• It’s reflection of rot in education sector
Gabriel Dike; Jet Stanly Madu, Fred Ezeh; Lukman Olabiyi
One of the major concerns about the nation’s education is the issue of anomalies at all levels of the sector under the watch of the Federal Ministry of Education. Over the last decades, stakeholders have expressed worries over the rising rot and fraud in the system and the need to tackle it before it gets out of hand.
The recent shocking revelation about missing millions of Naira from the vault of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) in different states has once again made nonsense about auditing, monitoring and accountability in the various agencies under the ministry of education.
Jamb on spotlight
On February 10, in what looks like tales by moonlight, a sales clerk, Philomena Chieshe shocked the nation that a mystery snake swallowed N36 million cash kept in account office of JAMB in Makurdi, Benue State.
From Makurdi, the fraud has spread like wild fire to other areas. Yakubu Aliu, JAMB coordinator of Kano State could not account for N20 million. Priscilla Ogunsola, JAMB coordinator of Edo State could not account for N31 million. In Plateau State, Zakada Yakubu could not explain the disappearance of N15 million. Yobe State Coordinator of JAMB, Sanusi Atose has blamed the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East for his inability to account for N613,000 belonging to the board.
Daniel Agbor, Kogi State coordinator could not account for N7 million. State coordinator of JAMB in Nasarawa State, Labaran Tanko, claimed that scratch cards worth N23 million were destroyed when his car caught fire. Murtala Abdul, a staff of the board in Gombe State, reported that some officials forged his signature and stole N10, 283,000 at the state office. In the case of Ondo State, the state coordinator, Olaolu Adeniyi, said N1.34 million disappeared when his accountant was on dialysis.
At a recent book launch in Abuja, JAMB Registrar, Prof Ish-qa Oloyede, said the board might not handover officials alleged to have embezzled millions of money to anti-graft agencies stating the focus of the management is to return the money belonging to the Federal Government to the Federation Account.
“It is a continuous process. When anybody is unable to account to the government, our first duty is to ask the person to refund and if that person refunds honourably, there will be little or no need to go further. But if somebody refuses, then we will have to take the necessary step of calling in the law enforcement agencies to recover whatever that belongs to the government,’’ Oloyede noted.
Reactions of stakeholders
President of Association of Tutorial School Operators (ATSO), Mr. Oludotun Sodunke, has described the mind-boggling expose as amazingly interesting and disgraceful.
He disclosed that the fraud did confirm how rotten JAMB was.
“I was the first person to come out in the public to expose the fraud but they called me all sorts of names then. In fact, education sector was and is still one of the most rotten sectors in Nigeria. Universities and other higher institutions of learning are stinkingly corrupt,’’ he alleged.
Former chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, Mr. Dave Ajetomobi, said the fraud is within the ambit of crimes that EFCC ought to take over.
“It is beyond administrative panel now, it is clear that massive fraud have been perpetrated by the officers of JAMB in the years past, panels can’t investigate crimes, this is beyond the resources of any MDAs. It should be handed over to the EFCC’’.
According to Ajetomobi: “It is obvious that the account of JAMB has not been audited for a very long time or it has never been audited before. I think what really turned the searchlight on JAMB is the billions being realised as revenue under the new boss, otherwise, it could have continued in perpetuity. What we are seeing in JAMB is an indication of what is happening or has happened in other MDAs. I believe searchlights should be beamed on NPA, CBN, NDIC, NNPC, and the likes.
“This is the first time we are seeing something like efforts being made at checking corruption. People are not comfortable with such. Imagine the Lagos Chief Judge saying she received an anonymous letter warning her not to check the account of the immediate past CJ, it’s that bad.’’
Dr. Olunifesi Adekunle Suraj, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos agreed with Ajetumobi that EFCC should step into the issue.
“It is not something we need to debate and I don’t expect EFCC to wait for any executive order to do their job. It is high time we separated institutions from personalities. EFCC need to do their job.’’
Suraj agreed that parastatals under the ministry of education have been plagued by corruption for a long time, stating, “it is high time the government focused on such bodies as TETFUND, UBEC and others. It might not be out of place to find a lot of rots happening there. There is need to investigate how money are accessed and disbursed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see monumental fraud being perpetrated by these agencies.
