Over the years, there has been a consistent increase in the number of students seeking tertiary education in Nigeria. Over 1.5 million young people in Nigeria sit for the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and slightly above the number sit for the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board Examination (JAMB).
In 2019, the year of this investigation, exactly 1,590,173 students registered for the West African examination and 1.8 million sat for the JAMB. Out this number, just a little over 100, 000 got admission into the different tertiary institutions available in the country.
The number of admission seekers far outnumber the available slots in the tertiary institutions. This has created a huge competition for limited spaces hence the desperate moves by students, parents and teachers who have resorted to sharp practices at every level to beat the system, thereby edging out honest students with their fraudulently acquired superlative results.
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Examination malpractice has flourished in Nigeria for a long time and many people have created an illegal business around their ability to outsmart the system, as revealed in this investigation.
After documenting stories on how results are easily bought at Bachel Academy, Damilola BANJO and Habib OLADAPO investigate some of the claims. In this Investigation, Banjo, under the pseudonym of Grace Adebiga enrolled at Bachel Academy in Egbeda area of Lagos State, for both WASSCE and JAMB examination.
Grace Adebiga is a 25-year-old rice seller, who wanted to get tertiary education. She would need to write WASSCE and JAMB in order to achieve her goal of gaining a tertiary education. For six months, Grace went through the Bachel Academy as an admission seeker who was too busy to study but willing to pay for the needed grades. She registered for the 2019 WASSCE and JAMB in the school where she documented evidence of extortion, bribery and examination fraud.
Read the first part: INVESTIGATION: Inside a Lagos state school where A1 can be bought
The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination used to be notorious for examination fraud. Jamb officials, in connivance with corrupt individuals at the examination centre cheated the system unhindered.
Every year, the board tried new ways to combat examination fraud but centres always found ways to circumvent the system.
In 2007, every candidate was subjected to a body scanner to ensure no one went into the examination hall with a phone or any digital device that could be used to transmit answers. But candidates outsmarted the security check by wrapping their devices in thick layers of carbon paper to make the phones undetectable to the scanners deployed by JAMB that year.
The following year, JAMB worked with telecommunication service providers to distort mobile connectivity during the examination. JAMB tutorial centre advised their candidates to get new sim cards of a particular provider that did not join in on JAMB’s proposal. The new sim was used to send in solved answers to the candidates in the examination halls.
Seeing how cheating was still highly prevalent, the board began to produce multiple sets of questions. They were called ‘types’. In those years, there could be three different types of questions. The questions were essentially the same but reshuffled such that question 1 in ‘type A’ could be question 20 in ‘type C’.
The board also found a way to figure out which type a particular candidate answered: The question 1 is always about the type. In other words, the question would typically ask what ‘type’ is on the candidate’s question booklet. The logic behind this was that, if a candidate’s question booklet said ‘Type A’, and the candidate shaded the same on the computerised answer sheet but went ahead to copy answers from ‘Type B’, the candidate would fail woefully.
Again, centres found ways to cheat despite the introduction of ‘types’. The candidates were told to disregard the ‘type’ on the question booklet and simply shade on their computerized answer slip whatever solution was sent via their phone.
2010 in Lagos Island, a particular type leaked the night before the examination and most candidates who got a whiff of the answer simply ignored the ‘type’ on their question and shaded the ‘type’ that leaked.
This went on until 2013, when the board introduced Computer-Based Test (CBT) as against the old Paper Pencil Test (PPT). The former registrar of JAMB, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, said the innovation would reduce examination malpractice during the exam.
Indeed, malpractice reduced but there were still gaps. CBT did not check impersonation and most centres got the questions the night before the examination.
Candidates who wrote JAMB examination at Bachel then said they got answers on the night before the examination.
“During JAMB, people always attend the Bachel camp because they know answers will flow on the eve of JAMB,” said an older candidate who did not want to be named.
