By Owei Lakemfa
SHE is young. Her dressing gives the impression of a religious-minded lady. She is identified or identified herself by 42 different names. But her real name is unknown. It might not be impossible that among the 42 names, is buried her true name. On the other hand, she might have been too smart to fill her real name. But she is not faceless, and if our country had a good fingerprint database, she might have been identified and arrested.
Introducing one of the leading 2019 Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, candidates for entrance into the country’s tertiary institutions. She is in the fraudsters’ heavyweight champion category because through fingerprinting, she was discovered to have registered 42 times for an examination that requires a single registration!
However, she is not the champion; that belt belongs to a male fraudster that registered 62 times. That means he intended to write the examinations for 62 different candidates. Given the fact that the examination takes place for seven days, it will require this fraudster to write an average of three examinations daily for a full week. If this heavyweight champion of examination fraud in Nigeria were to be apprehended, he would need to face additional charges of attempted suicide for only a suicidal person would make such an attempt. The fact that these fraudsters stake their health, invest their freedom and future in such a fraudulent scheme, suggests that they must be breaking even.
JAMB Registrar, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, explained to the media how the fraud is perpetuated: “A ghostwriter can write for three or more persons but the candidates have to be present so as not to be marked absent.
“For every examination, these ghostwriters write for three or four persons within the hours of the examination. They will finish one and submit; they were not aware that we have put measures in place so that the system can tell us who has written what examination.
“What these candidates do is to use their feet to disconnect the wire on their system and people will be struggling with the system while the person writing for them has already left the hall. The time these candidates spend in these frauds, they can become first-class candidates.”
He told of another JAMB experience in the April 2019 examinations: “A candidate did biometric verification and came into the hall but a professional writer or mercenary had hidden in the toilet. So the candidate would stand up and say he or she was going to the toilet, only for the professional writer to come back from the toilet and replace him or her. The real candidate will remain in the toilet. So our CCTV watchers from Abuja caught that and said the person who went to the toilet was not the same person who came back. And we quickly had to call the security operatives to pick up that person. And they are saying I am a witch. They don’t know that it is the technology that is aiding us.”
He blamed parents who pay the ghostwriters as being primarily responsible for the crime: “Parents pay as much as N200,000 to ghostwriters. How will you, as a mother or a father, connive to commit a crime? Will the child have any respect for you? Will you still call yourself a father or a mother when you have introduced your son or daughter into the world of crime?”
Professor Oloyede reported the summary of JAMB’s findings to the Policy Meeting on Admissions to Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria held on June 11, in Gbongan, Osun. He told the meeting that examination malpractice is: “Caused by insatiable greed and the desperate antics of parents who are hell-bent on inducting their innocent and not-so-innocent children into the world of sharp practices and corruption.” He said the agency is on the heels of these fraudsters and that about 100 of such candidates arrested in the 2019 examinations are awaiting trial. Also to be sanctioned are 76 computer-based test centres for various infractions during the examinations.
Oloyede told the media that just as there are fraudsters feasting on candidates before and during the examinations, so are there those feasting after. He said this year, a gang with intent to extort and defraud fraudulent parents and candidates ran a syndicate from Igarra, Edo State, with affiliates in Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Abia, Anambra and Plateau states and circulated a fake notice of impending reduction of UTME scores.
The JAMB registrar also revealed attempted fraud during the examinations through the illegitimate movement of routers to unregistered locations, illegal extension of registration points from the central network to other locations and attempts to clone registration SIMs, but that JAMB was able to checkmate the fraudsters.
He also accused some tertiary institutions of perpetuating admission fraud. He said some of them pad admissions, weed or disqualify candidates on the false premise that they did not upload their school certificate results, and sometimes transfer qualified candidates to other programmes all in order to replace them with their preferred candidates.
Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Brigadier-General Shuaibu Ibrahim who also addressed the policy meeting also related his own experiences with fraudsters in the agency. He spoke about the mobilisation of non-graduates, double registration of graduates, and polytechnic graduates who, given their OND background, should not have qualified for HND programmes. He suggested a collaboration between JAMB and the NYSC to ensure that graduates were in the first place, qualified for tertiary institution admission in accordance with JAMB requirements.
Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, told the gathering that the outcome of JAMB’s investigation into the processes of the 2019 UTME examinations is a pointer to the fact that the examination industry requires a surgical process in order to sanitise the system. He added: “Government knows that the ability and willingness to respond to changes, particularly in tracking and checkmating abuses of a system, is very expensive; yet, it is an expense that we must bear its cost in the overall interest of the nation.”
In a country where electoral malpractice, including vote buying and election rigging, is becoming a culture, it is no surprise that examination malpractice is not uncommon. However, both can be tackled using the information and communications technology, but more importantly, the will to combat these practices is necessary.
That is what differentiates our decadent political system from JAMB, an agency that carries the battle to examination fraudsters, confronting them, bursting them and sending those apprehended to prison.
This is the road to take. JAMB’s efforts and modest success against examination cheats is also an indication that there is hope for our country.