Gabriel Dike, Kehinde Olayinka and Mmesoma Ezebenard
The Federal Government decision to stop the use of National Identification Number (NIN) for registration in the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) has elicited commendations from candidates and parents. They described the action as a welcome development.
Some of the candidates and parents said they were happy when government cancelled the use of NIN because of what they went through at the various centres. They said the decision was long overdue considering the hardship they experienced at the various NIN centres.
On Saturday, January 11, the Registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof Is-haq Oloyede, shocked the nation when he announced the suspension of the use of NIN for the 2020 UTME. This was after candidates and parents went through hassles for four weeks trying to register at various NIN centres without success.
Despite the hiccups, the board insisted on the use of the NIN for the 2020 UTME. Before the start of the NIN, the House of Representatives asked Oloyede to put the exercise on hold but he went ahead and the challenges faced by the prospective candidates became a national issue.
Following protests and concerns expressed by stakeholders on the use of NIN, the House Committee on Basic and Secondary Education directed Oloyede to put on hold the NIN requirement but the lawmakers’ order was ignored.
Candidates, parents react after suspension
Eighteen years old Chinasa Obasi said for about four weeks he couldn’t register at the NIN centre in Alausa, Lagos: “I was informed by a friend who was equally going through the same experience that the Federal Government has cancelled the use of NIN for the 2020 UTME. My mum went with me twice and I couldn’t register.”
Mr Adekayo Adisa, an insurance broker, whose two sons couldn’t register after visiting NIN centre and banks said: “I don’t think it was Prof Oloyede’s decision to cancel the NIN registration. I appreciate the government for stopping the exercise. For two weeks, my sons left home at 4.00 am each day and couldn’t register. I and my sons were so excited by the decision to cancel the NIN registration.”
Kemi Olugbenga said the suspension came as a welcome relief to her and other prospective candidates because, for three weeks, she couldn’t register despite leaving home around 5.00 am everyday.
She disclosed that many prospective candidates sustained injuries because of the rowdiness at NIN centres and others lost money or their handsets and at the end, they couldn’t register. She alleged that money changed hands between officials of NIN, security personnel and parents who after the frustration of their wards decided to cut corners.
Our experiences at NIN
Before the decision to suspend the use of NIN for the 2020 UTME, reports from various NIN centres showed that all was not well. Hundreds of prospective candidates daily went through hassles to get the registration number. Many of such prospective candidates spent weeks at the NIN centres without success. Unconfirmed reports had it that some of the candidates even slept at the NIN centres to get registered.
The situation led to the exploitation of the prospective candidates by touts and NIN officials who allegedly made brisk business.
Investigations also revealed that many parents who couldn’t stand the stress resorted to cutting corners by paying money to get their wards registered.
It was gathered that the brisk business, which also involved touts led to fighting between some prospective candidates and the touts as well as NIN officials.
In most cases, the quick intervention of National Security Defence Corps (NSDC) personnel and senior officials of NIN saved the situation and prevented stampede because of the massive crowd cluttering around the venues. The experiences of the prospective candidates led to calls for a second look at the NIN registration requirement for 2020 UTME.
The NIMC Act states that for one to be eligible to register such a person must be 16 years old. Most of the prospective candidates struggling to register for the 2020 UTME are below the age. Some are even 14 years old.
Also, the JAMB Act did not specify NIN registration as one of the requirements to write the UTME. Thus many stakeholders asked where Oloyede claimed to have derived the powers to demand the NIN registration number from prospective candidates?
Reports from various NIN registration centres nationwide revealed chaotic situations as prospective candidates went through difficulties to get the NIN registration number.
It was gathered that some prospective candidates left home as early as 4.00 am to the NIN centres and when they got there, a long list containing names of those who had “settled” the officials occupied the first to 40 prospective candidates. In some extreme cases, some prospective candidates slept at the centres to beat the long queue.
Investigations revealed that many of the banks listed by NIMC as registration centres turned down prospective candidates. Some officials told the candidates that they had stopped the exercise while others said they were not handing NIN registration thus compounding the situation. Also, some parents said their wards put up with relations near the NIN centres all in attempt to beat the long queue and secure vantage position before the arrival of NIN officials.
A concerned parent said: “I don’t know how some of these prospective candidates did it. I left my home thrice at 4.00 am to the NIN centre and when I got there, I met about 150 to 200 prospective candidates already waiting for NIN officials. At the end, only about 30 to 40 were attended to.
“You wouldn’t believe it, I have spent about N15,000 trying to register my two children and my brother’s daughter who stay with me. I have not been successful. I visited banks listed on the NIMC website only to be told they are not part of the NIN registration.”
Obiajulu Alexander, a former pupil of Chismeom College, Abule-Egba, Lagos, said he got to Agbado Oke-Odo centre around 7 am after several attempts, wrote his name in a list and was asked to come back: “Those with connection were attended to. The system was slow and I don’t think the NIN registration number is necessary for the UTME.”
Another pupil from Dartforte School, Lagos, Ayobami Alaofin, said the exercise was stressful and that NIN workers were not friendly and accommodating, ‘’they sent candidates back and addressed them in a bad manner. The NIN registration number is not necessary for the 2020 UTME. JAMB registrar was forcing us, the stress prospective candidates were put through is not worth it.”
For 20-year-old Abigail Amos, she didn’t face any hassle because she registered at her place of work: ‘’They made all the students there to register for their NIN, we all did our registration in the company. I have registered, and I did not find it difficult at all. It did not take me time to register and I collected my ID card a week after.’’
Kayode Oseni lamented that the NIN registration centre at Kosofe Local Government Council, Lagos, was very slow: “They have only one computer to register candidate for the NIN which is frustrating. Candidates came from their homes to the centre as early as 4.00 am to pick numbers so that they could be attended to. The process was so slow and I haven’t finished my registration.
‘’I bought a photocopy of the NIN form for N200, I filled it and waited for more than a week before I got attended to. The lady in charge collected the form and registered all my data on the computer. It took about 30 minutes to register. The crowd was too much and they were very slow.’’
Sixteen years old, Abdulahi Odunsi said it was difficult to register. She visited the centre for a week and was not able to register: ‘’The reason I haven’t registered is that it takes a long process before one can be registered and this created a lot of problems.’’
National President, Association of Tutorial School Operators (ATSO), Mr Dotun Shodunke, said it is wicked, sad and condemnable for what the prospective candidates went through in the last four weeks:
‘’Of course, there is a law that says NIN is needed for certain services but I don’t know if JAMB is among. But only 16-year-old are qualified to be admitted into our schools.”
On the Director, Media and Public Affairs, JAMB, Dr Benjamin Fabian, who claimed that examination malpractice syndicates were behind the NIN registration problem, he said: ‘’Please, ask him (Fabian) how many people have been arrested and prosecuted?
‘’I am very happy and let me appreciate few hardworking and unbiased investigative journalists like you. I also expect the registrar to resign. I am asking for his resignation because of what he made the candidates to pass through and he deliberately refused to apologise.”