THE Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has been in the news for the wrong reasons lately. Apart from the fascinating news of its current Registrar, Ishaq Oloyede, remitting the sum of N7.8 billion to the Federal Government from the 2016 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) alone, as against the N50,752,544 remitted to government coffers by all the administrations before him between 2010 and 2016, a number of suspected cases of fraud perpetrated by JAMB officials have engaged the attention of the public. The sum of N11,522,808, according to media reports, was remitted to government in 2011; N25, 303,274 in 2013 and N13,926,462 in 2014. No remittance was made into the coffers of the government in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016. These tales, which point unequivocally in the direction of fraud, have made JAMB the butt of jokes across the country and even beyond its shores.
Perhaps the most notorious of the stories from JAMB was that concocted by a female officer of the board who claimed that an unidentified spiritual snake swallowed the sum of N36 million kept in her custody, being proceeds from the sale of scratch cards which candidates use to process admissions into tertiary institutions in the country. Even though the lady in question has denied this claim, a video recording of the event confirming that she indeed made the ridiculous claim is available on the internet. Other claims that border on the ludicrous have also emanated from the board, which has offices in all the 36 states of the federation. Another officer of the board reportedly claimed that N23 million worth of the cards had been gutted by fire. Curiously, however, all the scratch card numbers were found to have been used. There are so many other stories from JAMB officials that have to do with suspected corrupt practices.
The alleged stories of corruption warehoused in JAMB have been staggering. On the surface, they seem to point to the board as one of the hitherto unidentified dens of fraud in the country. If you add all the weird stories of corruption emanating from the board to the awkward pittances remitted by past heads of the board to the Federal Government before the advent of the current Registrar, it should be easy to conclude that JAMB had indeed been a house of sleaze. There are so many incongruities in the stories of corruption in the board. Granted that the tale of a snake having swallowed N36 million is unfounded, why were large sums of money kept by the board in the personal care of staff? In other words, how does a single person handle so much money in a federal board which is one of the agencies generating money to the government? Was JAMB’s accounting system so archaic that there was no central pool into which whatever money was generated dropped the instant it was paid? Are payments for scratch cards purchased by candidates not made via banks into JAMB’s accounts? If a modern accounting system were in place, tales of people toying with the board’s millions would be inconceivable.
Indeed, were it not for connivance at the top level, it should be very easy to know offhand how much JAMB generates yearly. This can easily be computed through an identification of the number of candidates in each examination and the overhead spent on conducting the examinations. On a yearly basis, JAMB itself regales the public with the actual number of candidates who sit for its examinations. Thus, it is quite strange that those who receive remittances from state offices of the board and those who make final remittances to the Federal Government feign ignorance of the exact amounts accruing to the board yearly. Both groups of people are complicit in this roulette of fraud.
We are aware that the Federal Executive Council (FEC), in September last year, ordered a probe into the administration of the past heads of JAMB and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) over what it referred to as poor remittances in the past. Also, the House of Representatives has expressed readiness to probe past Registrars of JAMB over the incongruous remittances made during their tenures. While we strongly support this, we are of the opinion that the House and its investigation should not be the only means of finding out what happened in JAMB all those years. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be involved in the process of investigating this issue with the aim of bringing those found guilty to book. The investigation should be thorough. The theft of public funds in JAMB has of late made Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of states. Many people wonder how such a level of heist could be carried out over the years without the knowledge of the anti-graft agencies.
The Federal Government, via the Federal Ministry of Education and the investigating agencies, must show more than a passing interest in the activities of JAMB and similar agencies. What the JAMB stories signpost is that there are scores of agencies which have become cash cows for nefarious countrymen. The JAMB example must be used to send a stern warning to them all.