Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Some years back, former registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, began a gradual process of introducing the computer-based test (CBT) system in conducting university matriculation examinations.
Ojerinde, shortly before he was relieved of his duties in August 2016, completed the process that ended the old practice of pen and paper, which had lasted over three decades. Thereafter, JAMB’s operations went digital. Greater efficiency, transparency and accountability were enhanced.
But with it came different challenges associated with technology.
Private operators of CBT centres are key players in the exercise. But in the words of JAMB registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, some of them have become a source of nightmare for the organisation, sabotaging its efforts.
Oloyede has repeatedly described some of the CBT centre operators as a major source of headache for JAMB.
“But we are consistently ahead of them with our sophisticated technology,” he said.
Oloyede said he was pained that some of the CBT centre operators have mastered the art of creating problems for JAMB and its candidates during the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) registration and examinations.
He alleged that, during registration, some of the operators engage in extortion and defrauding thousands of candidates, thereby ruining their chances of having a stress-free experience during the examination.
Oloyede said: “Some of them take advantage of the ignorance of the candidates to defraud and mislead them. I also blame the candidates for allowing themselves to be cheated by the CBT centres. We have provided information on our website and other forms of communication for their use. We also developed mobile applications for their use, but they failed to either use them or are unaware of them.”
He said JAMB, after each UTME exercise, reviews the process and upgrades its systems to cover the loopholes. But the CBT centre operators, he noted, are always in search of opportunities to circumvent the process for selfish gains.
There was some mild drama at the JAMB headquarters in Bwari, Abuja, early in the week when JAMB busted the unscrupulous activities of some CBT centre operators.
The CBT operators were innocently invited to Abuja from across Nigeria. They did not suspect anything untoward. They did not know that their “cup had become full and running over” due to fraud that was detected by the sophisticated system deployed by JAMB to monitor the 2020 UTME exercise.
More than 30 of them began to arrive Abuja a day before the meeting, with hopes of good news or better opportunities ahead of the 2020 UTME, not knowing that many of them would not return to the comfort of their homes that day.
With cheerful countenance, Oloyede, who had before the day made security arrangements, welcomed them and gave them a little idea of why they were invited for the meeting. The JAMB registrar reminded them that, before the commencement of the sale of the 2020 UTME application documents, accredited CBT centres were invited for a meeting.
“At that meeting, we usually have open discussions, and opportunity given to each person to make contributions and suggestions. At the end, we reached an agreement on the roles of the CBT centres as regards registration of candidates and the examination proper. But many of you, deliberately or otherwise, choose to violate the rules, thereby sabotaging our efforts, complicating the system and ruining the chances of innocent candidates having a stress-free experience during the examination.
“Some days ago, our system detected a new trick being deployed by some CBT centre operators in states that would greatly affect the chances of innocent candidates in the coming 2020 UTME. Aside from the fact that some of you charge above the approved fees, many of the CBT centre operators committed more fraud as detected by our system.
“Some of the CBT centre operators were found to have extended their unique virtual private network (VPN) access codes to unaccredited locations and computer systems, contrary to the rules of engagement.
“It addition to that, the system discovered that some of the CBT centre operators also registered computer systems that are not theirs with fictitious names, national identity number (NIN) and also supplied several false information to our officials during the CBT centre accreditation.
“Such extensions and some other infractions detected by our system were done without the consent of JAMB, and neither were the candidates aware that they were engaged in illegal registration, which would greatly affect them during the examination, and even deny them access to examination hall on their scheduled date.
“When our system alerted us, we quickly mobilised competent staff and attached security agents with them so they could visit the locations to confirm our suspicion. Lo and behold, our suspicions were confirmed. Over 38 CBT centre operators were arrested for cyber fraud.”
The implications, according to the JAMB boss, is that, on the examination day, thousands of candidates that were fraudulently registered by the implicated CBT centres would not be able to gain access to the examination hall because the fingerprints would not be authenticated by biometric devices.
“On the examination day, you will see candidates and their parents, in some cases, would besiege CBT centres and JAMB offices, shouting and accusing JAMB of being incompetent. But many of them would never confess that they patronise unregistered locations during registration. However, our system would always detect infractions and adequate punishment applied,” he said.
The JAMB registrar, who paraded some of the fraudulent CBT centre operators in Abuja, expressed disappointment at the fraudulent activities they had been perpetrating. He pledged to prosecute them to serve as a deterrent to other CBT operators who might want to engage in irregularities.
He stated that JAMB was able to detect the cyber crime due to its sophisticated technology, which he said placed JAMB ahead of the fraudulent activities of CBT centre operators anywhere in Nigeria.
He explained that the exact number of affected candidates were yet unknown but the system put in place would soon detect them. The affected CBT centres would be sanctioned, while the fate of affected candidates would be looked into so that their chances would not be ruined by the inordinate ambition of some CBT centre operators.
And with only few days left for interested candidates to register for the 2020 UTME, the registrar advised candidates to visit accredited CBT centres and quit patronizing people who disguise as helpers or assistants but would end up defrauding them and ruining their chances of having a stress-free experience.
Oloyede invited the CBT centre operators in, one after another to explain their offences to them. While some of them owned up to the offences, some others insisted they never committed such cyber crime and were unaware of such fraudulent activities.
Those who argued were shown their offences through JAMB’s sophisticated tracking system that monitors alll the activities of CBT centre operators anywhere in Nigeria.