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Femi Owolabi: Nobody responds to letters in Nigeria and the great JAMB/NECO fraud

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Femi Owolabi: Nobody responds to letters in Nigeria and the great JAMB/NECO fraud

By Femi Owolabi

I will always remember Professor Peter Omoluabi of the University of Lagos, Nigeria. It was in him that I first saw how diligently responsible people of authority could be. Let me share my experience with you.

I found an old magazine tucked in the pile of old books on my dad’s desk. I was barely eighteen, and I was preparing for the JAMB exam. One of the featured articles in the magazine was Professor Omoluabi’s. I found it interesting as I was able to comprehend every sentence, unlike others whose use of serious academic jargons and technical terms were tortuous, beyond my understanding. Below each article was the author’s address. Since my preferred choice of school was University of Lagos, I thought I should write Professor Omuluabi, informing him of my desire to study in his school.

I wrote the letter, went to the post-office and I posted it to him, unknown to my dad whose office address I had used for correspondence. Not in my dream had I expected a professor of the prestigious University of Lagos to read my letter, let alone, reply. I can’t, however, describe the overwhelming excitement, that afternoon when my dad came home, calling on me; a white envelope in his hand. It seems this letter is addressed to you, he said as he stretched his hand toward me. Professor Omoluabi, in a handwritten reply, thanked me for writing him, and then went ahead with the information I needed. Professor Omoluabi wasn’t even in the Chemical Engineering Department that I had sought information on; he was in the Psychology Department. I imagined how the professor, after receiving my letter, left his office for the Chemical Engineering Department to get me all the details needed. This was so big for me. I read prof’s letter again and again and again. I kept the letter in the chest pocket of my shirts, and whenever I went out to see my friends, I pompously brought it out and tossed it in their faces. “See the letter Professor Omoluabi of the University of Lagos wrote me,” I would say. For more than a year, the letter slept under my pillow as routine-reading of the letter became a chronic habit. 

My experience with Professor Omoluabi quickly sets the standard of precept expected from people of authority. In fact, I was so intoxicated by that experience that the eighteen year old me had gone online, searched for American President George Bush’s email, sent him a mail, and hoped to read his reply.

This is 2014, and despite the fact that emails are now received instantly, people of authority here remain dilatory with information. When an item was missing from a package sent from abroad, I sent an enquiry-email to the address provided on a slip kept inside the package by the Nigerian Custom Service. This is one year after; the Nigerian Custom Service is yet to reply. Last month, my little friend, unlike other few candidates, wasn’t notified of his JAMB result. You will be notified of your result via SMS, forty-eight hours after the exam, JAMB had, before the exam, assured its candidates. The anxiety and curiosity was killing my little friend. So, I visited the JAMB’s website, got the email address that JAMB says all enquiries should be sent. In the mail; I included my little friend’s examination details, and asked why he hasn’t been notified of his result after one week. This is a month after; JAMB is yet to reply the mail. Need I say I returned to the JAMB’s website to copy the entire phone numbers provided in case anyone needs to make an enquiry? I dialed all the numbers and none went through. I often wonder, of what use, then, are the email addresses these institutions put on their website? Formality? Your guess is as good as mine.

Two years ago when my friend, Tobi Fadiji, came home to spend his holiday, we got talking about his school, University of Stellenbosch, South-Africa. When I told him about my [research] interest in [foreign] languages, he suggested a center in his school. How do I get detailed information? I asked Tobi. Go to the school website na, you will find a link to the center’s page where you will find the email addresses of the administrators, Tobi said. While we talked on, I opened the website on my phone, drafted an enquiry mail, got the Director’s email address, and pushed the mail to him. A few hours later, while seeing Tobi off to his car, the Director’s reply came in!

In 2014, you still have to take a week or two weeks leave off work in Lagos to travel to University of Abuja to ‘process’ your transcript. It has always been a narration of frustrations from all of my friends who had gone to process their transcript. Especially, how the secretaries at the Department extort them. One’s transcript is not given to him by hand, so, why can’t all the processing be done online? This, I wrote the VC Academics of one of the Nigeria universities. Of course, he hasn’t replied.

