How poor public policy formulation inflicted pains, grief on prospective UTME candidates
• JAMB warned not to expose youths to such hazards again
• NIMC workers accused of bribery, corruption
• FG urged to create more centres, procure more equipment
Nothing can ever expunge the memories of pains and grief faced by the 2020 prospective UTME candidates in their attempts to obtain the National Identification Number (NIN) as mandated by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB). Not even the extension of the deadline till 2021 would.
The inability of the leadership of JAMB and their partners to sit, consult, experiment and analyse what it takes for an individual to obtain NIN across the country and align it with the available time before the registration for the 2020 UTME foisted untold grief on thousands of candidates. It was a tale of woe. Simply put, the countenances of some of the candidates who spoke with The Guardian were more of sorrow than happiness.
Even observers were displeased with the board’s hasty decision to (un)intentionally put candidates in such tension and anxiety. The incident, which they described as a fallout of poor policy design, they cautioned should not repeat itself again, saying the world is getting wiser and knowledgeable, thus, Nigerian leaders across board should learn how to do things well.
They said from all indication JAMB failed to consult the people who will be affected and who will implement the policy. Not only that, there was also poor communication between persons who are involved or should be involved in the policy formulation process. “It is obvious JAMB did not test-run the exercise.”
When the leadership of JAMB on September 2019, called on all prospective candidates for its 2020 UTME to acquire the National Identification Number (NIN), many said it was not realistic, considering the timing. But JAMB backed-up their policy by stating that adequate arrangement had been made with NIMC to ensure smooth registration process.
But it wasn’t so, as the registration was not seamless. It was characterised by chaos, difficulties, disorderliness, bribery, extortion, abuse, hardship, inconvenience, and time wasting, among other untoward occurrences.Recall that the board’s spokesman, Fabian Benjamin, had last year stated “JAMB will, during the 2020 registration exercise, use the NIN generated after successful registration with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). This includes the capturing of biometric and other necessary details for the registration of all prospective candidates.
“Candidates are enjoined to register as the board will no longer be responsible for the capturing of candidates’ biometrics ahead of the examination, as all information required will be uploaded from the data captured by the NIMC. Henceforth, the NIN will be compulsory for the UTME registration.”
This policy triggered pandemonium at NIMC centres across the country, as UTME candidates besieged each centre including other applicants seeking to obtain NIN, as a national requirement for every citizen.In the last three months majority of the Nigeria youths spent their whole time at NIMC, some even slept at the centres. While some ended up achieving their purpose rightfully or not, others were further frustrated.
When the unpleasant scenario went viral, the House of Representatives, among other stakeholders, called on the board to extend the deadline to 2021, but the leadership of JAMB remained adamant, saying that “there is no going back on the use of NIN for 2020 UTME registration.”
The response from the board, further heated the polity, as tension rose above bar for the candidates and their parents.
However, the ordeal did end on the physical and emotional stress candidates were subjected to, it became a meal ticket for some of the NIMC officials, who allegedly cashed in on the situation.
When The Guardian visited some of the NIMC in Lagos, the candidates decried the chaotic condition the NIN registration process has exposed them to, wondering why they would have to go through such torment, just to get qualification to write university entrance examination.
UTME candidates’ ordeal
According to Eze Chinonso, a UTME candidate seeking to obtain NIN at NIMC, located at Aguda Local Council Area, “I have to get to the NIN registration centre by 4:00a.m just because I need to get my NIN. I have to go that early after my previous attempts failed. We were told that NIN registration is free, but to my greatest surprise, the NIMC staff are smuggling in those who gave them money, ignoring some of us that made it early to the centre.
Affirming Chinonso’s claims, another candidate, Nwachukwu Chinedu, said: “This NIN is giving me a lot of stress and the NIMC workers are making things more difficult through their extortions. Some people actually slept here so as to get accredited early, yet they were not successful. For someone like me, my mom have to leave her work just to ensure that I get registered so I will be able to write UTME this year, yet we have not been attended to. The most disheartened one is the fact that they are calling and attending to those that have bribed them.”
A parent, who identified herself as Mrs. Chinyere, said she got to the venue with her daughter by 3:00a.m. “and up till now they have not attended to us. They said, they are still working with yesterday’s list, but I know it’s all lies. If you have your money or you know any of the NIMC staff, you will be attended to.”
A student who gave his name as Sunday, said his school had resumed on Monday, up until that moment he has not been able to get his NIN, so, he cannot go back to school, because he need to get his NIN, since that is a prerequisite for registering for this year’s UTME. “I need to get this done, so I can focus on my studies. This is a big distraction to me,” he added.
