The recent reports of a “snake” allegedly swallowing monies belonging to the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is symptomatic of the corruption and general indiscipline of some civil servants in the country. We are, however, encouraged that the new leadership of the examination body is determined to root these ills out of its system and continue its remarkable efforts to enthrone transparency and accountability in the management of its funds.
According to what is in the public domain, one Philomena Chieshe, a sales clerk in the Makurdi, Benue State office of JAMB, claimed that through the connivance of her househelp and another JAMB staff member, a spiritual “snake” swallowed N36 million proceeds from the sale of scratch cards to prospective students under the previous dispensation, which she had kept in the office safe. The story became public when JAMB gave an update of its ongoing audit of the scratch card regime, which it scrapped in 2016 when Professor Ishaq Oloyede assumed office as the new helmsman.
The new leadership suspected malpractice in the scratch card regime and has now been proved right with the “snake” tale told by one its staff. Another worker of the agency, Labaran Tanko, is also currently being quizzed over his inability to account for another N26m worth of scratch cards disbursed by him in JAMB’s Nasarawa office. He has alleged that the cards were burnt together with his car in a road accident on his way to the headquarters in Abuja purportedly to return the unsold cards.
These two incidents underscore the ease with which some public officials appropriate public funds and resources for their private use, and get away with it most times. This was probably the situation at the JAMB office until Prof. Oloyede took over. JAMB spokesperson, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, however, says a formal report has been made to the Minister of Education, and the agency is awaiting his directive on the recommended disciplinary action in the Chieshe case. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has also reportedly been invited to help in the proper audit of the scratch card regime with a view to accounting for it and bringing culprits to book.
We commend the new JAMB leadership for its resolve to toe the path of transparency and accountability on the financial affairs of the agency. Oloyede has personally led the audit of the scratch card regime, leading teams to the various state offices. This is very commendable and has, no doubt, been responsible for the successes recorded so far and the strange revelations of malfeasance, including that of the “money-guzzling snake.”
It is, indeed, no wonder that for so many years under the previous dispensations, JAMB could not contribute meaningfully to the national purse, despite collecting huge sums of money for JAMB forms from prospective candidates. From 2011 to 2016, for example, JAMB remitted a paltry N50 million to the Federal Government, compared to N78 billion remitted last year alone by the Oloyede administration in the agency. To be sure, revenue earning is not the primary duty of the examination and admission regulatory agency, but as Oloyede posited, when surpluses result from its activities, such must be turned over to the appropriate purse, not cornered into private pockets as clearly was the practice in the past.
Nigerians who want to see a change for the better in our attitude to public service have taken note of the positive developments at the agency and would want these “snake” and “accident” stories dealt with decisively. We are not surprised that longstanding human rights and good conduct advocates like Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna Central senatorial district have lent their weight to the outcry on the JAMB snake affair.
We urge other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government to take a cue from what is going on at JAMB and beam the searchlight on their own operations. There is no doubt that comprehensive audits will unveil similar tales of malfeasance in other MDAs. Nigeria can no longer afford a continuation of the old and corrupt order at this time of severe economic and social challenges.