OPINION | 2019 JAMB UTME, a Salute to Prof. Is-haq Oloyede

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By Ike Onyechere
Exam Ethics Marshals commend Prof. Is-haq  Oloyede, the Registrar of Joint Admissions Matriculation Board and  his team for successful conduct of the 2019 JAMB examinations and for putting an end to conspiracy of silence and lip service in the fight against examination malpractice.
The 2019 JAMB UTME was held from 11th  to 17th  April.  The result, released on 11th  May showed that while 1,886,508 candidates sat for the exams 1,792,719 results were released. 34,120 results were cancelled for involvement in exam fraud while 15,145 results are still being clarified. The entire process is a success story in general and in terms of the campaign to eradicate exam malpractice and entrench exam ethics.
Prof. Oloyede demonstrated that the monster of examination malpractice ravaging Nigeria’s education system can effectively be caged if the leadership of Exam Boards summon the courage and political will to confront and be confronted by monster. The JAMB Registrar has shown the way and shined the light as a pathfinder.
His various reports confirm beyond any reasonable doubt that exam malpractice is now an organized criminal enterprise orchestrated by full time professional criminals with members of syndicates embedded in some Ministries, Agencies, Institutions and Examination Boards. Exam special (magic) centres masquerading as Schools (duly registered and licensed by State Ministries of Education) are their operational fronts for SSC and BEC exams. When JAMB migrated from Paper and Pencil Tests (PPT) to Computer Based Tests (CBT), they set up cyber cafes and CBT centres as fronts for their JAMB operations. For the 2019 exams, 112 of such centres were identified, blacklisted, delisted or suspended by JAMB.
Exam Fraud Syndicates and their collaborating Parents disguised as public-interest social responsibility commentators mounted media pressure to get JAMB to rescind its decision not to register candidates without biometric verification. The Registrar demonstrated strong nerves, strength of character and supreme self-confidence in resisting the pressure and ensured that no candidate sat for the exams without biometric verification. This enabled JAMB to block the standard operating strategy of the fraudsters of multiple registration and use of exam mercenaries. Even at that, 34,120 results were cancelled for exam fraud.
When the Exam ended on 17th April and JAMB noticed that some fraudsters still penetrated the system, it decided to conduct a meticulous check to fish out the culprits instead of rushing to release the results. Again they mounted pressure. Again Prof and his team resisted. Had they succumbed, JAMB would have achieved a fleeting praise for speedy release of results. But the exam fraudsters that succeeded in beating the system would not have been identified and credibility and integrity of the results would have been compromised.
The integrity of the administration and supervision process of 2019 JAMB exams was improved by engagement of Vice Chancellors as JAMB Chief External Examiners in various States. Coupled with the use of serving and retired top professionals and Directors from public and private sector organizations, it was difficult for the fraudsters to bride their way through this caliber of professionals. The offer of bribe of N1.7 million cash in one exam centre was reported.
The use of VCs as Chief External Examiners also restored confidence of tertiary institutions in the JAMB UTME process. Instead of the clamor for post-UTME exams, tertiary institutions now see themselves as partners and co-owners in the JAMB process. It was a master class deployment of strategy of team work. In the past, the public and acrimonious debate between VCs (for post UTME) and JAMB (against post UTME) reached the level where stakeholders were calling for scrapping of JAMB as no longer relevant. Exam Ethics Marshals supported the VCs on account of persistent issues of lack of integrity in JAMB exams which are now being seriously addressed.
The 2019 JAMB UTME has set another important record. 128 fraudsters were arrested during the exams that ended on 17th April. Five of them have already been convicted in Zamfara, kebbi and other States less than one month after the exams.
123 others are standing trial in other States. It sounds like a story from another country. The Judicial officers that tried and jailed the culprits in record time deserve commendation of all patriotic Nigerians. It also in the public domain that the Registrar is not covering up anyone found to have compromised including JAMB staff.
UTME 2019 has demonstrated the possibilities in the war against exam malpractice beyond lip service. But the challenge is huge, complex, systemic and pervasive with almost all categories of stakeholders represented in the line-up of perpetrators at all levels and every sector of education from primary to tertiary.   JAMB alone cannot do the job. It requires collective action of all stakeholders.
The Federal Government, especially the Presidency and the Minister of Education have done well to give Prof Oloyede  the freedom and support to implement his reforms. This is as it should be because the war against corruption cannot be won without first winning the exam malpractice battle. Pupils and Students fed and weaned on diets of exam fraud can never grow and develop as ethics-friendly leaders. In fact Mr President will do well to empower Prof. Oloyede to extend his crusade beyond JAMB to cover other segments of the education sector.
Security Agencies, Judiciary, State Governments and Ministries of Education, other Exam boards, Heads of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Institutions, Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff, Parents, Students, Unions, Associations and all education stakeholders must rise, mobilize , work together to combat exam malpractice and entrench exam ethics. The success of the war against corruption and crime and the progress of Nigerian Nation depends on rebuilding the collapsed moral foundation and infrastructure of education.  And Prof. Oloyede and his team are demonstrating that it is doable with the 2019 UTME.
*Onyechere, MFR
Founding Chairman, Exam Ethics Marshals International
May 13, 2019
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