The Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Prof Is-haq Oloyede, speaks on the conduct of the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination so far and other issues in this interview speaks with Punch man OLALEYE ALUKO
The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination started last Saturday; and there were hitches. What would be your general assessment?
So far, it has been good except that there were some human factors. On Monday, we had what I can call an administrative error. That Monday was the second day of the examination and many technical officers, instead of entering 201, that is, second day, first session, they continued with the previous numbering, using 103. So it took some time before we could understand what was happening and when we did, we rectified it and reversed to 201 instead of 103 or 203 they had entered.
I think that was the major hitch. Yes, we had examination malpractices but they have reduced. We are now also having new dimensions of malpractices whereby people boldly impersonate others. This is because they could not engage in most of the malpractices they were engaging in before. Now, you have a man impersonating a woman and so on and so forth. We believe we will also address these challenges.
We want to find out how people were able to boldly impersonate others, how a man was able to impersonate a woman; but we are going to deal with that. Apart from what happened on Monday which was a hitch, we have 666 Computer-Based Test Centres and so far, only six of them were not able to function. We have therefore delisted and blacklisted them.
Some candidates have alleged that the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board posted them to examination centres and towns far away from their homes. Why is this so?
You see, many people misinterpret what we call examination towns. No candidate is posted to a town other than the town they had chosen at the time of registration. But what constitutes an examination town is another thing. For example, I am not familiar with Abuja because I am a stranger in Abuja, so let me use Lagos, Ogun or others as examples.
In the past, Lagos Island, Lekki, Ikoyi used to be separate examination towns. But we discovered that some CBT centres connived with some candidates or their parents, largely their parents to engage in malpractice. They would plan ahead with those centres to engage in exam malpractice because they were sure their candidates were going to take their exam in those places. So, what we have now done is to widen the examination town in such a way that in Lagos, for example, you can’t see Yaba, Lekki or Ikoyi standing alone. You will rather have Lagos Mainland as an examination town. Candidates can then be posted to any of the centres on the Lagos Mainland.
Then you also have Lagos Island as an examination town where you have Ikoyi, Lekki and the rest. It is only Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu that we have taken individually as examination towns.
Also for example, on your way to Lagos from Ibadan, you have Mowe, Ibafo and other areas. Mowe and Ibafo used to be one examination town and we have just two CBT centres in both of them, so candidates knew that they would be in either of the two and they could connive with the centres for malpractices. But now, we have merged Mowe, Ibafo with Sagamu and Magboro and all those places, so that once you pick that bloc, you can go to any of the centres in it.
It is to widen the size of the examination town. It is done in such a way that candidates would have to go and speak to four or more CBT centres before they can prearrange to engage in examination malpractices. So, we are not posting people arbitrarily. I challenge anybody to print out the registration slip of their child and see where the child was posted to. You can never find anywhere other than within the place that the candidate has chosen.
You mentioned that six out of your CBT centres had hitches during the UTME and have been blacklisted. What will happen to the candidates affected by those centres?
They have been redistributed. We have moved the candidates out. They were told at the venues that these centres had failed. We had one in Oyo, one in Imo, one in Gombe and so on. But unlike what we used to do when we would move them and say, write the exam tomorrow, this time, we say no, we want to give them two or three days so that nobody will say I did not receive the text message. We are sending a second message so that they will go and reprint their new centres so that they can go with their new slips to the centres.
So, most of them will be coming to take their examinations on the day that the examination would be rounding off in their respective towns.
Unlike last year when the board screened the UTME results for malpractices and delayed them for weeks, you released results this year after 24 hours. How will you track cases of examination malpractice?
We have released results immediately because we have done certain things which mean that we are able to view the CBT centres in real time. Rather than going back to spend the number of hours used in writing the examination to check the centres, we have upgraded. As the examination is going on, we have now assigned some important Nigerians across the country to sit down somewhere in different places and watch each of the CBT centres.
So, it is not about going back later to cross-check, but in real time, we are now watching what is going on. If you go to our Information Technology System, you will see that we now have a monitor for examination malpractices. As the examination malpractices are occurring, we are seeing them from the headquarters and it is being uploaded.
We have learnt from our experience last year. The majority of the malpractices that are supposed to be detected are being detected. So, if we need to cancel some results, we will then do so. This is because the anxiety of people waiting for long has now been removed. But even the instant release of results has its own setbacks. For example, one of the activists I used to respect approached me on Wednesday and told me about what he heard from his son, who was a candidate. His son did not perform up to expectation when he checked his results and he lied to his father.
