Comrade Maxwell Chiadikobi Akwuruoha is the National President of the CBT Proprietor Association of Nigeria (CPAN). He is also the Proprietor Unique ICT and Innovative Institute, Jamb CBT Centre approved in Abuja. In this interview with Ayo Fadimu, he speaks on the challenges faced by the members of the Association and other issues surrounding JAMB examinations and other sundry issues. Excerpts.
What are the procedures and requirement for JAMB to approve an ICT centre?
Actually the innovation to test student electronically started precisely in 2013 when JAMB wooed Private investors to come into the investment for the infrastructure needed for the E-test. At that time, JAMB encouraged members by paying them upfront, and providing some of them with computers, VSAT and the stated criteria. Over time the criteria changed. For now the criteria states that you must have 275 computers networked in a building, well air-conditioned, enough lightening system with adequate line, and CCTV connection. The total estimate of investment per centre is about N30million and once you are able to meet up with these requirement, JAMB then gives a temporal accreditation that entitles the centre to host the exam. The bane has actually been so funny that with N30million worth investment, there is no document of relationship between what the CBT proprietors are doing in consonance with what their centres are doing in relation to Jamb. Jamb has strategically repressed and underused centres by making sure that there is no Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and documents of relationship. Even a paper contractor tends to have a document with Jamb to show that he is a contractor.
What is the current membership size of the Association?
Actually in record, we have about 714 accredited CBT centres across the Federation. It is on record that Private CBT centres are above 60 per cent and we also have other fractions made up of private public partnership and public centres owned by public Institutions like those of UNILAG, ABU, UNN as the case may be. JAMB also has model centres but the Association is well established across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT. Out of the 714 centres, we are very sure that over 500 of these proprietors cutting across both public centres that have indicated interest to join this Association in line with the objectives. Interestingly, the new leadership under my watch has actually embarked on a fast-track study mission to understudy the challenges that have been facing the CBT project across the country; on the one hand exam malpractices and the other technical issues that parents, guardians and stakeholders have actually seen as matters of concern.
So we have membership strength of over 500 members and I can assure in good record that I have travelled over 24 states of the Federation, trying to strengthen the Association to get close range facts from proprietors across the Federation.
After the review of the criteria, how many of your members could not meet up with Jamb’s requirement?
Actually, part of the problems the Association tried to check is the policy through which JAMB used to review its standard and that’s why we are asking for a MOU. We well know that the huge investments made by proprietors in the CBT project can only be accounted for to only conduct a week exam and may be after a month of registration. On our part, proprietors have complained that they are suspecting that Jamb alternates and randomizes the criteria.
How many proprietors lost out?
Over 118 lost out in a new whimsical criteria that proprietors should own properties, and that those who established their centers in schools should not be qualified as centres anymore. They did this in a very unofficial manner without writing to those affected. It was done in a hidden manner and there was a publication that even attributed exam malpractice to that, but when we approached officially, the only thing we heard which is unofficial is that those who established their centres in schools will no longer be qualified as centres. 189 multiplied by N30million is over N4billion worth investment.
Jamb has accused members of your Association as the brain behind examination malpractices. What’s your response to that?
As an Association, we actually acknowledged the sacredness of any 21st century and every formal organisations. We cannot in any way begin to write an undertaken for our members. The only thing we can assure Nigerians as expected from other Associations, is that just as the Senate cannot be condemned because one senator slapped someone in a sex shop, or as in other cases of scandal, CPAN is saying that we cannot start dictating to the tone of our members but if our member is caught in this, the full weight of the law should rest on them. We also as an Association has a holistic view that exam malpractices is not the invention of CBT centre owners. Exam malpractices actually starts in primary school when parents tend to influence their children’s performance in common entrance. Exam malpractices starts when parent tries to make their children jump classes. Exam malpractices is also fueled by the pressure that the universities are faced with insufficient amount of institutions and space for admission. Even at that, this is not a defense for any of our member to engage in malpractices. Another misconception to exam malpractice is that the attempt to test these students electronically, came with a demand for these students to have electronic and digital skills. What we are have noticed from these students is that 90 per cent of them who have moved from JSS1 to SS3 have not had the opportunity to spend up to one hour in their whole life time with computers. So when these students come into our halls for exams, many of them have problems operating the computers. In a bid to attempt to assist them on how to operate the systems, there might be something likely akin to exam malpractices. Exam malpractices has also been badly reported making it look like it is only in private centres you can only find malpractices, which brings into light a need for digital literacy programme.
There are other conducts that have been attributed to Jamb staff. Precisely in Abuja, in a centre at Federal Science Secondary School, Torozo, a Jamb adhoc staff was actually seen on camera harassing a student sexually which was acknowledged by Jamb itself. That case was badly managed. The Jamb Registrar was not asked to resign. Jamb have it on record that it has less than 2000 workers, but they execute the exam with almost 8, 000 workers. We have noticed that some of these ad hoc staff are badly trained and Jamb cant also vouch for their characters. What we are saying as an Association, not exempting our members, is that exam malpractices cut across all boards, whether, private, public, or even Jamb model centres. Exam malpractice is an invention that should be looked at holistically as it affects both private and public centres even to 0level exams. So exam malpractice is not an invention of private centres investors. As an Investor personally, I will be interested in how to recoup my N30million worth investment and I will want to do that in a more honourable way that will also present me as a patriotic Nigerian that is in line with the next level agenda of the nation.