Also, Mr. Adeniran claimed to have been a candidate at Bachel college when he wrote his JAMB examination. Then, he said, it was easier to cheat during JAMB. The subject teachers would sneak in and read out the answers.
“It was easy then. Within 5 minutes everyone is done but it is no longer possible,” he told Grace just before the JAMB examination.
With JAMB, old things have passed away
“It is difficult to ‘help’ anyone during JAMB examination now and Bachel will not risk a multimillion naira centre for any student,” said Mr. Smart, one of the senior staff members at Bachel.
“The old things have passed away and all things are new. What we are doing for you now is all we can do. If you are expecting anything in the examination hall tomorrow morning, you’re seriously on your own.”
Just as Mr. Smart was giving his sermon, Aunty Funmi, slapped a book on the cheek of a candidate who was sleeping away.
“Unserious girl,” she exclaimed as the teenage girl jumped out of sleep. “You won’t read this past question now so that you can know what to write tomorrow. Continue sleeping. You will sleep for another year when you fail tomorrow.”
Grace had also enrolled for JAMB in the school. There has been a plethora of testimonies on how Bachel helped candidates cheat during the JAMB examination as well. Just as she did during the WAEC examination, Grace was there to unravel how Bachel cheats the JAMB system as well.
“Make sure you’re at the camp the night before even if you won’t attend the full camp. That’s when they will give the answers,” an old candidate had informed the reporters.
Indeed, Bachel camped its registered candidates for weeks before the 2019 JAMB examination. The candidates were camped at the Bachel centre in the Egbeda area of Lagos State.
The owner of the school Mr. Fasusi Kolawole said the camp was to rid students of the distractions at home and allow them to study. On the last day of camping, the activities would start out as a crash-revision programme. Different subject teachers would come in to revise with the candidates. Then at about 2 am, the real reason for the camp would be shared– solved JAMB questions.
“Bachel always gets the questions a night before,” the old candidate disclosed.
However, with the stringent measures put in place to check malpractice during the examination, it has become tough for centres like Bachel to cheat during JAMB.
At the 2019 JAMB camp, there were no leaked questions, at least in Bachel centre where this investigation was carried out.
The only ‘help’ the school could render was to share screenshots of JAMB questions from those that had taken the matriculation test on earlier days. The test was spread across days to control crowds and access to computers.
Candidates who took the test on the first day had no ‘assistance’ to rely on. But, for those who wrote from the second day, they got screenshots from previous days.
“The questions that will come out will be the same. It might not be numbered the same way but it would be the same. So, you have to memorise this and remember when you see them in the exam. If you forget, you are on your own,” Mr. Smart told the students.
‘O boy, No show o’
Grace wrote her examination on the 3rd day at Bachel CBT centre at Ogba area of Lagos. JAMB officials who took biometrics of the candidates sat by a corner. Mr. Adewunmi and Adeniran were seen around the registration point but merely stood as onlookers.
The JAMB officials took the fingerprints of the candidates as they filed into the CBT centre. The hall was quiet with the computers ready to be occupied by the candidates. Two of Bachel’s staff were spotted inside the hall. Their faces were serious but the seriousness would soften into hopelessness when they see a familiar candidate whom they would be unable to ‘assist’.
Mr. Golden, the ICT man at Bachel who had become familiar with Grace during registration for both WAEC and JAMB examination, walked up to Grace as she tried to find her seat number.
The computer assigned to Grace seat number did not power so she was redirected to another room. Mr. Golden got Grace a seat beside one of the bright students.
“Ask her question. You two are doing the same subjects,” he whispered as he leaned over as though helping to set up the computer. He had to be careful while whispering because JAMB had installed CCTV cameras in the test hall.
The spokesperson of the board, Fabian Benjamin, said the JAMB reviewed the footage from the camera after the examination to spot inappropriate conduct that the officials might have missed during the test.
