As it is, it seems that President Goodluck Jonathan finds the former head of service, Chief Steve Orosanye indispensable and has not stopped appointing him to very crucial committees on very important issues of the polity. The other time, Orosnaye was made part of the Nuhu Ribadu Committee that was going to look into the enormous rot in the oil industry, and his antics rubbished the entire lofty effort.
The antics of the former head of service, who from nowhere, threw sands into the findings of the committee whose sessions he hardly attended, were enough for a government that had fraudulent intentions, ab initio, to flush the findings down the drain, That is now history. Orosanye is again making history, not for very famous reasons, but rather for what many observers regard as a very bizarre recommendations the committee he headed, has returned on the way the Jonathan administration should cut the cost of governance by cutting its nose to spite its face.
I am talking about the recommendation which the Orosanye-led committee made last month that the federal government should scrap the National Examinations Council (NECO) as part of its cost-saving measures. In addition, the committee reportedly proposed that the activities of the indigenous examination body should be handed over to the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to shoulder. To be fair, Orosanye and his team had not exclusively targeted NECO and JAMB, its sister parastatal in the federal Education Ministry, as the committee had, in addition, also recommended the scrapping of 38 federal agencies, a merger of 52 and revert of 14 agencies as departments in the ministries.
The genuine interests that these recommendations would have generated have, however, been submerged by the outrage and disappointment over the suggestion that NECO should be scrapped. That is the way it should be, being that almost every Nigerian is a stakeholder in the domestic examination body which was founded as an alternative to WAEC after the regional body was found to have become an “Ali Baba and 40 thieves” of sorts. Any suggestion to scrap NECO and to hand its activities to WAEC displays a crass misunderstanding of the issues that had led to its establishment in the first place, as well as the measured steps that had led to that. It equally betrays how unable people who are saddled with some serious public responsibilities are unable to go beyond the surface.
The public outcries which have attended the announcement from many important and better informed stakeholders show that the recommendation was made without much thought. The fact that the Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike had told the Nigerian Senate last week, that there was no plan by the government to scrap the National Examinations Council (NECO) should not provide any cold comfort, nor should be taken as if the vexed issue had been laid to rest. Wike’s was only a political statement which does not remove the fact that the recommendation, amongst the others, is currently undergoing study by government which will soon issue a white paper on them. So, Wike was being economical with the truth because he lacks the powers or the authority to make the pronouncement he made so definitively at the Senate.
The truth is that even though the matter affects a parastatal in his ministry, he lacks the powers to speak authoritatively on the subject given the origin of the issue at stake. Before I delve deeply into the NECO issue, it would be necessary to point out the very sad tendency of our government to want to stand their priorities on their head. How can any such committee even ponder that the government should consider cutting costs by starving any agency of the education sector that are currently criminally underfunded, with the evidence that the sector has become a huge joke, thus, reflecting in the paucity of the nation’s human resources development.
One would have thought that with the low quality of the products from our education sector, it should have been recommended that every other savings made from the rationalization of the other sectors should be ploughed back into educational development of the society. Therefore, considering the history and activities of NECO, it looks almost irresponsible for anybody to suggest its scrapping, as a means of saving costs. My findings are that NECO was inaugurated from the realisation that the regional body, West African Examinations Council (WAEC), had become over-burdened by many examinations that it conducted across the West African sub-region, and had started to show signs of enormous dysfunctionality and inefficiency.
The most obvious sign of those was that the WAEC exams had become no exams at all, because they had started leaking like baskets. The infamous ‘Expo 77’ which was the nickname given to the mass leakage of WASC exams of 1977 was so shameful that the embarrassed military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo thought that WAEC and its activities needed some remediation. Not being an exclusively Nigerian agency, what the Nigerian government could do to WAEC was limited; hence the need to look inwards and find a workable solution, and more appropriately, alternatives.
That was how the federal government, over time, set up several commissions to look into what to do about the mass leakages which had invariably started to affect the quality of the school leaving certificates held by the nation’s school leavers as well as the import which foreigners attached to them. These committees over time, including those that were set up by the succeeding administrations all recommended that some weight be shed from the over-burdened WAEC. For instance, the Shogbetun Commission of 1977 had ruled that WAEC had become grossly inefficient due to the huge burdens it was shouldering and had recommended the distribution of these excess weights to other examination bodies to be set up.
The Angulu panel of 1982, as well as later ones chaired by Prof. Okoro and the panel led by Prof. Osyale in 1991, all retuned similar verdicts, after extensive consultations with stakeholders. Other panels like that led by the late Etsu Nupe, as well recommendations distilled from Vision 2010 document all pointed to the need to foundations of bodies like NECO. These well considered recommendations led to the promulgation of decrees 69 and 70 that established two examination bodies, namely, National Board for Educational Measu