The appointment of Professor Is-Haq Oloyede as registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), last year, appears to be yielding fruits. This year’s matriculations examination into the universities was the first he would be conducting, but he has indicated that a lot would change for the better under his watch. When he unfolded the five-point agenda on taking charge last August, very few thought much of the pledge. He said he would institute an enhanced staff welfare that would boost morale; ensure discipline with a view to restoring the sanctity of examinations conducted by the board, introduce improved technology, as well as boost transparency and advanced networking.

A few months after he mounted the saddle, there are indications that things are falling in place for the 40-year organisation. At first, the changes introduced in the examination setting created some confusion. Candidates and parents could not understand why such changes would visit them with so much pain. Registration online became so problematic and the examination had to be postponed. The Computer-Based Test (CBT) Centres did not appear to have been sufficiently selected and the JAMB Portal would not open in many. However, within weeks, JAMB appeared to have recovered as it succeeded in conducting examinations described as one of the best in its history. Forty-eight of the 633 CBT centres found to have performed below expectations were blacklisted, while candidates who were affected by performance in such centres were afforded another opportunity to take the examination.

The centres were monitored by men and technology, and decisions were taken only after the records from the centres had been thoroughly reviewed. In the process, the board involved stakeholders at all levels of decision making. The Joint Action Coalition on Education, a Non-Governmental Organisation, deployed monitors in all 36 states and came up with a verdict that it was one of the best conducted so far, despite the short period available for preparation. The National Association of Nigerian Students, too, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the board.

It is most interesting that, for the first time in the history of JAMB, and quite unlike the situation in public bodies, the organisation returned N5 billion to government coffers. Some have attributed this to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of the Federal Government that has made it difficult for such bodies to keep away funds from the finance ministry. However, this is easily contradicted by the experience in the past two years when the same organisation had collected money from parents and yet could not prudently manage same.

We commend Professor Oloyede and his team for a good job in this respect. By so doing, he has lived up to the pledges of transparency and introduction of cost-saving measures. As he took over from Prof Dibu Ojerinde last year, the new registrar said, “Instead of spending billions on our examinations, we can spend millions and achieve better results. That is all I have been struggling to do, to make sure that instead of collecting N7 billion and spending N6.8 billion in the conduct of examination, we should be able to save at least N5 billion”. In the first attempt, he succeeded in achieving the feat.

It remains to be seen however what the board intends doing in subsequent years. The point must be stressed, notwithstanding, that there is still room for improvement, especially in the conduct of examinations handled by the board.

But, by saving N5 billion this year, it has become obvious that JAMB had hitherto been over-charging parents, many of who are poor and could barely pay for the form. Others could not register their children and wards due to the high cost of registration. We, therefore, call on the board and the Federal Ministry of Education to review the cost downwards since JAMB is not necessarily a profit-making organisation.

We call on other government bodies to institute cost-effective measures that would make the yoke of citizens lighter.

JAMB makes history by returning N5b to government coffers

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