By Felix Khanoba
The plan by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to ensure compulsory use of National Identity Number (NIN) in the registration process for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) finally crumbled over the weekend.
JAMB was forced to jettison the initiative as it became clear that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) was overwhelmed and helpless, going by the high number of prospective candidates that trooped to its enrolment centres to obtain NIN ahead of the UTME registration that commences 13 January, 2020.
Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Ish-aq Oloyede, who had last month jumped for joy that NIN would be a magic wand to eliminate problem of double registration, hit the reverse gear on Saturday when images of tortuous and rowdy queues surfaced from overwhelmed NIMC centres across the country.
Oloyede had during a meeting with states commissioners for education on 23 December, 2019 revealed that about 40 per cent of the anticipated 2million candidates for this year’s UTME were ready with their NIN.
1.88million candidates registered for UTME in 2019 while 103,176 others obtained Direct Entry forms the same year.
On the challenges of obtaining NIN, the JAMB boss had promised that the Board would make provision for vehicles to convey prospective candidates that were yet to get NIN from Computer-Based Test (CBT) registration centres to nearby NIMC enrolment points, adding that the identity number was the best bet to halt multiple registration.
His words: “Our experiences last year showed that some candidates registered multiple times so as to perpetrate impersonation.
“Exam malpractice starts at the point of registration, once registration exercise is compromised, the whole examination would have been compromised.”
But the well-thought out plan of using NIN in UTME registration tumbled as NIMC didn’t only displayed lack of capacity to manage the sudden surge of NIN applicants, alleged widespread extortions were reported in many enrolment centres, even as many were forced to either keep vigil or visit registration points for several days before obtaining the identity number.
Oloyode, however, hinged the suspension of use of NIN in the UTME and Direct Entry registration process on the potent fear that NIMC may not be able to deliver on the registration of all prospective candidates for the exam within the stipulated time.
He announced that the initiative would be suspended till 2021 and advised prospective candidates to simply send their names to 55019 to commence registration for 2020 UTME as it was done in the previous year.
“You will recall that in compliance with statutory provisions, we commenced making NIN prerequisite for registration for 2020 UTME. This decision was based on law, on directive but more importantly, is the fact that this is the right way to go.
“All nations of the world go that way and we have no option because we cannot be an island on our own. It has been very productive but we got to a point yesterday (Friday) that knowing fully well the registration for 2020 UTME and Direct Entry will start on Monday 13 January to 17th of February, which is five weeks to complete the registration process.
“Everything in the educational sector is programmed. UTME examination must be written before 4th of April, because WAEC starts the 6th of April and immediately after WAEC, NABTEB and after NABTEB, NECO.”
Oloyede, who jointly addressed newsmen on the development with the Director- General of NIMC, Mr Aliyu Aziz in Abuja, expressed sadness that the NIN initiative in UTME failed to see the light of the day in 2020, but assured that the Board has procured equipment that would easily detect multiple registration and fraud in the exam.
The Director General of NIMC blamed the failed project on the limited number of enrolment centres and the attitude of some Nigerians waiting till the eleventh hour before getting things done.
JAMB had first announced its plan to make NIN mandatory in UTME registration in August 2019.
Aziz said the Commission will need not less than additional 3,000 enrolment centres to have been able to cope with such sudden surge of NIN applicants.
“We have 2million (estimated) JAMB registrants but when they come to our centres, they come with their parents and siblings. We have calculated that it will result to 10million people coming to our centres in a short period of time.
“We have only 1,000 centres and based on that statistics, we suppose to have at least 4,000 centres. By next year, we will make sure that there are operators at the CBT centres to address the issue of crowd,” the NIMC boss said.
He said the Commission’s collaboration with JAMB was nothing strange but in full alignment with government policy on leveraging authenticated NIN for service provision and appealed to Nigerians not to be discouraged from obtaining NIN.