I was angry because unfortunately for them, I was at the centre he told his father about and I more or less supervised the examination. So, I asked him to present his son and we now went into our system and the fact was revealed. If we had not released the results immediately, people would not have been manufacturing things that did not happen. It was because we released results that some candidates had to look for some reasons why they did not perform to the expectation of their parents.
There are insinuations that JAMB has cancelled some examination results for some reasons. Has there been any cancellation of results in this UTME?
No, we did not cancel any result. There was no way. People just want to create panic. How can we cancel results? We have not cancelled any results so far. If we need to cancel results, we will announce it through the appropriate channels because we have nothing to hide. But I heard that some people were saying we were cancelling results in order to create tension, and therefore, they were asking candidates to bribe them so that the results would be favourable to them. I think it is only someone who is not conscious enough that will fall for such a trap.
This year, how have you managed problems with biometric? To what extent have you recorded cases?
This year, we have learnt from the previous experiences. There is a regulation that anybody that cannot be biometrically verified now, there will be more to it than the ordinary situation. And we will look into each case based on its own merit. Take note that this is the first time that questions will not come for any candidate who is not biometrically verified. That is, you cannot download your questions, even if you are smuggled into the examination hall.
If you have not been biometrically verified, no questions will come out. So, we have created some checks and balances. Even if somebody allows you into the examination hall, the questions will not be there. The system will simply say, “You have not been verified.” And if you are lucky and you have a tolerant examiner, you will go back and be verified and then the examiner will re-push the questions (from the Virtual Private Network).
But if it is somebody like me; you are not verified and your questions do not come, I will not take pains to go back and re-push your questions. But where the supervisor or examiner tolerates such, they can go back and re-push. Of course, we have made facilities available for such re-pushing. But we advise that in a bid to help one or two lawless persons, you don’t put others in jeopardy. That is, you have started your exam very well and you now want to go and re-push. Such examiner is putting the lives of the majority of candidates at risk while trying to satisfy someone who had not been able to follow the rules.
Before the UTME, JAMB had assured that due to the coronavirus scare, it would provide hand sanitisers and face masks for its workers and candidates at the CBT centres. How well have you been able to do this?
It had been very helpful to put those measures in place and I appreciate the CBT centres. I went to a CBT centre on Wednesday and I could see that even as good as our own precautionary measures were, the school proprietress provided better facilities in terms of screening and the layout was very impressive. I understand that many of the CBT centres made separate provisions against the coronavirus. You can trust Nigerians that when it comes to protecting our lives, we don’t joke with that.
Still on the coronavirus outbreak, as it spreads nationwide, the government is now limiting gatherings and shutting down schools. Is JAMB also considering putting its exams on hold?
There are no crowds at our CBT centres. This is because although when we started, we were getting 250 persons per session at a centre. But by Thursday, that had been reduced. By now, we have done for over 1.3 million candidates of the 1.9 million candidates who registered. By the end of Thursday, what remained at our CBT centres was so insignificant that they didn’t constitute any threat. This is apart from the fact that so far so good, we have also made provisions to ensure that candidates are not unnecessarily crowded in a place.
Talking about admission in 2020, JAMB had recently said it would get across to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to prosecute JAMB and university officials not complying with the Central Admission Processing System, how are you going about that?
Yes, this year, the admission process has been smooth but we have some universities and institutions which are still resisting CAPS. This is because they have come to the reality that there is no hiding place and what they can only do is to get out of the system and process admission outside the CAPS. And this has created a lot of problems. So, what we have told them is that we are going to make the link to our server available to the security agencies. This is so that as anyone is doing their admission, it is not about me reporting them; the security agencies are able to see everything. I cannot initiate admission, not even a vice-chancellor can initiate admission. It is only an admission officer of a university that can do that.
So if an admission officer allows themselves to be influenced, then the law will catch up with such a person. So, nobody is going to hold the vice-chancellor. So the CAPS tells you that if you recommend anybody that is not qualified or anybody who does not merit the admission, you are being watched. And if you need to jump over a candidate, you must provide a reason why you are leaving someone with a higher score for somebody with a lower score.
So, what we are telling institutions is that it is not just the board that is watching them, we are going to grant access to other agencies to watch them so that they can see what they (institutions) have done or failed to do in their (institutions) admission process.