Anambra State government on Wednesday set up an eight-member committee of enquiry to investigate the allegation that Mmesoma Ejikeme, a 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) candidate in the state, forged her result. This happened a few hours after the candidate admitted on Channels Television that she indeed got a text message from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) that she scored 249 in the exam.
Mmesoma, a student of Anglican Girls Secondary School in Nnewi, has been a subject of intense debate in the last five days over the claim that she got 362 in this year’s UTME.
Interestingly, this whole controversy is happening weeks after Mmesoma had been celebrated for winning a N3m scholarship with her self-allotted UTME marks without anyone raising an eyebrow because nobody had an idea that it was fake. She was honoured on the basis of her claim without any confirmation from JAMB, the organisers of UTME. Perhaps, 19-year-old Mmesoma would have also enjoyed her scholarship in peace but for her insistence on being formally recognised by JAMB as the highest scorer in the 2023 UTME.
According to the Anambra State government, Mmesoma reported JAMB to the state Commissioner for Education for not recognising her as the candidate with the highest score. This prompted the ministry to complain to JAMB on her behalf only to hear a bombshell that she scored 249 as against the 362 she had claimed to get. Subsequently, the board issued a statement that the result she was parading was forged. JAMB has since withdrawn her 2023 results and barred her from sitting the exam for the next three years.
Mmesoma, however, is still insisting that she scored 362. The 19-year-old did a video holding a notification slip purportedly issued by JAMB. She also asked the public to disregard the allegation against her, stating that it had left her “traumatised”.
Meanwhile, JAMB said it stopped using the notification slip presented by Mmesoma in 2021 and challenged any candidate with a similar slip to show it to the world. But on Wednesday morning, the 19-year-old admitted that sheindeed received an automated text message from JAMB indicating that her score was 249 but that she saw 362 when she checked through the USSD code.
Despite this confession, Anambra State government still thinks the forged result should be investigated. It says it is not satisfied with the way JAMB went to social media to describe Mmesoma’s result as fake while an investigation into the matter was still ongoing. Professor Charles Soludo, the state governor has brought together six professors, one PhD holder and a managing director of the state Information Communication Technology Agency to investigate the matter.
It is not exactly clear what these professors are expected to investigate as the state government is yet to reveal the committee’s terms of reference. It is also yet to indicate the time frame within which it must submit its report, neither has it told us what it intends to do with its findings.
If you ask me, I would say this is a complete waste of time, energy and taxpayers’ resources. But going by the way the Mmesoma’s issue has taken an ethnic dimension, the people of Anambra may not really care if the entire state resources go into looking for what is not missing.
I mean what is the point in setting up a panel to investigate how a result was forged when different apps used in falsifying results are commonplace online. Would the investigation force JAMB to accept a compromised notification of results as a genuine one. What exactly is Anambra government trying to achieve? I am just curious.
Is this not a straightforward issue? JAMB is empowered to display scores of candidates in UTME. It has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mmesoma’s result is 249. It has said that this candidate got this message at least six times through her telephone and she herself has now confirmed this to be true. JAMB has proved that the notification slip being paraded is obsolete and that it belonged to a 2021 candidate whose birth date and names are completely different from Mmesoma’s.
JAMB issues results. It is the only one that can authenticate its result based on whatever security features it relies on. So, what else is Anambra government investigating? Some people have even gone to the ridiculous level of asking for an Independent Technology Investigation to unearth how this candidate obtained the 362-score result she is parading as if what has happened is so strange in Nigeria’s history of exam malpractice.
For those who care to know, there is absolutely nothing special about Mmesoma’s case. it’s just a case of forgery as many others. JAMB told us about somebody that neither obtained a form nor sat the exam, yet claimed to score 380. This person also had a notification slip bearing his name, exam centre, registration number and scores. He was also bold enough to tell his clan that he was not getting the due recognition that he deserved from JAMB. The village people also went to JAMB to protest only to find out that he didn’t even obtain the UTME form. Just this March, the Federal University, Gusau, Zamfara State identified 27 students that forged their results. The affected students comprised of both UTME and DE students – 20 of them were from UTME 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. They were all expelled from the university. So, cases of forgery are not a big deal among UTME candidates. Or does it mean that Mmesoma cannot forge her result simply because she said she is not “capable” of doing so or because she is not an ‘illiterate?’
