The conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award on the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, is in recognition of his outstanding performance sanitising the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in the last three years. In this interview with KABIR ALABI GARBA, Oloyede acknowledges the impact of technology in cleaning up the admission process, while providing insights into other initiatives being adopted to reclaim the glory of the good old days when candidates required knowing nobody before they secured admission into the higher institutions of their choice.
Congratulations sir on the conferment of National Productivity Order of Merit Award, may Allah (SWT) continue to bless you! How hard is it to serve as Registrar of JAMB at this time?
I think ordinarily, it should not be difficult, but given our circumstances, it is not an easy job. Given that what needs to be done, should be done. And what needs to be done can be costly, that is what makes it difficult. It is because of the environment that is not conducive for doing things properly; that is what makes the situation difficult.
Why is it so difficult to create an environment for the system to run seamlessly here in Nigeria compared to what is obtainable elsewhere?
I do not think that Nigeria is drastically different from what happens elsewhere. If you do not visit others, you will not know the problems they face. I think our problem is that we have not been able to face the problems and articulate appropriate solution. If you ask me what is the problem? Yes, many people talk about corruption, but I believe corruption is the product. The root of our problem is indiscipline! It is when people cannot discipline themselves… you know, to do what is wrong is very tempting and very attractive. It is when you are not disciplined that you can do anything.
The Holy Prophet (SAW) said that anybody who is not ashamed should do anything, because once you do not have shame, you can do anything. Shamelessness is the origin of some of these things including what we see and we call corruption, when people are not disciplined. When you are disciplined, for instance, and you see a girl or a man who is not married to you, no matter how attractive she is; he or she is a no go area. The only thing that can make a woman or man lawful to you is marriage, once this does not exist; it is illegal. It is discipline that will make you not to do that. You know that anything that is not owned by you is not for you. You can own a property through three ways, either you work for it, you inherit the property yourself or it is a lawful gift, anything outside these three is not lawful. And there are criteria that make something lawful and unlawful. The ability to restrain and control yourself is what is called discipline.
Those of us coming from the university, discipline should be part of our culture, because as a Professor of 20, 30 years, somebody who just graduated last year will be talking to you and would even say, ‘you are not reasonable’ on the floor of a meeting and there is nothing you can do because of the academic freedom. Lack of discipline is what is responsible for all the misdemeanours that are happening. So, if you ask me what the problems in Nigeria are, I will say number one is indiscipline. The second one is insincerity; that is, when people say one thing and they do another. If you agree that you will be sincere and whatever you do, you are going to stand by it, there will be no problem.
As a student of Islamic Studies, I am guided in my ways by the issues from Islamic Jurisprudence. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was asked the question: ‘What is good and what is bad?’ and he said good thing is that thing you do and you are not afraid of people knowing that you are doing it. But bad thing is something that you are doing and you are hiding it. In-between, they are just mistakes, because someone can be doing something that is wrong and because he does not know that it is wrong, he is ready to publicise it, such a person requires education. But something that you are doing and you are hiding it, it means that you do not want somebody to know. So, insincerity is when people are not sincere and they cannot stand up to say this is what I have done. These behaviours have complicated our matter and when you talk about the environment, these are part of what has vitiated the environment.
Would it be right to say indiscipline and insincerity were part of issues at JAMB when you assumed office as Registrar in 2016?
I believe that JAMB cannot be an Island. So, if you say it is a general thing, JAMB cannot be isolated from it. These are the things we are grappling with and what we are trying to do is to ensure that everybody will know that as a matter of principle, we have to fight indiscipline. Some of the instruments needed to fight indiscipline are some of the things we highlighted when I came on board, and I said, look, ‘we are going to have four or five-point agenda and one of it is discipline, that is, we are not going to compromise discipline.’ The second thing was welfare and we said, because without adequate or some level of provision for the welfare of the people, no matter what you do to try to instil discipline, you will not make it. The third one we talked about was technology, which we are going to use technology to drive, detect, identify, and prevent and to deter others. So, these are instruments, like technology that we are using here, we are using it one to deter, to make people that are not productive to do what is wrong and also to make sure that we are protected. To discover and protect and to also detect that if you do it and to also sanction and that is why we created the CCTV and all the facilities to ensure that anybody who is dealing with us, we can say this is what you have done and this is the consequence of what you have done and that is why we are not bothered. Recently, we handed some staff members to the police because they were caught taking bribe and it is not proper to do so.
Many universities are still grappling with 2019 admission but JAMB is already talking about 2020 admission. Is the process not getting too fast-paced for the universities?