Also, at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and Yaba College of Technology (YabaTech) centres, UTME candidates and some parents described the process of the registration as unorganised, hectic, frustrating and uncalled for.The Guardian, gathered that some candidates slept at the YabaTech centre for three days and still were not able to get their registration done.
Some visited the centre consistently for one month and still were not able to get registered. Members of staff at the centre complained and blamed JAMB as well as government for not providing enough facilities. At UNILAG, for instance, it is only one computer and one person that is attending to the all candidates likewise YabaTech centre.
At both centres, candidates alleged that majority of the NIMC staff were rude, wicked as they collect bribe and attend swiftly to only connected persons, neglecting and felling unconcerned about others who do not have such connection.According to a candidate at UNILAG centre, who gave her name as Victoria, “It is only one system that was working as you can see, people are many so that means over 70 per cent of them would not be attended to today. I have been coming for a month now and they kept telling me to come back in two weeks time. But I noticed they don’t attend to people that do not have connection. After several trials of doing it myself, which failed, I had to get my paper signed by a senior staff in UNILAG, before they attended to me, and that is very bad. What happens to those who do not have such connection?
Another aggrieved candidate, Precious James, said, “Everywhere is crowded and the NIMC workers keep taking people they know inside, leaving others outside all day. I have been coming everyday, as early as 4:00a.m for one week and I have not registered yet. It is so frustrating and a complete waste of time. The members of staff also are making matters worse. They are wicked and heartless, they are only attending to people that bribed them and again they sold the form that was supposed to be free for N50.
For Kevin Adejunpe, “The procedure for registration is not good enough, I have been to four centres and their organisation and coordination was poor. If they want to facilitate or make something like this compulsory, they should have organised it very well, and ensure that enough equipment are on ground. Candidates are stressed out and not happy with this development.”
“The workers complain of poor connectivity and inadequate equipment, the crowd is much, the tension is high, and the workers don’t attend to us fast enough. I have been to three centres at UBA, local government and YabaTech and their stories are the same. Poor organisation on the part of JAMB and government; too much stress for candidates preparing to sit for entry examination soon; I have been on this NIN thing for two months now and still I have not done it, says Oyin Adetutu.
A parent, Mrs. Ayokunnumi Oluwasina, who initially thought his son was being unserious with the exercise after returning home severally without result, said the entire process was exhausting and traumatic.
“I have gone to three centres with my son now, we met so many persons, we were able to buy the form but they already had the specific number they wanted to attend to that day. The second time, we went early, when we got there, we met a list of about 100 and above and they informed us that out of that number, they could only attend to 50 persons. They were very slow, but later I realised they had only one computer and just one person was attending to everyone. The situation was very unimaginable.
“So we went to local government and they said if I will be able to pay N3,000, my son would skip the queue, and we became helpless. Initially, I thought my son was being unserious, but having been involved myself, it is a very sad experience, especially as the date of UTME registration was approaching. Since the registration is compulsory, government would have made it a lot easier for candidates. They ought to have provided more facilities, more centres, and employ more staff, so that people can be attended to on time.”
Also at the NIMC centre, Ikotun, the story was also the same as the centre witnessed heavy crowd on daily basis, after JAMB made the pronouncement. Candidates were not only frustrated but were also shocked that the officials at the centre are making monetary demands.
“They came up with a pretense that we should come early so as to be attended to. Today, I came early and was not given attention, until a boy whispered to me to bring N300 for capturing. This is my fifth attempt without success. But once you pay the money, you will be urgently attended to. The management here are being careful, but they have agents in our midst smartly giving attention to people willing to pay the money.
“It was for this same reason that the NIMC centre inside Ikotuna Local Government Area was shut down. A team came from Alausa, to carry their computer because of their extortion to the public. Now we are left to only this one, but they are sneakily attending to people giving them money and ignoring others,” says a boy, who identified himself as Segun.
Another candidate wondered why government did not give a directive to all NIMC to pay attention to UTME candidates since it is a requirement for registration.“We are willing and available, but the centres are not ready to capture us. The crowd is much, but their activities are scanty. I have been here since morning, but I see people come and go in. The workers claimed that already have a compiled list they are working with. I truly do not know when we will learn to be orderly and do things appropriately in this country with bias and preferential treatment to certain people.”