And for those asking JAMB to investigate how the girl got her fake result. That shouldn’t be the responsibility of the board. JAMB should ensure the sanctity of its results. It should make it impossible for candidates to gain admission into Nigeria’s higher institutions using fake results. JAMB cannot stop candidates from attempting to forge their results through whatever app that is available online. But it ought to make sure that those who use any unscrupulous means to fake their results don’t get away with it. It has succeeded in doing that in this case and honestly, that is enough.
The truth is while no one may categorically declare that JAMB under Professor Ishaq Oloyede as 100 per cent flawless, the fact remains that the board has moved far away from where it used to be especially in its use of technology to curb exam malpractices. As far back as September 2021, I wrote an article titled, “JAMB under Oloyede and Use of Technology.” In that article, I mentioned that the Professor of Islamic Studies had reaffirmed my belief that there was nothing peculiar about Nigeria’s problems – that we only needed courageous, sincere and selfless people in leadership positions to tackle them. JAMB has consistently deployed technology to improve on its exam delivery. The introduction of the National Identification Number (NIN) in 2021 ensures that only real and legitimate candidates register with the Board. This is one of its most innovative developments so far.
To further check fraud, the Board has banned all third-party interactions on its portal for any of its services. That is why the board could confidently state that Mmesoma’s falsification of her results couldn’t have happened without her knowledge. In today’s JAMB, nobody, including parents or guardians or any proxy, can have access to transact any business on candidate’s profile because fingerprint (or OTP) is required.
JAMB has also put in place measures to detect fake result slips and admission letters. Anybody can download the JAMB QR scanner on their phone, scan everything and use it to verify the security features on documents such as name, registration number, institution/ programme, etc. The QR code has also been provided as replacement to access IBASS and it is printed at the back of the reading text.
JAMB updates its technology to combat new systems of cheating by its candidates. For example, it has discovered that capturing of fresh facial and finger biometric images of candidates encourages impersonation and substitution of paid examination takers with real candidates and it is working on how to surmount this challenge.
Am I saying, the board is free of challenges? No. Its biggest headache is still the problem of exam malpractice in different forms. It recently listed the role of private school operators aiding and abetting exam malpractice, impersonation and substitution of real candidates by paid exam takers as a major challenge. There is also the problem of fraudulent CBT owners, parents encouraging exam malpractice, mass cheating by syndicates, prolonged investigation and high cost of prosecution of cases.
But in terms of quality assurance, the board has a robust system of verifying every result of candidates in its exam. Before it declares a result as fake, it must have passed through its acid test. There is nothing else to investigate in the fake result slip that Mmenosa is showing to the world. JAMB has done a good job in discovering the fraudulent attempt to create a fake result. It has also done well in preventing the fraud with its system. JAMB has every right to make a pronouncement on any candidate carrying fake slip. It also has the power to sanction such candidate, according to its laid down rules.
This notwithstanding, I am concerned about what could have pushed this young girl to do all that she did. Could she be under pressure to live up to some standard set for her in school, by her teachers, parents or others in the society? Or could she just be desperate to get enough marks to get her to the university of her choice? Afterall, a candidate had confessed to JAMB in the past that he inflated his scores because he was under pressure to study Medicine and he needed to falsify his scores to please his father. I think this is what should be investigated. This is a more profitable investigation-better than chasing the shadows.
Having said this, it’s important to clarify that Mmesona is just a reflection of the decay in the Nigerian society where many political and appointed leaders parade forged documents to gain access to power with impunity. The idea is that if these ones can get away with it why not us? Honestly, the level of confidence displayed by Mmesona in plying a lie is alarming. Nigerian leaders need to lead by example. What future are we building?
Olabisi Deji-Folutile is the editor-in-chief, Franktalknow.com and director at AF24NEWS.COM. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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