Rather than saying so, I will say what we are trying to do in JAMB is to standardise and normalise. I am more than three decades old in the university system, and therefore, I saw part of the good old days. To go into the university, the session of the university starts anytime from August 1 and it goes on to September, October, at worst, November, that was when almost all the institutions commenced their activities. But now, due to one form of disruption or the other, you now have a situation where academic calendar had been disrupted. So, what we have done particularly, since the establishment of the Central Admission Processing System (CAPS) is to make every university to work at the time that is scheduled for admission, even if you are unfortunate that your university is not starting on time, our recommendation is that you do your admission and then archive it for the time when your session will begin. Because we keep on improving, last year, there was disruption of academic programme, but this year, we thank God, there is no much disruption.
But when there is no much disruption, we have also done certain things that will not make the admission to go as fast it would. For instance, we have automated the process to make it mandatory for everybody to have full disclosure of what you are doing. For every course what are the requirements? You must specify! We have now input those qualifications into the system. If anybody does not meet your specified requirement, even if you recommend him/her, the system will reject it. That has now shown us clearly that some of the claims being made by the institutions are not generally being applied. This is because I have not less than 100 applications now for waivers. The complaint is that they cannot admit people because the rules that are put there are too strong. But I did not put the rules, they put them. They are rules that were selectively applied in the past. Since you have given us those as your rules, we have simply put them into the system. But the system prevents anybody you recommend that cannot meet the requirements! That is why there is now avalanche of requests for waivers. And that is why I am meeting, everyday, with heads of institutions. I now challenge them that you want waivers, but why did you prescribe those rules in the first place.
In the past, they would not need to write to us because they would waive for those they wanted. But now, the standard is there and it is one of those things slowing down the admission process.The second one is that we have also automated the CAPS in such a way that you cannot drop a person that is more qualified and pick a person that is less qualified. The system will not allow it to go, even if you compromise. You have to, at least, comply to 80 per cent of the rules before we can give you allowance for what we call 20 per cent exception mode.
For instance, in our regulations, there is no room for foreign candidates unless they come through merit and many of them may not come through merit. Exception mode has taken care of that. Also, there is the need to provide for the handicapped. They may not be the highest scoring, but those who manage to pass minimally, you want to take an affirmative action to admit them despite the fact that there are still other qualified persons. There are security people that must be in the classroom for monitoring of the system, they may not be on top of the class. Apart from that, we cannot also close our eyes to the fact that in the environment in which we are, there are also some people to which the institutions are indebted. When the head of security or state commissioner of police has a child who meets the requirement except that he is not on top, such discretion for the vice chancellors to admit the child comes under exception mode, otherwise, the day the students are protesting, such commissioner of police will look other away.
But what we are insisting on is, at least, 80 per cent of the rules must have been satisfied. And that is why you have many candidates falling into the hands of fraudsters. This is because many people believe that they will not be admitted unless they know people, but they are now being admitted without knowing anybody. They do not know that it is the system that is working, they are now allowing fraudsters to come in-between them and say they are the ones helping them! I have two examples to illustrate this – one bitter and one sweet. This year, many people thanked me, because their wards were admitted. But when they sent the applications to me, I looked at the requests and since I knew the system would make sure they are admitted, I did not do anything. I tell most of them that I did nothing; it was the system that threw their candidates up. The bitter one was an important person whose child was admitted on merit, but because he did not believe that the child would be admitted, he called to thank me. But I told him that I did nothing and I said it is because I knew that with the score of the child, that the child would go in and since then, the man felt so bad.
Also, a very important person in Abuja gave me two names recently, we were at a public meeting and I said please keep it to yourself because I know that the child with that score would be admitted. I wanted to test the system. I also knew he was educated enough to know about the system. A few days later, I asked him to give me the names of those boys to assist them, but at that time, he told me that they had been admitted. Those instances just confirmed that the system would make the good ones to be admitted. Those that may need assistance are the middle-levelled ones who are not eminently qualified and are at borderline. Already, we have decided to open a portal where we aggregate those candidates that scored 250 but are not admitted. If you score 250 and above and you are not admitted, we owe you a duty to tell you why you are not admitted, so that you do not fall into the hands of fraudsters. With technology, this administration has returned to the good old days where you do not need to know anybody before you are admitted.
In what way will introduction of the National Identification Number (NIN) enhance the process?
