By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan
There is no attempt to do a rejoinder on our own work. Rather, this must be seen as an addendum to our piece of last August, “JAMB: N15.6 Billion Profit After Tax”, in which we reminded our audience that the Joint Admissions And Matriculation Board, JAMB, was established in 1978 with the mandate of ensuring uniform standard and the conduct of matriculation examination and placement of suitable candidates into the nation’s universities. The enabling law has since been amended severally to include all tertiary institutions in the country.
The idea of standard and uniformity was to avoid a situation where some candidates got multiple admissions which deprived others the opportunity of gaining any admission.
Put simply, in just the same way that the Federal Government organizes common entrance examinations for placement into its unity schools, JAMB stepped in to organize entrance examinations into, and maintain uniform standard in, all the tertiary institutions across the country.
A particular aspect of JAMB’s operation has attracted intense public attention lately: Two years ago, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede was appointed the Registrar of JAMB. It is instructive that in the 38 years of JAMB’s existence before the arrival of Prof. Oloyede, only a paltry sum of N54 million operating surplus had been remitted to government coffers. But in the two short years of Oloyede’s Administration, JAMB remitted a whopping sum of N15.6 Billion into the Federal Government Treasury. We have no hesitation in crediting the new feat to the introduction of the Single-Treasury-Account by the President Mohammadu Buhari Administration.
Because of Oloyedes success story, his processors have been at war with him for blowing the lid off their cover.
We have since lost interest in the verbal exchanges between the past and present functionaries of the JAMB. Rather, our major concern here is that over time, this Administration has developed a knack for latching on unfair advantages. It plays politics, even on things evil. At the end of their 2017 Trading Year, so-called, a highly respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, in the Administration went to town with the news that “Under a Muslim head, JAMB has in two years remitted N15.6 Billion to the Treasury as against N54 million remitted in its entire 38 years under Christian heads”. This is sheer opportunism, bordering on hate speech, particularly against the backdrops of the political and religious colourations given it.
It is necessary to recapitulate our original stand on this issue. Over the years, each successive administration has portrayed itself as a Shylock of sorts – milking and bleeding its poorest of the poor. Indeed, the Federal Government has no morals justification to be smiling to the Bank from the sweat of the poor citizens.
Certainly, JAMB was not established as a money-spinning machine. From our knowledge of elementary Book-Keeping and Accounts, JAMB cannot be expected at the end of the year to prepare the Trading, Profit and Loss Account because it is trading on nothing. The profit it makes cannot be measured in terms of Naira and Kobo, but on the number of examinations it successfully conducts.
It bears repeating that JAMB derives its revenue from the sale of forms. With its bogus charges, many poor people are priced out of the academic market. Such die without seeing the four walls of a tertiary institution. And here is JAMB declaring humongous profits, after feeding fat, thus further inflating the lootable funds at the disposal of the Federal Government. If this is not a crime against humanity, what is it? Something must be done and pronto, too!
Before now the forms sold for N5, 000 and $20 in Nigeria and outside Nigeria respectively. We then suggested that the form must crash to N2, 000 immediately! Prof. Oloyede’s argument that by that reduction “you will be giving it free at the international market because of the exchange rate” is unacceptable. We see nothing wrong with charging differential fees for local and international candidates. After all, a bulk of the candidates is in Nigeria and the examination is for admission into Nigerian tertiary institutions! Those who feel cheated can come to Nigeria to enroll and sit for the examination! So ran our argument.
At last, a Daniel has come to judgment! For a change, the Federal Government has shown itself a listening government. It has just announced that with effect from January 2019, the JAMB forms will sell forN3,500. Not only that. The government also took the opportunity to do some downward review of the fees for NECO and BECE.
It is naïve to think that the reductions, particularly at the inception of the campaigns, may be intended to hoodwink voters for the 2019 general elections. The Federal Government knows more than that. It is aware that this is benign tokenism that simply comes to naught in the face of its abysmal failure on its educational promises to the people.
If anything, the reduction in the cost of JAMB forms is a call to duty. With the reduction, there will be an implosion in the students population as the door of affordability has now been opened slightly wider. This simply puts an additional burden on the Federal Government.
Does the Federal Government enjoy being reminded of its serial defaults, particularly on the lofty promises that would have moved our education forward? Its profit and Loss Account reveals colossal losses in broken promises and dashed hopes as would be seen from a few instances:
During the campaigns leading to the 2015 elections, the APC promised to target 20% of the annual budget to education. This promise is contained on page 14 of the Document, Securing Nigeria’s Future.
On the same page 14 of the Document, the APC promised to establish at least six Universities of Science and Technology with satellite campuses in the various States; and also to establish technical colleges and vocational centres in each State of the Federation.
On page 9 of the twin Document, “Roadmap to a New Nigeria” given to Nigerians in the build-up to the 2015 elections, the APC promised” free tertiary education to students of Sciences and Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; and also to provide free tertiary education to Education students as well as pay them stipends pending their employment as teachers.
Four years on, they have not lifted a finger towards the realization of the lofty goals. Should they, in the circumstance, be basking in the euphoria of some peanut reductions in examination fees? That would be akin to carrying an elephant on the head and sourcing for cricket with the toes!
And, indeed, the journey has not started. Any administration that means well for this country must first seek a permanent solution to strikes in our tertiary institutions. A situation in which our institutions are permanently on strike, thus distorting the academic calendar beyond remediation, is totally unacceptable. We are reminded that the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has been on strike for months and the Government has chosen to block its ears with cotton wool, perhaps oblivious of the fact that nobody ever solves a problem by running away from it!
These are the critical areas where a serious administration should be concentrating its efforts, not on frivolities.