Candidates for this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) have bemoaned their inability to register, saying with Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board’s (JAMB) insistence on National Identity Number (NIN) as mandatory, more hardship has been added to their registration predicament.
They alleged that with NIN requirement, the board has forced them to go through difficulties like extortion, long queues in scorching weather, non-adherence to COVID-19 protocols and other unwholesome practices devoid of ethics to enable them register.
Others lamented that even with NIN, they could not complete the first stage of application process.
The examination body had on April 5, extended its registration date, and in a statement by its Head of Information and Public Affairs, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, apologised for its inability to complete the process of smooth pin vending and candidates access to the registration app for this year’s UTME/DE examinations. The registration exercise would end on May 15.
However, investigations showed that the code provided by JAMB for authenticating applicants’ NIN after they have sent messages responded with error, denoting that their NIN is invalid instead of generating “profile codes.”
A profile code enables applicants visit accredited Computer Based Centres (CBT) to complete registration.
A parent, Mrs Sarah Jones, accused the examination body of making things difficult for millions of candidates preparing for the forthcoming UTME. According to Jones, her son who registered for NIN and got his number since February 2021 could still not register for the examination due to inability of National Identity Management Commission [NIMC] in Lagos to upload to server in Abuja.
Jones said: “The difficulty in identifying NIN of candidates means that they may not participate in the mock exams even if they wanted to, and may not participate in UTME if the problem persists.”
A school owner in Ojota area of Lagos, Imaobong Essien, also expressed concern over inability of her students to generate profile codes due to issues around NIN linkage.
“It’s a national crisis and thousands of SS3 students in my school have not been able to register. Out of 60 students, only 10 have been able to register for NIN, while others are still struggling and out of this number, only four have successfully registered for UTME.
“Even those who registered in January this year and got their NIN could still not register for the examination due to network challenges and inability to link their NIN during registration process.
Essien noted that the situation is the same in other schools within the metropolis, as students could not get their profile codes because of similar problems.
A UTME candidate, Paul, expressed fears of missing out on this year’s examination just for not obtaining NIN.
He said: “I have an android phone that I used to start my UTME registration. My SIM is registered but I have not been able to get my NIN. I cannot generate my JAMB profile code on the application portal because of my inability to register for NIN. This is my first UTME, and my parents are worried that I may not be able to write exam if I don’t get NIN. I have enrolled for it but the slip is not yet ready.”
Together with a registered mobile number, NIN is one of the details UTME candidates must enter to successfully generate their JAMB profile code. The code would then be used to complete e-registration at CBT centres.
Tobiloba, another candidate, echoed same sentiments on the risk of being unable to sit for UTME.
“Honestly I’m scared. I have enrolled for NIN since February but I don’t know why the process is taking so long. I don’t want to stay at home because NIN made me miss UTME. JAMB should do something about this. I am sure there are many other students who find themselves in a similar situation,” he stated.
Despite JAMB’s claim that it had solved all pending NIN hitches, candidates are of the opinion that the board has not done enough.
Across the states, the situation is the same as findings by The Guardian showed that obtaining NIN by UTME candidates is still a major challenge.
ALTHOUGH NIMC in Enugu State has ensured its presence in the 17 local government councils in addition to other designated places for ease of registration, the rate of demands, levity on the part of officials as well as inadequate working tools have created opportunity for the commission’s staff to allegedly enrich themselves.
In an attempt to meet with their examination registration requirements, some candidates have settled for express services and in the end, part with various amounts.
There were allegations that field officers of the Commission collected as much as N3000 from students who need them for registration. Nkechi Orji, who was spotted at a CBT centre on independence layout, said she had to pay because the queue “was long and the process very slow.”
“I thought I could avoid the payment but after going there for two days without success I decided to cough out the money so I could face other things.”
Orji, who said she was registering for UTME for the first time, stated that she attempted to do so at her school, “but was told to go and get NIN to enable the school register us.”