We are urging all institutions to grant full disclosure. If you have problem, come, we will sit down and look at the problem together with a view to solve it. But lawlessness is what we abhor! Situation, whereby candidates are being admitted without registration number and stuff like that, will not be tolerated. Our quest to tackle this kind of indiscipline is the reason we are proposing the use of National Identification Number (NIN) as a requirement for eligibility to partake in the 2020 edition of Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). We are telling people that all we want is the identification number, not the card! There is an agency established by government for national identity scheme, so, it is important for any candidate to be identified first. The security problem we are facing is also a product of indiscipline. We are talking about 1.8 million candidates being enrolling for JAMB. If we remove that huge figure from the burden of the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC), we have not only used one stone to kill many birds, but also, we are creating a better tomorrow. This is because the next generation that will man our affairs should be properly identified. We are talking about helping the nation to be able to identify its citizens for the purpose of planning and security.
How is JAMB responding to the advice given by the House of Representatives that the deadline should be moved to 2021?
I do not have problems and I cannot have problem with the National Assembly, because they are part of the government and the government appointed me. If those who appoint me believe that something should be done, there are channels for them to invite me and give directives. When those channels are created, I am going to show and provide, what may convince them to change their mind. This is because the reasons given on the floor are products of lack of information. The first grouse, which informed their advice to shift the implementation date, was that there are people in the rural area who may not be able to have access to NIMC facility. But I told them that we are providing NIMC desk in every registration centre of ours. So, if you do not have, when you get there, you will be registered with NIMC and then you proceed to register for the exams. Another complaint by the lawmakers is that there are people in the rural area who do not have access to registration centres. Every person registering for UTME must go to a CBT centre, whether you want to register for NIMC or not, you must go to a registration centre.
The third thing is about biometrics. They say biometrics are having problem, but since seven years now, nobody has registered for UTME or direct entry without biometrics. Who does it? Is it JAMB or NIMC? We are saying that we have not changed anything and we are facilitating the process of registration for all candidates. Those who are struggling to register now are the wise ones, they are solving half of their registration task, so, when they go to the registration centre, they are not going to be asking for how to register for NIN, they are just going to proceed and register because they already have the NIN. Why is this so? All the fraudsters who are using duplicated identities and engaging in multiple registrations will be checked. They say 1.8 million people register for UTME every year, but the truth is that a large chunk of these people are duplicates! One person registering two, three or four times! We do not need such monies, because the money does not go into my pocket, it goes into the public purse and the nation does not need such dirty money. So, what is the problem? We make it abundantly clear that, do not buy more than one form. Even if you want to go in by direct entry and you are not sure, buy one and we convert it for you free of charge! It does not cost you anything to convert from 100 level to 200 level, from UTME to Direct Entry! What we are saying about the National Assembly is that we know that if the National Assembly invites us, we will provide adequate information that will clearly show our position and the reasons we are using the NIN. The Honourable member who proposed the motion narrated just one side of the story; we were not heard and the National Assembly is a wise assembly, if they are given the opportunity of hearing both sides, they are likely to change their mind. I do not see any problem meeting the lawmakers again, especially during the public hearing.
Earlier, you acknowledged stable academic calendar this year, as there has been no strike. But one is brewing already with the FG/ASUU face off over the Integrated Payment and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). As somebody who has vast experience in the university administration, in what way are you advising the government to handle this matter?
Frankly speaking, my response to this question is not as JAMB Registrar, it is as a Professor from a university and as somebody who had managed the university and who has also been President of Association of African Universities and has a fair view of what goes on in the university all over the world. This is because I served on the governing boards of the Association of Commonwealth Universities as well as International Association of Universities. Besides, I am widely travelled when it comes to university administration. I will caution the Federal Government about IPPIS. The government should be cautious because IPPIS might do more damage to the University system than good. My own position is that we are swinging between one extreme to the other. Prior to 2005, no university got direct allocation from the government; we used to defend our budget with the National Universities Commission (NUC).
It is the NUC that regulates, controls, supervises and monitors everything. Now, because our colleagues felt that NUC was too overbearing, they decided to have direct interface with the National Assembly and the national purse. This is one of the consequences of such complaints about NUC being accused of being overbearing. I believe that if you look at the analysis of government expenditure on universities, prior to 2005 and after 2005, go and compare, there has been lawlessness since 2005 because what you get into the university is no longer a product of what you need, but a product of lobbying and so many dirty things that go along with lobbying. It is no longer regulated. When NUC was regulating, we had parameters, size of the university, age of the university, Science-Arts parameter and the growth rate. Then, there was the University System Annual Review Meeting (USARM) where every Vice-Chancellor accounted for every kobo given to his school to the NUC.
