STUDENTS preparing to write this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), on Saturday, heaved a sigh of relief, relieving their apprehension about not being able to sit for the examination had the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) not suspended its directive on the possession of National Identification Number (NIN) as a requirement for the examination.
This was just as mixed reactions greeted the suspension, with prospective candidates who had successfully registered and obtained the NIN reserving no pleasant words for JAMB for subjecting them to unnecessary hardship.
Some parents and other stakeholders commended JAMB for the decision to put the policy on hold, describing it as a right step in the right direction.
Reacting to the development, the deputy national president of the National Parents/Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) and South-West coordinator of the group, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said the suspension was an appropriate decision.
According to him, prospective UTME applicants “have gone through hell” in the last few days just to register for NIN as part of requirements to sit for the UTME this year.
He told Sunday Tribune that he monitored the exercise in some centres in the South-West, especially Lagos, and found out that the NIMC officials turned the crowded situation to opportunity to milk students.
These officials, he said, collected as much as N4,000 per person before registering them and in some centres, where there was no light, they were also asked to pay additional N1,000 to fuel their generators.
“Things were that bad. And it is very unfortunate that NIMC officials have turned themselves to police people who ask complainants to pay for report sheets to take their statements,” he said.
While urging Federal Government to ensure it provides all basic things necessary for NIMC to have seamless registration for all Nigerians and to also caution corrupt officials in the system to make the process work, the PTA leader said the students could be made to register for NIN once they move from junior to senior secondary school level.
How JAMB can register applicants without stress —Ex-Private school association chair
A former chairman of the Private Schools Association in the North-Central zone, Mr Joseph Nwoke, has commended JAMB for the postponement.
Nwoke told Sunday Tribune in Jos, the Plateau State capital, that the directive was too impromptu and subjected the students to untold hardship while trying to meet up with the deadline set by JAMB.
“It is a laudable initiative, but the time was just too short for the students to get registered. I strongly believe that it can be modified in such a way that it will not bring hardship.
“It is good that it is deferred to 2021. My suggestion is that every state’s ministry of education can be saddled with this exercise as soon as they get admission into secondary schools.
“And in the alternative, they can use this as a prerequisite for admission into tertiary institutions in addition to the basic requirements,” he said.
Tolani (surname withheld), a prospective candidate, who reluctantly spoke with Sunday Tribune on Saturday, in Ibadan, Oyo State, narrated her experience and those of others at the Ibadan office of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
“For two weeks, beginning from before Christmas, I was getting to the NIMC office before 8.00 a.m. every day, and I was not leaving until past 3.00 p.m.
“I only wanted to collect the NIN; I had already registered for the identity card more than a month before then, but I was only issued a temporary slip, without the NIN, and was asked to come back to be assigned the NIN. There were many others like me.
“We returned home every day in frustration. They would either tell us there was no network on their computer, or that they had “no data” from Abuja. Yet, we saw some people drive in, in jeeps with their children and they were attended to.”
Tolani said that at a point on one of those days, a female official of the NIMC offered to help her obtain the NIN if she could part with N1000.
She did not have the money that day, but, according to her, the parents, even though they didn’t like the development, gave her the money when she was going the following day, out of desperation not to make her miss another year of UTME registration.
Suspend policy till 2023, ex-NAPPS boss counsels JAMB
A former president of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Dr Bolajoko Sally, has advised JAMB to said put the policy on hold till 2023 and not 2021 it annouced.
According to her, many factors will still militate against the implementation of the policy next year if it is made mandatory.
She said the government and JAMB in particular did not put into consideration majority of students living in villages and towns where they cannot access NIMC centres to register.