Of course, Grace left the candidate undisturbed to concentrate on her test. She took the test without any ‘assistance’. About 45 minutes later, she submitted and left the test hall.
Grace biometric was again taken to ensure she was the same person who had signed in for the examination. The double checks– before and after the exam– was to reduce incidence of impersonation.
Minutes after Grace had left the test hall, Mr. Golden called to ask her how she fared.
“You should have spoken with the girl. I know her. She is very smart and you two are writing the same subjects, that was why I put you beside her,” he said.
Just as the conversation with Mr. Golden concluded, a dejected candidate walked out of the school. He had just finished the matriculation exam as well.
“O boy, no show o,” he said over the phone. “Bachel no sure again and na you convince me. I for don go Ogun State na…” the disappointed young man said to whoever was at the other end of his phone.
That, no doubt, would be the testimony of many candidates who had enrolled at Bachel centre for assistance.
Bachel declines comment
One of these reporters reached out to the founder of Bachel College, Fasusi Ayokunle, on the evidence of malpractice gathered in one of his schools but he refused to comment.
Ayokunle said he has set up a committee to investigate the claim and will reach out to the reporter when he has made his own findings.
He is yet to do so.
Mass Failure in JAMB
In May, 2019 when the result came out, Mr Golden was the first to ask Grace if she had checked her result.
“JAMB result is out. Have you seen your own result?,” he asked.
He was eager to know if Grace had scored above 200, the minimum score for most universities in Nigeria. When Grace informed him that she scored 238, he was excited.
“All those that have been calling me had a hundred plus. A lot of people really failed,” he announced.
The secretaries at the school were all talking about the ‘mass failure’ when Grace was at the Egbeda centre a few weeks after the result was released.
“Ha, the business woman,” one of the secretary exclaimed upon seeing Grace. “I heard you did well during JAMB. All these children failed. When they will not read.”
She raised a pile of results sorted into two categories: above 200 and below 200. The pile for those who scored below 200 almost tripled the other pile.
These were the same students who had distinctions and upper credits in WASSCE. This goes to show again that the strength of Bachel’s good grades in WAEC examination was hinged on massive cheating and various examination frauds.
Deploying technology to fight malpractice
A senior official of WAEC said the council cannot easily deploy technology as in the case with JAMB. The official, who would not want to be named as he had no authority to speak for the commission, said the JAMB is a one-day examination and is relatively easy to deploy technology like the CBT.
“JAMB’s CBT is multiple choice questions but for WAEC you have practicals where you have to check the items, there are some you have to do some buildings yourself. Whatever innovation we are doing would be different from that of JAMB,” the official stated.
“As technology is advancing, we are also advancing, we are making sure whatever we can do to curb malpractice, we are doing,” he disclosed.
CBT aside, one of the technological innovations the official claimed WAEC has introduced is the biometric device that the supervisors ought to use in verifying the identity of the candidate but the device was never used at Bachel.
The WAEC official who supervised Government examination attempted to use it but found that it was not charged.
The official, with Mr Adewunmi, fumbled with the device for a while but ultimately abandoned it.
For a school like Bachel that is very blatant with examination fraud, only a water-tight system could have made the school conform.
The matriculation board explained in an interview with with one of the reporters that technology has been the driver of the innovative ideas used in combating various forms of examination fraud that used to characterise the conduct of JAMB examinations.
“We have taken full advantage of technology,” said the spokesperson of the board. “Technology is the way to prevent malpractice and for every agency that wants to take full advantage of technology can achieve that.”
Full finger biometrics and identity verification have mitigated against impersonation and slip forgery, the board explained.
An ICT expert, Jide Abiose, said identity verification technology prevents the duplication or replication of identities, hence an innovative way to check impersonation as no two individuals have the same biometrics.
He explained that checking the biometrics gathered at the point of registration against the one presented at the point of writing the examination would significantly reduce cases of impersonation.
