The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) was established in 1978 to solve the problem of multiplicity of the admission processes into the various public universities in Nigeria. Hitherto, the public universities that existed before then had individualistic admission guidelines, policies, and processes that gave room for manipulations and bred confusion. Indeed, the bottlenecks have largely been overcome by the setting up of the examination body which has succeeded in harmonizing and even centralizing admissions not only into Nigerian public universities but now also into most other higher institutions of learning in the country.
Although JAMB has been said to have largely succeeded in achieving the objectives for which it was set up, this has not been without some accusations of gross ineptitude in the handling of its examinations. The body has been seriously alleged of being incapable of conducting malpractice-free examinations. Besides, grave corruption allegations have trailed the existence of the examination body such that a past registrar of the body is still standing trial for corruption charges that leave one wondering if the body has not outlived its welcome.
From time to time, JAMB has come up with changes and innovations aimed at strengthening its systems and capacity to conduct examinations that are not malpractice-free but are also acceptable to the generality of the people. Chief among these innovations is the introduction of the Computer Based Test (CBT) which has come to replace the traditionally known paper-based test that is so prone to serious manipulations. The adoption of the CBT has arguably helped to curtail some of the malpractices associated with the previous outings of the examination body in the conduct of public examinations in Nigeria. Indeed, how far the body goes and how well it functions will also depend on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Nigerian system as a whole. For example, the hydra-headed monster of impersonation in the examination cannot be curbed without proper identity and biometric systems in place.
Recently, JAMB made it mandatory for candidates registering for its examination to acquire the National Identification Number (NIN) issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). It is required that a candidate sends this number to designated code management by the four major Telecommunications Companies operating in Nigeria and such a candidate waits to receive a pin that will help him to begin the registration process. This online application for the pin costs N50 (Fifty Naira) for each attempt. For sure, this requirement in itself appears good, especially that the body is doing everything possible to rid its examinations of manipulations and malpractices. However, the requirement can only work where efficient systems are already in place. It is left to be seen that this kind of innovation will work where, for example, there is an inefficient internet system and network. This consideration chiefly accounts for the criticisms that greeted the introduction of this requirement by JAMB. A lot of Nigerians did not hesitate to know to conclude that the introduction was bound to rip candidates and the parents off their hard-earned money.
In its first year of introduction, the fact is that the system of sending a candidate’s NIN to a designated code domiciled with some telecommunication companies to obtain a pin for registration has done more harm than good to Nigerians. The experience from the last outing is that of a situation where some candidates send their NIN’s to the code as many times as twenty and even thirty before being sent a pin leaves so much sour taste in the mouth. It is no exaggeration that one can hardly point a candidate that was able to access the pin at the first attempt. The end result is that JAMB has only ended up raking revenue in millions of naira to either the concerned telecommunication companies alone or the companies and JAMB. Either way, the candidates and their parents suffer for it. It is better imagined that a candidate who is supposed to spend just N50 obtaining a pin ends up parting with hundreds and even thousands of naira. This is a real slap on the faces of Nigerians who have suffered one too many infringements on their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
It is elementary to say that the right to education is one of the fundamental human rights that every Nigerian is entitled to. Needless to state too it amounts to an encroachment on the rights of the concerned Nigerians not to be refunded every extra Kobo spent over and above the stipulated fee charged by the companies. It is not comforting that some candidates have put calls through to the customer service desks of concerned telecommunication companies and all they are getting is that the companies cannot find the records for these payments. It is indeed ludicrous if not shameful to say that the records of the extra charges of the majority of these candidates cannot be found by the companies. Where have these records suddenly vanished to?
No doubt, the most honourable thing to do at this point is for JAMB to compel the telecommunication companies to cough out the extra charges. Nigerians are patiently waiting to see how the examination body handles the situation before it gets out of hand.