By Ignatius Okorocha
The chairman, Senate committee on local and foreign debt, representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Sen. Shehu Sani on Tuesday stormed the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board Headquarters with snake charmers.
This was with a view to getting the real issue surrounding the reported case of missing N36 million from the JAMB office in Makurdi, Benue which was blamed on a mystery ‘’ cash swallowing’’ snake
Recall that there were reports of one Philomena Chieshe, a sales clerk in the JAMB office, Makurdi who is alleged to have diverted N36 million from the public vault.
She had told JAMB registrar and his team that “she could not account for N36 million she made in previous years before the abolition of scratch cards.
“In the course of interrogation, Philomena denied the allegations that she stole the money but confessed that her housemaid connived with another JAMB staff to spiritually (through a snake) steal the money from the vault in the account office”, the report said.
According to Sani, his visit to JAMB is in response to the story that a snake has swallowed N36 million.
He lamented that it was of concern that such a huge sum of money was reported to have been swallowed by a snake.
“I believe that the contribution I can make is to bring snake charmers from my constituency to the JAMB office and to help them fish out the snake and weed out snakes from their premises.”
Sani further said that if a snake could actually swallow N36 million naira, one day Nigerians may wake up to say that a snake had swallowed the country’s foreign reserve.
“Or it has swallowed the whole money that had gathered in the Treasury Single Account (TSA). And I believe that my contribution to JAMB will help them fish out snakes within the office.
“Even if it is a spiritual matter, we believe that these people I brought, they are some of the best snake charmers in the country and they will help in arresting both physical and spiritual snakes if there has been any in the JAMB office,” he noted.
He explained that it was very clear the incident did not happen doing the tenure of the JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede.
“We are very proud of him. We believe he is someone who should continue to man this agency and he is acting in the right direction.
“But it is good for Nigerians to know this is what has been happening before he came into office. I believe the best thing we can do is to continue to support him.
“People should understand the story which is very clear and if that is the case, if people, civil servants could have used the opportunity to have been in office to enrich themselves using snake stories.
“It is high time for all Nigerians to know that there may be even dirty things happening in other places but this place has exposed it for us to see the truth and I’m very much happy about that.
“We will continue to support him. And as far as we are concerned, the story that public funds could be taken away by some people in the name of snake, it is virtually unacceptable.
Sani thereafter presented cartons of snake expellant to the agency.
In his response, the Spokesperson for JAMB, Dr Fabian Benjamin explained that on assumption of duty, the present Registrar discovered that there were a lot of loopholes in the sale of scratch cards.
He said:”Before he resumed duty, what we were using to register candidates and all other services was scratch cards. We discover a lot of loopholes, we discovered that staff were exposed to cash and then he stopped the use of scratch cards.
“Oloyede thereafter introduced pin vending. After introducing pin vending, it was natural for him to call for audit or stock taking.
“After taking stock it was discovered that in some offices they could not account for what they sold, or the card that was left.
“Chieshe was entrusted with a number of scratch cards which she sold and N36 million could not be accounted for, when asked she actually said she sold them at the said amount, kept the money in the public vault.
“According to her, snake came and swallowed the money.”
Benjamin further explained that in the spirit of transparency, inclusiveness and openness the agency felt that Nigerians should know this kind of defence.
He said Chieshe was undergoing the necessary disciplinary procedures. She was queried and had appeared before a disciplinary committee.
“A report has been written and sent to the Minister of Education ,Mallam Adamu Adamu and as soon as that report is approved, she will either be dismissed or handed over to the security agency for proper profiling.
“At the moment she has been interjected,” Benjamin said.
He also noted that there was a case in Nasarawa State where the staff claimed that on his way to submit the cards, he had an accident and the cards got burnt.
“We went into the system and realised the cards were used.”
One of the snake charmers, Tasiu Abdulrasheed said he had been catching snakes in the last ten years.
“If I had seen the snake, I would catch it.
“Because if indeed it is a snake, I actually would have caught it because I have caught one that I never imagined to have caught,” Abdulrasheed said.