Noting that it is important for every citizen to have NIN, some stakeholders have said making it mandatory for UTME candidates with a very short notice, considering the process and procedure for registration was illogical. A lecturer in UNILAG, who doesn’t want her name in print, said, “It is very unfortunate. However, if they are going to implement it thereafter, it should be done in a very organised way and setting. I saw many people in one location someday and I was afraid. Then, I inquired, they said, they want to register for NIN. You need to see the condition they were all placed. I tell you as an agriculturist, you cannot place your fish in that kind of condition or any kind of animal. It is so bad.
“ May be he was feeling faint or whatever, we don’t know. If they want them to get NIN there should be orderly procedure to do it, and there is a better way they can do it.She continued: “They were exposed unnecessarily, and I learnt that at a stage they will ask them to go home and come back the next day. It is so bad, the way Nigerians are doing things. If they want them to register, it is good, but at least, let them be kept in an appropriate place, in a conducive environment.”
Noting that some of the NIMC staff have disgusting attitude, the lecturer said, “I have had an encounter with them, it was a typical local government staff attitude. It was so disappointing that public workers, who should be polite, are rather rude and saucy. So it is a very unfortunate situation. I still do not understand why JAMB made such a hasty decision. These children are human beings and not kola nut. So government should create more centres and more facilities that will attend to candidates, so you wont have over 500 people queuing in one place and waiting endlessly.”
Also, another lecturer of the university stated that NIMC workers frustrated the effort of JAMB.“I know that JAMB made a hasty decision, it was not well thought out, but those NIMC workers, did not help matters either. Some of them are very nasty, and they saw the exercise as an opportunity to make extra profit. You will be waiting for attention and they will be talking on the phone for long period, while the rest of the people are waiting. For someone attending to the public, it is very wrong. They have a terrible attitude, typical of a Nigerian civil servant. Something that they can capture immediately, they will ask you to come back after four hours, and wait till eeternity. What kind of nation is that?”
A parent, Mrs. Victoria, said, “It is necessary as citizen of Nigeria to have NIN, but making it a criteria to participate in UTME was a very irrational. It doesn’t make sense. It has not been done before or practiced anywhere else, so why are they starting it now, suffering innocent children and exposing them to dangers. The most annoying thing is the time they are wasting. Standing in a queue for long hours, waiting endlessly in order to get registered, at the end no success was achieved. How can leaders subjected these children to this kind of hardship, all because they want to advance in their academic journey. It is a very unreasonable policy.”
For Mrs. Ngozi, “I understand what the government is trying to do, they want the citizens to have they their NIN because most Nigerians don’t have it. But if they wanted to make it mandatory for these children, they should have at least prepared well for it and provide enough facilities. Most of the centres I have been to do not have enough facilities, how do they want thme to achieve success within the timeline? It is sad that our youths are not getting the best in this country.”
Director of one of JAMB accredited centre in Ijeshatedo, who does not want his name mentioned, affirmed that the introduction of NIN is a good initiative from JAMB, as it will help in curbing multiple registrations and eradicate all forms of examination malpractice, “but the saddest thing is that the NIMC staff are making it hard for the students to get registered.
“Some of them are collecting 2000 from the students to enter the registration room. The students will get there as early as possible, and the NIMC workers will be saying there is no service, but when you pay them the network will come from nowhere. It is very unfortunate that NIMC workers jeopardized the effort of JAMB.”
A parent, who identified himself as Dr. Kingsley Mbanefo, blamed the scenario on poor leadership, wondering why Nigerian youths were always subjected to emotional trauma in their quest for knowledge.“The period these children were supposed to use for preparation was wasted at the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) offices. There were ugly stories about what these children passed through, including those that slept at NIMC centres,” he said.
But an NIMC staff at UNILAG centre, who pleaded anonymity said, “we were not given enough facilities and there are hundreds of candidates outside expecting us to be fast. We are not magicians, we can only try our best, which seems not good enough for the applicants for obvious reasons.”On the accusations that the officials are exploiting candidates, an NIMC staff at Ikotun/Synagogue centre, told our reporter to go to Alausa, as they do not attend to pressmen.
Why JAMB earlier insisted on NIN
Meanwhile, the registrar of JAMB, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, had in an interview with The Guardian, said the decision of the board to get all UTME enrolled on NIN was done in a good faith.He said: “Our quest to tackle indiscipline is the reason we are proposing the use of NIN as a requirement for eligibility to partake in the 2020 edition of (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 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.If Oloyode’s reasons on NIN as requirement for 2020 UTME are placed side by side with the experience of the candidates, Nigerians should be able to tell if it was worth it.