An Inquiry at Queens Secondary School, Ogui, indicated that even with the existence of CBT centre in the school, its management only accepted to register students who possessed NIN.
At one of the CBT centres, Mr Chukwudi Okwe told The Guardian that despite the challenges, it is a good thing that the Federal Government is enforcing use of NIN as it removes double registration.
National President of International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative (IS4-PHRI), Osmond Ugwu, however expressed fears that many students may miss examination with the way NIMC officials were going about the exercise.
Ugwu noted that making NIN compulsory for UTME candidates was a wrong policy and very frustrating for the children.
“These children are not leaving the country after exams. They should be allowed to write UTME without NIN and in due time, they can register.”
In Kano, NIMC Regional director, Lawan Yahaya, said candidates who had so far registered to write the 2021 UTME examination enrolled for their NIN free of charge.
Two UTME candidates, Ayagi Amina and Fauziya Aminu also confirmed that their NIN enrolment were done free of charge and they have both registered for UTME.
Lawan said: “For us here, I can confirm to you that NIMC will not charge applicants before enrolling them for NIN. In fact, we have special arrangement for schools that want us to come to their premises to register their students.”
In Ondo, a UTME candidate, Isaac Mewayeno, said he travelled all the way from Irele to Akure for registration due to poor infrastructure and network service in his community.
“It is burdensome, we had to queue for a long time to register, some people have been coming to the office for the past three days to no avail.”
President of Movement for the Survival of the Underprivileged (MOSUP), Mr Dappa Maharajah, said the directive by JAMB is purely a policy somersault and unnecessary.
Maharajah cited poor infrastructure and network as some of the problems. He said appropriate facilities to drive such a policy are not available.
“We all know the poor quality of our services in terms of communication and technology. The NIN and UTME policy is a marriage of huge inconvenience to poor students and society at large.”
He expressed fears that the poor pace of registration at the various NIN centres may lead to massive deregistration of UTME candidates due to poor implementation and lack of foresight by the examination body.
Similarly, Proprietor of Primacy Model College, Akure, Mr Taiwo Iwakun, who said he has six candidates, said “The introduction of NIN as a precondition for UTME is making registration cumbersome for applicants.
In Benin, Ace Broadcaster, Mr. Tony Abolo, faulted JAMB’s directive on NIN, saying it has further compounded challenges faced by UTME candidates.
“Government has to prove to us that degrees of those who went to university in the last 60 years are not valid because they did not have NIN. So, if there is nothing wrong with what we have been doing, what is the essence of driving it forward?
“What government should have said was that in the next 10 years, everybody should be enrolled on NIN; we believe that all young Nigerians within the age bracket of these students would have registered and everybody would do it with ease.”
Oyo State President of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Mr. Kayode Adeyemi, wondered how JAMB expects candidates to survive the tension and stress of NIN enrolment at this time when registration has commenced.
Adeyemi urged government not to create unnecessary policies that would deprive children from accessing education.
He said: “Some of these policies are not in tune with the constitution and children have a right to education. Any parastatal, agency or department of government with restrictive policies to hinder children from getting education is acting against the constitution. And for our association, we are not pleased with the directive.
The JAMB spokesperson however clarified that all complaints had been taken into consideration before the decision to use NIN was put in place.
He added that due to the seriousness attached to the registration process, additional centres were created across the country to make registration easier for candidates.
Benjamin disclosed that the major reason JAMB portal failed to acknowledge candidates NIN was because some applicants did not send correct message to the stipulated code.
Although he did not rule out the possibility of network issues, Benjamin assured that a good number of applicants would sit for the exams.
On allegation of extortion against NIMC official, he lamented that the inability of victims to report to appropriate quarters was compounding issues, saying only one scape goat is needed to serve as deterrent to others.
With over 2.1 million candidates registering for UTME in 2020, there are fears that thousands of students could be left stranded if they fail to meet the necessary NIN requirement for this year’s examination.