The NUC would harvest this review to serve as basis for its recommendation for budget allocation for all the federal universities. Now, we have dismantled that structure and every university now handles matter individually independent of NUC, which is not even cost effective. If you analyse how much every Vice-Chancellor spends in coming to and from Abuja on the issue of contacting National Assembly or contacting IPPIS, they are not only spending money, they are learning new tricks about corruption. This is because, yes, many people may say universities are corrupt, yet no sane person will assert that the universities are more corrupt than the public service. Civil service is stinking about corruption and the universities are still sane. But by the time we allow the undue and unregulated intermingling, you are going to transfer this poisonous dose into the university system and they are going to be the worse for it as they (universities) have the intellectual capacity to package the corruption. It is something that we need to look into! Many people raised the issue that some Vice-Chancellors were prosecuted. What was the outcome of the prosecutions? I did not find any one of them that was not set free.
The court said that by the rules of the University, they have not done anything wrong. All the noise in the media is when they are being tried. But when the court sets them free, nobody hears about it. There was the case of somebody who was serving President of the AAU (and Vice-Chancellor); you know the impact of the trial of such a person on the nation. We were really shocked and after the man went through all the horror, only for the court to say nothing was found against him after the name of the country and the University was almost permanently damaged. So, what we are saying is that there are in-built mechanisms for addressing the issue of corruption in the university system. Let us activate those mechanisms, let us make sure that NUC is made to play both supervisory and regulatory role on federal universities. They have regulatory roles over all universities but they have both supervisory and regulatory roles on Federal Universities and that is what we are saying they should activate.
How has deployment of technology helped in curbing exam malpractices?
It has done a lot. I think everybody knows now that the possibility of being caught is almost 100 per cent. The more we move on, the more we have trust in technology, because we have discovered that people can make any claim, but when the chips are down, and you study those claims critically, you will know that nobody that is not guilty is made culpable. Technology is revealing so many things and rapidly too and that is why people make noise and nothing happens, we have shown some examples. You can make any claim anywhere, but if you are sure of yourself, make the claim and come to JAMB. We arrested over 100 people and they are being prosecuted. Even the cost of prosecution is enormous, because my staff will have to travel from here to Abia, four, five times on adjournment and so on and they will be travelling up and down. In each of these cases, we have spent up to N1 million in paying transport and night allowance. That is why we limited those arrested to two per state except in Bauchi where they arrested 23 persons out of over-zealousness. We knew the people involved exams malpractices were many, but arrested two each, as we were realistic that it would be difficult for us to prosecute all of them. Some of them have been sentenced.
What is your take on the argument that the generation of huge revenue for the government is outside the core mandate of JAMB?
My argument to that is this, JAMB is not a revenue generating centre, but JAMB is also not a revenue wasting centre. I have not increased, rather we have decreased. Government in its magnanimity, had reduced by 30 per cent the cost of procurement. The cost of procurement used to be N5,000 but the government reduced it to N3,500 and there is nowhere in the world, I can say it, where application to the university is procured at any amount less than what it is charged here; we charge the least amount for admission in the world, yet the government further reduced it. I have not increased the charges; we have only come to say that the money generated must go into government purse. In order for us not to be money generating or pretend not to be, it means we have to steal. Some CBT centres are saying, since you are returning money to the government, increase what you give to us. Why do you want to do that? When the money was not been paid to the government, you were not agitating for increase in charges, it is now that you are saying we are not revenue generating centre.
How can JAMB intervene effectively in resolving the issue where a lot of candidates score high marks in JAMB with excellent O’ level results but still could not secure admission into the university?
There are only few cases now. When people make claims, we do the analysis, and in most cases, the claims are spurious. For instance, somebody scores 300 in UTME that does not make him a high scorer because that is just one out of the three factors. O’ level scores are going to be graded, Post UTME will also be graded and the three together must be considered before a candidate’s grade is determined.
Our quest to tackle this kind of indiscipline is the reason we are proposing the use of National Identification Number (NIN) as a requirement for eligibility to partake in the 2020 edition of Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). We are telling people that all we want is the identification number, not the card! There is an agency established by the government for national identity scheme, so, it is important for any candidate to be identified first. The security problem we are facing is also a product of indiscipline. We are talking about 1.8million candidates being enrolled for JAMB. If we remove that huge figure from the burden of the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC), we have not only used one stone to kill many birds, but also, we are creating a better tomorrow. This is because the next generation that will man our affairs should be properly identified. We are talking about helping the nation to be able to identify its citizens for the purpose of planning and security.