As an Association, what have you done in form of Corporate Social Responsible to train students digitally in terms of the CBT Jamb test?
As an Association, since 2016 we have been undertaking a whole lots of programmes and it is unfortunate that I am been compelled to begin to mention some of the challenges we had faced as an Association in actually making sure our programmes get across to most importantly the indigent ones in the country. Basically, we have undertaken projects like Digital Literacy Summer Camps. These summer camps have been held in places like Abuja, Port Harcourt and even Lagos. We have also seen lots of our members who have developed several programs. There was one of our member who developed a program known as “Exam Mate” which students can use to train themselves. What we do is to get this E-solutions available in all centres and have students come for training for free. The challenge has been bringing stakeholders to support these projects. The challenge we have had is that most times you see Jamb trying to intimidate us.
(Cuts in) In what way?
By saying that the content in these solutions belongs to them even though we do not have any paper where Jamb has published their past questions. I’m a biologist and its part of my social responsibility to teach. If as a Bio-chemist I cannot be employed as a Bio-chemist in Nigeria, I should be able to teach these students biology, and if I can teach students making use of text books, I should be able to set questions and If I can set questions and make publications from these books, then there is nothing wrong in transmitting these into E-solutions. When I do that, even if I should pick contents from Jamb, I should not be facing intimidation from Jamb telling me that I am using their contents. That has been the bane, with Jamb coming to confront and challenge us that we are using contents that belongs to them. But CPAN has gotten a more comprehensive response. There will be a project for the launching of about one million questions looking at Jamb syllabus..
In what way have you rallied around to make Jamb see reasons with you?
At the end of the southern tour, we held a press conference which actually addressed holistically the challenges with regards to examination malpractices thoroughly; and with regards to technical issues, we had a thorough, gigantic and pedagogic response to the challenges. Specifically on the 5th of September, we paid a cordial visit to Jamb office, writing to them cordially and presenting all issues to them. Severally we have attempted approaching Jamb, but very unfortunate, instead of addressing the issues, they will pick out the leader of the Association and attempt to intimidate or even victimize his centre. We hope that Jamb will also respond to our concerns officially. What we are looking at is Nigeria and not any other primordial interest. We are looking at the Nigerian child, the place of technology, and the new drive of technology in the education sector.
How you do see the new Jamb administration in conducting examination and tackling malpractices?
Part of the ideologies of CPAN is to stick to issues on their merit. On a very simple and straight response, we must commend the good will of the current registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede. He has shown good will in an attempt to curb exam malpractice, but that good will has not been holistic. We feel that for the goodwill to be proper, there should be a document of relationship that will state to what extent the activities of Jamb centre owners become examination malpractice, and that will also state to what extent the activities of its own staff who come to our centre become exam malpractice. He should also know as a religious cleric and a renowned educationist that you cannot be paying centres N600 since 2013 and returning billions of Naira to the federal government. We are not against returning money, but you cannot be returning billions to the federal government when centres are underpaid and the centres cannot sustain the CBT project. Also, he should be courageous enough to go into a document of relationship with centres and also look at what Jamb pays the centres.
What do want from Jamb?
What we want from Jamb is to review the current pay state from N600 to N1500 in comparison to other E-test project like IETF, TOFEL, GRA, and many others. We don’t want to engage Jamb on speculations where people are frowning at the fact that jamb is now living against the maxim of government being in business.
You are paid N600 per candidate, how much does Jamb collect?
For the registration lately, Jamb charged the students N4, 000 and it is unfortunate that out of the charges, N500 is actually for the test, while 3,500 was for the application form. Out of the N3500, only N600 is dedicated to the exam of a student. Funny enough, if Jamb will follow the Information Bill and expose their financial transaction, it will shock you that logistics takes more funds than the conduct of the exam itself. We also have some shocking facts that some professors and some friends of the Registrar who have various specific roles are paid over a million Naira above some centres that are paid 250, 000 a year. It’s a shocking fact that some centres are paid about N400, 000 for a whole year while some ad hoc Jamb staff are paid over a million for partaking in the exercise for a year. We are calling on investigative journalists to ascertain our claims. Where you have N30million worth of investments and per annum your revenue is around N400, 000 or 1, 000, 000, it means it will take you 30 years to recoup your investments. The cumulative investments of the Association members is about 20 billion and when you pay them N1billion per annum, it means it will take 20 years for the 20billion to be returned. We are not against the return of billions to the federal government, but we are telling the nation that these billions of Naira is a conservation technology has done by waving-off the cost of paper and print. It means our N20billion investment is threatened, subjugated, and in fact the new trend of the mega centres that Jamb is proposing to establish, is already a threat that the Private sector might be vanquished and we are saying that the investigative journalists should look into it.