Revisiting UTME result validity period

UJI ABDULLAHI ILIYASU examines the trend in the JAMB -UTME result and reports that the result should be allowed to remain valid for three years as proposed by the lower House.

Many Nigerians have been arguing for the space of time the validity of Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) result should take. Some stakeholders argue that it should remain valid for two or three years before expiration.
This class hinges their argument on the fact that young secondary school graduates are forced to participate in the annual ritual of UTME registration, computer-based test and admission as well as post-UTME screening. All these processes, stakeholders say, take toll on the pulse of parents and guardians who
struggle to make both ends meet in the present harsh economic dispensation. So, making the examination result valid for two or three years, they argued would relieve parents and guardians of money they spend for UTME registration, test and screening. If done, such money would have been freed for other equally important use in the household.

Bill in the House

In March, Hon Tolulope Akande-Sadipe and chairman, House of Committee on Diaspora Matters proposed a three-year validity period for UTME result.
She said, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (Establishment, etc.) Act, 2021 and Other Related
Matters was on the floor of the House to amend the law establishing Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).” She said that the law, if amended, would increase the validity of UTME to three years to make JAMB function better.
The lawmaker argued that the one-year validity period of UTME results was cumbersome, distorting and worrisome to the average Nigerians.

“Most examinations meant for entrance for academic programmes generally last more than a year.
“Take a look at IELTS, SATS, GRE and other recognised examinations; they are either valid for three or four years, and they have remained among the best as they have the test of time,”Akande-Sadipe said.
She further argued that the bill, if adopted and passed, would guarantee candidates’ admission into tertiary institutions three years after sitting for UTME, stressing that such development would save
many Nigerians from the cost of purchasing UTME forms every year.
The bill, if passed through, will help JAMB, parents and candidates in financial terms as man-hour loss to all the registration and admission processes, the stakeholders say, would be regained.

“The Bill, if adopted and passed, would minimise the cost of running the examination and allow candidates to plan, project and decide on which of the tertiary institutions to study.

“It would also allow candidates to determine what to study and where,
after seeing their strength as well as weaknesses, thus minimising the logistics need for conducting the examination.
“It will reduce uncertainties surrounding applications and admissions and the number of applicants annually without reducing the quality of examination.”

JAMB kicks

JAMB registrar, Prof Is-haq Oloyede swiftly asked the House to quash the bill.
Oloyede stated this at the University of Ilorin while answering questions from journalists. He said that
the bill when passed would only hurt the students rather than help them, noting that JAMB sets achievement tests and not aptitude test; therefore, such system, he said would not work in the country. He therefore appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari not to assent to the bill if scaled through Final Reading and harmonised.

He urged the law makers to critically look at the disadvantages of such elongation which to him, are harmful to the future of students. But stakeholders argue that JAMB would not like to conduct UTME and wait for two or more years before another round of registration because they would have lost their powers and recognition as a revenue generating agency for the government. Nigerians argued that JAMB’s relevance in the system is dependent upon how much revenue it generates for the government and this means apart from the loss in revenue, it is equally a loss in sense of duty by JAMB staff, who would be languishing in disguised unemployment due to redundancy.

JAMB remittances

In 2022 UTME, JAMB registered more than 1.8 million candidates and
raked in N8.6 billion. The figure of registered applicants in the year
2022 exercise is higher than roughly 1.4 million candidates that were
registered in 2021.

At the close of the registration for the 2022 UTME and Direct Entry
(DE) programme, JAMB said a total of 1,837,011 candidates were successfully captured in the exercise that took place nationwide between February 19 and March 26.
With N4, 700 registration fee paid by the applicants, JAMB has successfully generated estimated revenue of a total of N8.6 billion.

Out of the lump sum, a total of 776 computer-based test centres that took part in the exercise would share an estimated amount of N1.3
billion at the rate of N700 per candidate registered by each of the centres.
Happily for the revenue generated by the supposedly social agency, JAMB, with a sense of accomplishment, exclaimed, “Registration surpasses expectation”.

According to JAMB, an estimated 1.5 million candidates were targeted
for registration during the exercise with an estimated 50,000candidates per day. Prof Is-haq, during a tour of the CBT centres during the registration, was visibly excited at the huge revenue the exam body had envisioned.
JAMB said since 2016 when the new leadership of the examination body began to remit excess funds to the government, the practice has continued till date.

The body said the development had also led to the reduction in the amount charged for the registration of its examination from N5,000 to N3,500. It said by the reduction alone, more than N3 billion has been saved for the parents and guardians who pay for the candidates that sit for its examination.
The statement reads “This commitment to probity coupled with the adoption of international best practices make for cost-effective operational processes and attendant savings to yield those humongous remittances to government coffers. This has been the norm rather than the exception in the last six years beginning from 2016 when he (Oloyede) remitted the whopping sum of N7 billion and repeated the same in subsequent years.

“It is pertinent to note that one of the direct benefits of the sustained remittances by the Prof Oloyede-led management manifested in the reduction of the cost of the application documents (UTME and DE) by candidates from N5,000 to N3,500 in 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari. This singular act has ensured the annual transfer of over N3b to the pockets of parents and guardians of candidates as a consequence of slash in the price of UTME forms.”

It said JAMB under the current leadership would continue to prune down the cost of governance and release resources for other needy national prioritised areas.

Scholars tackle JAMB

In 2021, JAMB remitted N3.5 billion to federal government. However, this development did not go down well with the Academic Staff Union of
Universities (ASUU) who see such huge revenue as being for the use of government and it functionaries in recklessness.

“The money is being ploughed back to the government to fund the recklessness and profligacy of the government officials and functionaries,” an ASUU official said.
JAMB said it had remitted N3.51 billion to the federal government as operating surplus in 2021.
JAMB’s Head of publicity and protocol Fabian Benjamin proudly said
the remittance is in line with Prof Is-haq Oloyede’s avowed commitment to prudent management of public resources.”

But a top official of ASUU,
the umbrella organisation for all university lecturers in Nigeria, described JAMB’s conduct as a reflection of the exploitation of the people by the Nigerian government using a scholar who should have known that education is a social service but not a profit-orientated agency of government that are statutorily required to generate revenue.

The coordinator of Lagos zone of ASUU, Laja Odukoya, told journalists that “Nigerians must see behind the smokescreen of what is regarded as performance by the examination body and take it for what is truly called exploitation.
According to the ASUU zonal coordinator, what JAMB is doing is to exploit the poor Nigerians for the benefit of government
officials whom he accused of being reckless in spending.

Mr Odukoya said, “The question we should ask is, where the money is
coming from and where it is going. The money is equally not going back to the institutions that require it for infrastructural upgrade in order to make them globally competitive and as a make-up for the exploited Nigerian students. It should have been pardonable if the money is coming back to the school system but rather, the money is being ploughed back to the government to fund recklessness and profligacy of government officials and functionaries.

“It is so sad that many Nigerians are praising this conduct of JAMB and tagging it as a brilliant performance, but I think the people need to sit well and look closely behind the smokescreen of this thing called performance. It is mass exploitation in disguise.”

Mr Odulaja, a lecturer at the University of Lagos suggests, “What should be charged should only be moderate to cater for what the examination body needs.
“There should be a cost for the examination but it should simply be
the cost of what the examination body is doing. You cannot be making profit from the poor people who are suffering to get education and are not even sure of opportunities after they struggle to be educated.

“Education must be seen as a public good and that is why we must struggle against its commercialisation in any form.”