“When the data gathered at the registration point does not match that of the individual for the examination, if there is no match, then the person would not be allowed to write the exam,” he said.
He mentioned that this could be manipulated by deploying other higher technology that is capable of manipulating even if, such technology would be too expensive to deploy just to cheat during matriculation exam.
NIN is the next Step
The combination of the CBT and the biometric system is a good way to check examination malpractice and increase efficiency, the expert said. Nonetheless, to completely eliminate fraud in the system, Abiose suggested that JAMB data be consolidated against the national identity database.
“There are ways that JAMB can further strengthen its identity system,” he said. “They must start insisting that everybody that registers for JAMB must have a national identity card. This creates a trial of your identity, therefore creating a new identity becomes impossible.
In October 2019, the registrar of the matriculation board, Ishaq Oloyede, announced that all candidates include the National Identity Number as a requirement to register for the JAMB examination.
However, this development was postponed till 2021 following the delay, among other challenges witnessed by the prospective candidates.
”We came to a decision yesterday and decided that we will suspend the use of NIN as a prerequisite for the 2020 UTME and Direct Entry (DE) registration until 2021. By then, all candidates would have been given one year notice to register,” Oloyede said.
Abiose said having a central and robust data pool is the only way to eliminate impersonation or any form of identity fraud.
Naming and shaming as deterrent
Another method of fighting examination malpractice that has been fully adopted by JAMB is the prosecution of officials and parents found guilty of the act.
According to the WAEC official, the commission has introduced sterner punitive measures as one of the ways to also curb malpractice.
“For example, if you are caught with a phone in the exam hall, whether you are using it or not, it is CER (Cancel Entire Result). Even invigilators are not allowed to use the phone,” he claimed.
But, Benjamin said prosecuting offenders would serve as a deterrent to others. He said the board has prosecuted no less than 90 people since the last examination.
“We have successfully prosecuted over 90 people; students, teachers, parents… They all got 2 to 3 years in jail term,” Benjamin said.
Beware of louts and exam fraud racketeers
This investigation is supposed to get Grace to the University of Lagos. Testimonies gathered during preliminary research for the investigation suggested that tutorial centres in connivance with staff of the university ‘sell’ admission into the institution.
With a JAMB score of above 200 and a superlative WAEC result, Grace was qualified for the 2019 University of Lagos post –UTME exam.
At Bachel, the sales of admission into UNILAG cost N200,000. The investigation hit a hard rock as there was no funds available to follow through the bargain.
However, Oladipupo, who claimed to be a student of UNILAG promised that he could secure admissions through the back doors for a fee lesser than Bachel’s. He charged N70,000.
But, it became apparent that he is merely a lout profiting off dishonest and desperate prospective applicants.
Oladipupo gave the account number with the name Ogbewi Edeigie to pay into. When asked why the account number has a different name, he said he was born to mixed parents. He claimed he chose to be addressed as Olodipupo in connection to his maternal root.
“My mother is Yoruba,” he claimed.
That was the first red flag that Oladipupo was probably not whom he claimed to be– but a fraudster, nonetheless. Further dealings revealed that he is merely a lout with no connection with any authority in UNILAG. He simply preys on people’s laziness and greed.
On the day of the post UTME, Oladipupo, suddenly informed Grace she would have to sit for the examination herself.
He claimed the school now uses biometrics which would make it impossible to impersonate but he promised that all hope is not lost.
“Now that I cannot send my guy to sit for you, I will have to upgrade your score. Don’t worry, just make sure you submit. I will upgrade whatever you score,” he said.
At this point, the reporters knew Oladipupo was a cheap scammer, not in the league of those the investigation had set out to unravel.
When the result was released, Grace scored 18. According to Oladipupo she had score 7 but upgraded her score to 18. This was a lie. Grace had actually attempted the test having realised that the investigation had hit a dead end, at least, the UNILAG’s part.
This investigation was funded by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting Abuja