Struggling with the willingness to give information that might be later contradicted by his Oga At The Top, the Lagos State Commandant of the National Security and Civil Defense Corps NSCDC, in a TV interview, eventually says the NSCDC website is wwdotnscdc, and, that’s all! One would have been a fool to expect a reply to an email sent to this man who doesn’t know the website [of his organization] in whose domain, the email address you saw on his business card, was opened.

Understandably, other things that trouble Nigeria hold much of our concentration that little attention is paid to this negligence of responsibility going on in our public institutions.

In unrelated news, I like to draw the attention of my readers to the fraud being orchestrated by these examination bodies; NECO and JAMB. When JAMB notifies its candidates of their results, they are then asked to purchase an e-transact card [or something like that] to check and print the result slip online. Don’t forget, registering for the JAMB exam costs each student at least N5,000. Few days ago, I spoke with a lady who owns a business center in Ojuelegba, Lagos. She told me that she sells the e-transact card for N1,300, whereas the amount crested on the card is N1,000. In the first place, it is fraud to ask candidates, after registering with 5k, to pay another 1k to have their result. Fraud! The lady, however, said, she buys the card from the JAMB office for N1,150 per unit. Ha! So, adding her transport fare with other logistics, she’s selling for N1,300.  When I raised my voice at her, she hushed me by asking me to go vent my anger on them at the JAMB office.

Meanwhile, let’s hear the Public Relations Officer of JAMB, Mr. Fabian Benjamin, in an interview with TheCable Newspaper:

“Immediately we finish marking, we send text messages to all the candidates, and all the messages always show that they are delivered. However, we have been getting complaints from some candidates from different quarters that they are yet to see their result.

“We understand the trauma they might be going through. Unfortunately, we are still on the field; that is why I would advise that they buy scratch cards and check online.”

According to TheCable Newspaper, Mr. Benjamin admitted the knowledge of the reluctance of candidates to purchase scratch cards, but he claimed that the proceeds do not go to JAMB.

“The money does not come to us, but to the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Company that charges results to be pasted on its site,” he said.

Sighing heavily. Over a million students who wrote this exam would, each, buy this card for N1,300. Have you done your calculation? How much is that? How did JAMB spend the proceeds it got from students’ registration? Recall, last year, students who wrote the JAMB-CBT exam printed their result online free of charge! And if JAMB would attach a fee to checking result, why not make it a reasonable amount of N500? Or, why would JAMB allow that ICT Company to charge students that much just to check their result? Of course the card usage is limited. It is invalid after the fifth use. On the comment-thread that follows Mr. Benjamin’s interview with TheCable Newspaper, Emmy, one of the frustrated students screams:

“JAMB, you guys are equivalent to BokoHaram! It’s high time we protested against this misconduct. BokoHaram withheld approximately 230 girls from one state, but JAMB has withheld (NO RESULT YET!!!) over 1000 or even more innocent children from 36 states. In fact, you guys are BokoHaram in disguise! So heartless, if you guys don’t have airtime as someone presumed, then you guys should quietly/shamefully borrow from MTN xtra-time, instead of asking us to but e-transact.”

This is not funny!

Akin to JAMB is NECO’s style of stealing from parents of primary school pupils. Last week when I saw the news online that the Federal Common Entrance Examination [conducted by NECO] results were out, I called my sister to give me her son’s examination number, thinking I could just log onto the NECO website and check for him. Opening the site, not even a sentence announcing the release of the result was on the site, not to talk of finding a link to checking the boy’s result. My sister later told me that other parents told her that one has to go to the NECO office to check the result. In 2014?!

The next day, I rushed to the NECO office at Ilupeju, Lagos. The queue of nervous parents was embarrassing. And only one staff was attending to this queue. No payment is required. As you show the NECO officer your kid’s exam photo-card, he checks from his computer and writes the score on the photo-card. He then tells you to go upstairs to purchase the scratch card your kid will use in registering online for the interview. Walking past the noticeboard, the info says card is N1,500. On getting upstairs, however, the card is sold for N1,700! On the info available on the noticeboard, you also notice that the registration would be done on one private website that does not share any resemblance with NECO.  Why are pupils paying again to get interviewed after they had paid to write the exam?! I held my anger as I wondered if the Ministry of Education and Minister Nyesom Wike is aware of all these nonsense. Or it’s just about 2015 now?

– Follow tgis writer on Twitter: @fEMIoWOLABI

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