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Promoting Good Governance.

SPECIAL REPORT: How Nigerian CBT centres swindle JAMB candidates using fake news

YOMI Okanlawon has just been offered admission by the University of Lagos into its Law programme. He received this news in September after logging into the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) portal. But going by a widely circulated information, this should not have been possible.

Different reports on the internet around the period claimed JAMB’s website had suffered a setback, thus requiring that all candidates to re-upload their ordinary level certificates to qualify for admission.

“Parents whose wards or relatives applied for admission into any of the Nigerian universities are requested to tell them to upload their O’ Level/WAEC result to JAMB as quickly as possible,” stated one of such messages.

“Without this,” it continued with a note of authority, “their admission will not work. This information is from the V.C. and should be spread to others. PRO, COOU [Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University].”

Okanlawon, who like many others registered on the JAMB platform in March, told The ICIR , he decided not to follow the instruction to re-upload as he saw similar claims in 2017 and had become skeptical. He noted that the claim started circulating in August, following the JAMB admission policy meeting in Osogbo, Osun State.

“The same thing happened last year,” he said. “They will say JAMB database has developed fault, so students should upload their O’ Level results. They also say that your failure to re-upload means you have forfeited your admission for the year.”

He added that he understood it was compulsory for candidates relying on the awaiting result option to upload their results as soon as they were obtained, but it made no sense for the rule to apply equally to everyone.

“Personally, I have seen over twenty people, like myself, who have been offered admission without having to re-upload. There is nothing like that,” he concluded.

Bloggers: unofficial JAMB spokespersons

Those who bear news of JAMB’s directive and the supposed implications on candidates desperately seeking admission are mostly bloggers. Not only do they share and confirm the claim, they also attempt to outmatch themselves in proffering solutions.

“JAMB has urged all applicants, both Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and Direct Entry candidates to re-upload WAEC result on JAMB Portal (WAEC, NECO, NABTEB etc) for 2018/2019 academic session admission exercise,” wrote Charles Obaleagbon, founder of St. Charles Educational Services who said he had been in “the educational business” since 2002.

“The only way you can re-upload your O’level result is to visit JAMB accredited CBT centre,” he added, in the blog post published in September.

He also emphasised, in the post, that re-uploading is compulsory, and urged readers to reach out to him for price negotiation.

Obaleagbon did not answer calls to his phone by The ICIR  to confirm the source of his information.

Another blog run by Uwalaka Michael Ikechukwu “and a team of educational experts” similarly announced, in October, that re-uploading of results is compulsory for all candidates, whether or not they are awaiting results.

“Have you uploaded your results before?” Michael asked. “If yes, JAMB has given another instruction and directive to all candidates irrespective of their results status. JAMB has asked all candidates to re-upload their results to JAMB portal.”

WhatsApp broadcast: “JAMB lost their database again.”

WhatsApp, a popular cross-platform instant messaging service, is another medium where the claim was widely circulated. A recent broadcast on the platform stated: “To my greatest surprise, JAMB lost their database again. Hence, you all should go and upload your O’ Level. Do that before this week runs out. Locate any nearest CBT centre.”

Yomi, the author of the broadcast, proceeded to direct readers to his blog so as to find out centres close to them. When The ICIR called to ask if JAMB was truly encountering challenges with their database, he said “not really”.

“The fact is that some students went to the CBT centre and noticed that their O’ Level was no longer there,” he explained. “Some of them said some of their subjects were missing. They uploaded nine subjects, but found eight.”

He admitted these could have happened as a result of the candidates’ carelessness while registering, and suggested it was better if everyone of them went back to the centre to confirm their status.

The narrative is however not headed in the same direction on all blogs. A middle-aged blogger, who preferred to be called Mr Techie, strongly debunked the rumour in one of his recent publications.

“I’ve got a student telling me that he had already uploaded his NECO result during UTME registration,” he wrote. “While he went to another CBT centre, they still re-uploaded it and charged N500 instead of telling him that it’s not for those who had done that earlier.”

“Well, this is Nigeria,” he went on. “Most people are just opportunists. Most CBT centres can be taking advantage of your innocence and fool you that they re-upload the result. But know this, they don’t. A professional and trusted CBT centre will tell you the truth.”

CBT centres smile to the bank

For 2018, JAMB accredited a total of 649 Computer-Based Test (CBT) registration centres across the country, with some states having four and others well over thirty. They are, without doubt, the greatest beneficiaries of the circulated rumour.

The ICIR gathers that centres in Lagos charge applicants between N500 and N1000 to re-upload their documents even though, according to JAMB PRO, Fabian Benjamin, they are not meant to demand above N100 (for applicants who registered with awaited results).

It appears some centres also partner with bloggers to lure unsuspecting clients. On October 4, Aliyu Khaliphah, owner of Crystal Gist, posted on a Facebook group with close to 90,000 members, constituting mostly JAMB applicants, that the board has instructed the re-uploading of results “due to the innovation of CAPS”.

He advised members to visit the nearest CBT centre or “contact us for the upload”. When our reporter called the phone number provided, Khaliphah confirmed he has a CBT centre that can be used and gave an initial price of N1000.

“Though I used to say N1000, that’s not the actual price,” he added seconds later. “I used to charge N700.”

When the reporter told him he was resident in Abuja, he was told to go to Masaka because “there, they charge N500.” There are only three accredited centres in the locality: ChildWorth International School, God’s Own Scholars Academy, and Kada Model ICT Centre.

Khaliphah advertises his services on a Facebook group: 2018/2019 JAMB and Universities Screening Updates

‘There is nothing like that’, JAMB PRO confirms

Benjamin, a Doctor of Policy Analysis and JAMB’s Head of Media and Publicity, told The ICIR in a phone interview that the board has merely admonished candidates who are yet to upload their results to do so.

“If you have done it before, you don’t need to do it again,” he affirmed. “It is just for those who have not done.”

He also said uploading of results is a service rendered freely at JAMB offices and done at a cost of N100 at various accredited CBT centres. He added that the board has no control over what is charged by other internet cafes, which often claim to have made the upload when they really have not.

“In any case, you can only upload in regulated CBT centres, owned by us or registered by us. When they go to internet cafes, they will tell them they have uploaded and collect their money. Meanwhile, when admission period comes, they’ll discover that they’ve not uploaded their results.”

When The ICIR asked if there was truly a need for candidates who applied in 2017 to re-upload their results, based on a series of tweets on JAMB’s verified handle, he said there is nothing like that, but added that he would get back. Texts sent to his phone containing details of the tweets have not been replied.

CBT centres: greatest, but not only beneficiaries

While it is true that the widely held misconception surrounding JAMB result upload has paid off financially for CBT centres, they are not the only ones profiting from it. Bloggers who, knowingly or unknowingly, spread the fake news are also beneficiaries.

Oluwaseyi Babajide, Creative Director at Unibadan Efiwe, an Ibadan-based education and entertainment blog, told The ICIR most bloggers, because of website traffic, often post news without bothering about their authenticity. They simply copy and paste without confirming, he said.

“That kind of news is really sensitive and catchy or should I say juicy,” he added. “So it would draw more attention and traffic.”

Another blogger and Benin-based political scientist, Oladosu Olaleye, said a second factor is the urge to be among the first to report. He proposed that, to curtail the spread of false information, JAMB should use its website and social media accounts more actively to keep candidates abreast of latest developments, so they don’t have to depend on blogs.

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