Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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Like everything in Nigeria, titles and awards have become so debased and cheapened that many people of conscience do not take them seriously. Every day, you hear of one organization or other sometimes you may be hearing of the organization for the first time, doling out awards to people. Needless to say, some of the people so honoured are men and women of questionable character.
Sadly, even newspapers and other media organization that are expected to act as the conscience of the nation have joined the shameful charade – doling out merit awards as if they are Chieftaincy titles.
Late last month, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Nigige announced the award by President Muhammadu Buhari of the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award to the Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University, Prof Olanrewaju Adigun Fagbohun, the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, Prof Ishaq Oloyede and 23vothers. I cannot claim much knowledge about the many other recipients the highly valued National award of merit.
Prof Ishaq Oloyede has however come to my notice since his appointment as the Registrar of JAMB in 2016. His courageous efforts to reform an institution that was deeply enmeshed in corruption and inefficiency has brought him out not only to my attention but to that of many other Nigerians.
The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, popularly known as JAMB was established by the Federal Military Government with the promulgation of Decree No 2 of 1978. This decree empowered JAMB to among other things:
– conduct Matriculation Examination for entry into all Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education (by whatever name called) in Nigeria
– appoint Examiners, Moderators, Invigilators, members of the Subject Panels and committees and other persons with respect to matriculation examinations and any other matters incidental thereto or connected therewith.
– place suitably qualified candidates in the tertiary institutions after having taken into account:
– the vacancies available in each tertiary institution etc
Over the years, efforts by JAMB to carry out the mandate given to it by law has attracted a lot of negative comments. For instance, last year the testimonies delivered at the hearings by those accused of corruption attracted a frenzy of interest in the press and social media, particularly relating to the sale of official scratch cards, the biometric cards issued and used by JAMB for on-line registration of all examinations candidates. As many as 20 testimonies involving theft of the proceeds from the sale of the cards were heard.
The strangest of these cases is that of Philomena Chiese, a sales clerk in the JAMB office in Makurdi, the capital of Benue state, who claimed that monies she received from the sale of JAMB scratch cards – and which belonged to JAMB – had “spiritually disappeared” from a “vault” in her home as a result of it being swallowed by a mysterious snake. In the absence of any credible evidence, the case has been handed over to the police for further investigation.
Another case of alleged corruption involved Labaran Tanko, a JAMB official in Nassarawa state near Abuja who also could not account for the proceeds from the sales of scratch cards. In his opening testimony at the hearings, he said: “Thank God that I am alive today!”
Tanko claimed he was involved in a motor accident on 3 July 2016 when the vehicle he was travelling in caught alight. The scratch cards he carried with him were “burnt beyond recognition”.
However, IT records of the serial numbers of each card showed that the scratch cards had been used by candidates in order to sit their examinations. Tanko’s case has also been handed over to the police for further investigation.
Also appearing before the panel was Daniel Agbor, Kogi state coordinator. He is alleged to have told the panel the following:
“There was prevailing poverty in my station. And money was with us there. You need the grace of God in the state offices not to steal because money is tempting. We all took loans from the sales of the scratch cards. I will provide the list of those involved. To err is human. To forgive is divine. Please don’t take me to the police. Please be lenient with me sir,” he reportedly said.
The corruption scandals have prompted academics to suggest remedies to improve the functioning of JAMB, many of which call for the modernisation of the organisational structure. Conscious about the public outcry against the scandal besotted JAMB. Professor Oloyede early in his days as Registrar of the organization responded and created a stake holders forum. Defined by its founder as “a most potent strategic platform to share and validate the Board’s vision, solicit and obtain feedbacks and input”, the Stakeholders Meeting and other forms of engagement are held periodically to exchange information and create awareness; they have thus become ingrained in all facets of the Board’s activities as it strives to achieve its mandate.
This novel experiment of democratising the policy formulation and operations of JAMB, he further said, is paying great dividends. The achievements of the Board in the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, according to him, would have been less spectacular without the benefits of involving stakeholders of JAMB.
The democratisation of JAMB through this process has therefore yielded results – positive results. Not only has JAMB improved on its service delivery, it has enhanced the credibility of all examinations conducted by the body.
Before coming to JAMB Prof. Oloyede, had attended several training programmes across the nation, is also a member of many learned and professional societies. He is a fellow of the Islamic Academy of Cambridge, United Kingdom; Fellow, Academy of Entrepreneurship; Member, Nigerian Association of Teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies (NATAIS); Member, Editorial Board, Centre for Islamic Legal Studies, ABU, Zaria, among, several others.
He was elevated to professorial rank in 1995. He was appointed Deputy Vice – Chancellor (Academic) on June 19, 2003 and Deputy Vice -Chancellor (Administration) on July 6, 2005. Professor Is-haq Oloyede was the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, from October, 2007 and Chairman Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC) from 2011 to 2012.
Prof. Oloyede served as the board of many reputable university organisations. He was the Chairman, Committee of Directors of Academic planning in Nigerian Universities – 2002 to 2004. He was until his voluntary resignation in 2011 the President, Association of African Universities (a position he relinquished to pave way for another Nigerian-the former vice-chancellor of NOUN, Prof. Olugbenro Jegede)- to assume office as the CEO/Secretary General of the association.
He served on the board of Association of commonwealth Universities (ACU), 2010 to 2012 and International Association of Universities (IAU), 2008 to 2012. He was the Executive Secretary and National Coordinator of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) from 2007 to 2012 and currently the Secretary General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. He is an International Advisory Board member of International Network for Higher Education in Africa (INHEA). He has authored and co-authored several articles in reputable local and international outlets.
By giving him the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award, President Muhammadu Buhari has given honour to whom it is due.