espite has finally come the way of prospective candidates sitting for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), being conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), following the suspension by the Board the compulsory use of the National Identification Number (NIN) for the examination.
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board had in September, last year, called on all prospective candidates for the 2020 UTME to acquire the National Identification Number, failure which they would not be eligible to register for the qualifying examination into higher institutions of learning in the country.
JAMB’s spokesman, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, had in a statement, noted that the aim was to ensure the biometric and other necessary details of a candidate were captured in order to check examination malpractice.
Benjamin said that JAMB would, during the 2020 UTME registration exercise use the National Identity Number generated after registration with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for candidates’ registration for the exam.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders, while reacting to the directive, were indifferent to the development as many frowned at the decision which they feared would further subject the candidates to untold hardship that characterised similar exercise in the country.
In fact, since the policy was introduced, the hardship and difficulties candidates and parents have been facing at NIMC centres to register for the NIN, has generated so much confusion and rues among Nigerians, who did not only condemn JAMB for the decision, but also interrogated the need to make the NIN compulsory for UTME registration.
For a candidate to be captured, especially in many NIMC centres in Lagos, a parent should be ready to pay between N2,000 and N10,000 depending on the centre, while to get the form which is also supposed to be given free by the officials, every candidate has to pay between N50 and N100.
As part of the difficulties trailing the NIN registration, the young boys and girls have to leave homes as early as 6a.m and to wait endlessly at the NIMC centres without being captured, except they are ready to pay gratifications to the officials.
For instance, at the NIMC centre located in Kubwa Post Office, Prosper Ifunaya had last week told our Correspondent that he had to leave home early enough to ensure he was captured.
“Today would make it the fourth time I am coming to this centre to get this registration and capturing done. But, since JAMB said we must get it before we register, I have no option than to try my possible best to get it.”
Another UTME candidate in Benue State, David Agu, recalled how he had to pay N700 before he could be registered at the NIMC registration centre located in the modern market in Abuja.
“The first day I went to the NIMC centre located at Wadata, but there was no NIMC official on duty to attend to us, even though there was a mammoth crowd patiently waiting for them. Few days later I went to the modern market centre, although I was lucky to know one of the staff who helped to facilitate the process despite the crowd, But, I still parted with N700; N500 for the process and N200 for lamination. It is unfortunate that these NIMC officials have turned it to a money making venture,” he said.
Worried by the development and challenges, the House of Representatives had last November called on JAMB to suspend the policy requiring the National Identity Number for candidates to register for the UTME.
At the plenary on the floor of the House, Hon. Zainab Gimba, moved a motion calling for the suspension of the policy till 2021, saying: “The House is worried, however, that many prospective candidates from remote locations in the country may not be able to register for the UTME due to non-registration with the NIMC. The notice given by JAMB is too sudden and not sufficient to allow all prospective UTME candidates to be captured by the NIMC.
Gimba said the compulsory use of prospective candidates’ data from the NIMC’s database would remove the need for JAMB to capture the biometrics of candidates, thereby helping to curb multiple registration and other forms of malpractices.
But, while unanimously adopting the motion, the House commended JAMB for collaborating with the NIMC towards a more transparent UTME process.
The lawmakers, however, urge the board to extend the use of the NIN in order to allow more time and better awareness for prospective candidates, calling on NIMC to establish more registration centres across the country.
Thus, they mandated the House Committees on Tertiary Education & Services, and the NIMC to identify the challenges facing the Commission with a view to tackling them and increasing its funding if necessary.
However, given these unwholesome development, JAMB, few days to the commencement of the 2020 UTME/DE registrations, took a boldly step by suspending the National Identity Number, as prerequisite for UTME registration.
The JAMB’s call that candidates must register and obtain a National Identity Number was initially met with mixed reactions by stakeholders.
NIMC had earlier dedicated Saturday for registration of students to enable them to get their NIN ahead of the JAMB registrations, which commenced yesterday, January 13 and is expected to close on February 17.
The JAMB Registrar/CEO, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, who announced the suspension at JAMB’s Headquarters in Abuja, on Saturday, said the board was fully aware of the several issues surrounding the NIN registration process and was ready to share its intelligence reports with NIMC for proper steps to be taken.
Oloyede, who noted that the Commission had a crop of dedicated personnel, stressed that “just like other system, evil and bad people are evenly distributed. We know that certain things are on and I believe that one of the things that they will also have learnt is to make sure that they sanitise the system.”
He added: “A few elements are doing what they are supposed not to do. All the information, all the intelligence we have we are going to share with you and I am sure the two bodies will be better for it.”
While the Registrar attributed the suspension to “technical failures and population,” stakeholders, especially students and parents, however, described the suspension of NIN for UTME/DE registration as a blessing in disguise.
According to them, this suspension was coming at a time when the higher definition equipment purchased by JAMB on recommendation by NIMC would arrive few days to commencement of registrations for the examinations.
Meanwhile, the board noted that the population of prospective candidates aspiring to register for NIN was beyond the current capabilities of NIMC.
Oloyede further noted: “It has been very productive, but we got to a point knowing fully well that the registration of the 2020 UTME and Direct Entry will start on Monday January 13 till February 17. We have only five weeks because everything in the educational sector is programmed. UTME must be written before 4th of April.
“On the basis of this, we came to a very sad position that we have to decide that for 2020 UTME we are not going to use NIN as prerequisite for registration. We are, therefore, suspending it to subsequent year, 2021 when all candidates would have been given what appears like a one year notice that they will have the opportunity to register for their NIN.
“We are conscious of the fact that we have responsibility to ensure that when something is not realistic we know that it is not attainable. It is on that reason we are suspending the use of NIN till 2021. That is, we are not going to use NIN as prerequisite for the registration for 2020 JAMB application forms for both UTME and Direct Entry.”
Despite, Oloyede warned fraudsters already jubilating over the news, saying: “One of the reasons JAMB was introducing NIN is to eliminate fraud in identity management which NIMC has a capacity to do. But, even when we are not using, the fact that we have interacted with NIMC, has given us some things that nobody will go scot-free if he or she registers twice. This exercise has increased our capacity on the issue of identity management. Those who did many of them were prosecuted last year, but now we are even more empowered to identify and make sure we prosecute.”
On the challenge of population in registration of the UTME/DE candidates on the NIMC radar, the Director-General of the Commission, Mr. Aliyu Aziz, explained that with majority of candidates heading to NIMC’s registration centres with their parents and siblings to be registered, rather than provision to register two million, the figure has shot up to 10 million, a capacity too large for the Commission to handle in such limited time.
“The upsurge and for demand of NIN within a limited centres and facilities have necessitated the review and rethink for us to consider a shift in the commencement date for the use of NIN as a prerequisite for JAMB examination registration.
“This is to give more time to intending applicants to obtain NIN, roll out more centres and equipment nationwide under the digital identity ecosystem and provide identity authentication and verification services any time, any where
“We have two million for JAMB registration, but when they come to our centres they come with their parents and siblings to do their registrations and therefore when we calculated the number it rose to 10 million people coming to our centres within a short period of time. We have only 1,000 centres and based on the standard we are supposed to have at least 4,000 centres, but in the coming year, with the ecosystem in place, we believe that we will have 10,000 centres so we will eliminate all the rush.
Despite the fact that the use of NIN for UTME registration had been shifted to next year, Prof. Oloyede insisted that the compliance with statutory provisions was based on government directive, saying it is the right way to go in line with global best practices.
“We can only keep our fingers crossed ahead of 2021 if we will finally go the way of other nations as far as identity management and examinations are concerned,” he added.