPS. Also, subsequent admission exercise must follow this process.”