“All Federal Governments’ agencies are expected to be audited yearly but it is certain they are just routinely done to fulfill all righteousness. You know the usual “Nigerian thing.” Nobody will question anybody. Even if someone does, nothing will happen. Nigerians are watching if anything will come out of this. How can someone has the audacity and gut to insult our intelligence by telling us the “snake story,’’ he stressed.
Reacting to the scam, the Chief Operating Officer of the E-Learning Centre, Mr. Christian Anozie, explained that it was time government took a holistic look at the education sector specifically the lack of accountability, rip-off of students and parents. All education agencies need to be audited, he stressed.
Anozie noted that the recent JAMB incident was a result of the good work of the incumbent JAMB registrar.
“The N36 million snake-swallowing incidents is one of the many cases that prevailed during the scratch card era of JAMB exam procedures. How do we sell pins at the office and keep the money there, where are the banks? he queried.
He agreed that EFCC should be brought in to conduct a thorough investigation, not only in JAMB but across board.
“The monies generated by state and federal universities, cash for admissions, certificates scams etc, make our tertiary institutions and our certificates a market place. The recent cases of certificates for cash at a federal university in Imo State is well documented and we saw a video to that effect go viral last year. Yet, nothing came out of it.
“These corrupt practices are the main reason our universities keep churning out half-backed graduates that can’t express themselves. We must save the educational sector. This incident must just not go the same way as other celebrated cases before now.
“If there is any sector that should be premised on merit, good policies and corrupt-free, it should be the educational sector. The educational sector is the bedrock of an egalitarian society and wherein lies the future of the nation,’’ Anozie argued.
Proprietor of Best Brain Academy, Ota, Chief Muyiwa Akinlade, said the fraud in JAMB is an indication of rot in the education system and advised the Federal Government to beam it searchlight on other agencies.
“Nigerians are watching what becomes of the numerous frauds uncovered in JAMB. The Buhari administration should order auditing of agencies, federal institutions including the 104 Unity Schools.’’
Panic as auditors unravel more rots
There is noticeable panic and unease at the state offices of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB)
The anxiety is linked to the audit probes in the branches, especially after the ridiculous revelation by a JAMB official in Benue State that a mystery snake swallowed N36 million, a claim that has attracted the worst odium in the social media and made record as the most viral issue.
This was as a result of the revelation by JAMB audit team dispatched to state offices to examine the books and other records of the states offices, particularly as it concerns the scratch card regime.
Scratch cards were hitherto used by candidates to gain access to JAMB website for either registration or to check admission status. However, the result of preliminary investigation conducted by a JAMB in-house committee and auditors revealed that some of the state coordinators, alongside their subordinates, might have betrayed the trust bestowed on them by the agency.
The auditors said their revelations have been indicative of a tradition of flouting integrity, honesty, transparency and accountability in the official responsibilities resulting in partial or outright mismanagement of the money and other resources of JAMB.
State coordinators, being the administrative head of JAMB office in their individual states, are responsible for the coordination of JAMB activities in the state, in accordance with the directive from JAMB headquarters in Abuja.
Prior to the appointment of Prof. Oloyede as JAMB helmsman in August 2016, Nigerians never knew the enormous wealth realized in the sale of UTME application forms and other services.
Oloyede’s arrival apparently heralded reforms that ended years of impunity and paved the way for more transparent and effective service delivery to millions of candidates.
Nigerians, particularly the Federal Government was shocked when JAMB announced that it remitted over N7 billion to the federation account, as revenue it generated from the sale of 2017 UTME and other services.
But many staff and contractors that over time benefitted from the lapses in the system were disappointed when Oloyede convinced JAMB management to support the abolition of scratch cards for either registration or to check admission status.
From the revelations by the auditors, it was obvious that the scratch card regime was a loophole through which some JAMB staff and contractors siphoned the resources of the board.
On February 10, The Sun Newspapers exclusively reported that a sales clerk in Benue State JAMB office made an incredible confession to the auditors sent to the state offices to assess the record books.
She said she could not account for N36 million she realized from the sale of JAMB scratch cards. She accused her housemaid and her colleague, whom she said manipulated a mystery snake that invaded her office and swallowed the money she kept in her office vault.