By Mohammed Bello Yunusa
What stage of governance is Nigeria? Is it just at a cross road where direction is difficult to decipher or simply muddling up? The governance practices, over time, have increasingly become confusing. This is to the extent that purposes are lost and communication lines are warped that even top bureaucrats and chief executive officers present a confused facade.
For various reasons including loss of organisational objectives and civil service practices, heads of ministries, departments and agencies have become powerful enough to assume they are presidents in their respective imperial territories and have for long embarked on usurping powers and responsibilities of other organisations. These tendencies have earned ovation from various quarters. The ovation may as well come from people who do not know what is at stake! This has been made worse by the Roman mob tendencies of the citizenry. Citizens applaud for good, bad or no reason.
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One of the heads of agencies most clapped for in recent time is Ishaq Oloyede, former vice-chancellor, Secretary to the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and sitting Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). The registrar has been praised to high heavens for prudence, lack of stealing skills and more so for turning billions of naira as internally generated revenue to the ever-pilfered federal treasury.
Carried away by this, the registrar has volunteered the removal of JAMB from the federal appropriation list without recourse to his principal. This is wonderful as the registrar may be thinking that he will be there forever or another person of his character traits will inherit him.
His reason? JAMB has potentials to generate its funds for its activities. The revenue is generated through sale of forms, change of course or institution, issuance and acceptance of admission letter by candidates.
This acclaimed potential is empirically supported by the remittance of over N30 billion to the coffers of the federal government. This is said to be far more than the agency’s 40 years earning. I would have given a super gold medal to the professor if he were sitting at the NNPC or such other commercial federal government profit-driven agencies that may have been milked dry over the years.
Unfortunately, the professor forgot that JAMB is a mere service agency for the delivery of unhindered equal opportunity admission to desiring candidates. The various fees – registration, change of course and institution, letters of admission – are in many ways out of the scope of activities of the agency. What has happened, may be with extreme obedience of the universities, is that a mere clearing house has become so powerful by usurping the powers of other agencies particularly the senates of universities. With the arrogation of executive powers to the board, it has engaged in the milking of candidates, guardians and parents white.
In case we have suffered a memory loss, let us be reminded of the need for JAMB. When the universities began to grow in number, a matriculation admission clearing house became necessary. All through the 1960s to 1975, Nigeria had only five universities. Through this period, all the five advertise, sold admission forms, selected and placed qualified candidates in departments and faculties. Candidates with multiple applications to various universities also had multiple admission notices. This has implications for other less fortunate candidates.
When a few more universities, such as Sokoto, Jos, Bayero, Calabar among others were added in 1975, it was certain that the crises of admission to universities will magnify. A major task for JAMB is to ensure no candidate has more than a place in a Nigerian university.
In ensuring this, JAMB took over advertisement, sale of admission forms and vigorously got involved in the selection of candidates. This is when things went off course. It should not be forgotten that selection of candidates is a prime function of universities.
The ridiculous competition with universities, including issuance of letters of admission by JAMB amounts to executive excesses.
Without facilities and requisite personnel, JAMB printed, sold forms and conducts entrance examinations to universities, and later added mono-technics, polytechnics and colleges of education. The results of such tests are turned to universities as bases for selection and placement of candidates.
Not a kobo goes to the universities from sales of forms for the selection and placement of candidates. The money generated is not applied to the chain of responsibilities. How can JAMB boast of remitting surplus to federal treasury?
In more clear terms, JAMB does not allow fees collected to trickle down to universities or even fund admission processes from departments to Senate and subsequently to JAMB to ensure non-duplication of names across universities.
JAMB incurs minimal admission expenditure as application forms are filled online and forwarded to universities in soft copies. Online application should cost far less than the current form fees.
The acclaimed huge revenue is a result of overcharging of candidates and non-application of collected fees to admission procedures in tertiary institutions.
With the audacity of the registrar to contemplate increase in fees and removal from federal government funding, there is need for a review of the fees to the barest minimum rates.
The board must be made to fully fund its activities including those located in universities. That so much was generated and turned to federal treasury also translates to overcharging. For this, there is the need to look around.
It is important for the registrar to look beyond Abuja, Lagos, Warri and such other places for a good view of what is happening in the villages.
For sure, there are brilliant boys and girls who have been denied access to tertiary education simply because parents and guardians cannot afford JAMB fees! It is therefore time to review the fees downwards as the board is not a business outfit and all potential applicants should have equal opportunity.
Most importantly, JAMB is not a university and should have no grounds to compete with universities over issues of selection, placement etc.
This is more desirable as the board no longer issues out hardcopies of forms and course brochure. There is no feat in usurping other’s statutory responsibilities and in swelling up the federal treasury when admission processes are not completely funded from the charges. The registrar must take JAMB out of resource accumulation without responsibility. Period.
Yunusa is the Executive Director, Socioeconomic and Environment Advocacy Centre, Zaria email@example.com