‘Jamb is Exploiting Us’ – Cybercafé Operators:
Cybercafé operators in the country have urged President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly to examine the books of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, with a view to checking its alleged excesses and exploitation.
This came as The PUNCH investigations on Monday showed that the examination body realised over N56m as non-refundable caution fees from cybercafé operators participating in this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination e-registration exercise alone.
The board conducts the UTME for candidates seeking admission to the nation’s universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
This year’s Paper Pencil Test and Dual-Based Test will hold on April 5, while the board has yet to fix a date for the Computer-Based Test.
For each authorised cybercafe operator to transact any business with JAMB and interface with the potential candidates, the examination body demanded and collected N10,000 non-refundable caution fees.
Information obtained from the board’s website on Monday showed that no fewer than 5,628 of such cybercafé operators registered with JAMB for this year’s online registration.
They paid the sum to a designated Zenith Bank account (UTME12CYBER; account number 1012830959).
Besides, they obtained a biometric scanner for the exercise for a sum ranging between N15,000 and N20,000.
Operators who bought the item directly from the board, it was learnt, paid N15,000; while those who obtained it via JAMB distributors paid N20,000. However, the purchase of the scanner is not renewable.
But findings by our correspondent show that Lagos State tops the list of the number of cybercafés that registered with the board in this year’s exercise — with 1, 132 operators. The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, comes second with 391 operators, while Rivers State is third with 389 operators.
Ogun and Delta states come fourth and fifth, posting 276 and 269 operators for the exercise, while the sixth and seventh slots go to Oyo State (237) and Kaduna State (214) respectively.
Zamfara State has the least number of cybercafés with nine operators. Yobe, Sokoto, Kebbi and Jigawa states post 13, 16, 18 and 19 operators in that order.
Meanwhile, some of the operators, who spoke to our correspondent have urged the Presidency and the National Assembly to examine the alleged exploitation.
The operators, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation from the board, said there was no justification for the “huge registration fees”.
According to them, the sum has, at times, prompted them to exceed the official N700 for candidates’ full registration and printing of two copies of e-registration slips to enable them to meet other exigencies.
The operators, who said other examination bodies such as the West African Examinations Council and the National Examinations Council do not collect such registration fees, also alleged that the board, during the 2011/2012 UTME registration exercise, collected N10, 000 refundable caution fees from them.
Till date, they alleged, the money has not been refunded.
But the JAMB Head of Public Relations, Mr. Fabian Benjamin, said those who paid the fee in 2011 did not make another registration payment during the 2012/2013 exercise.
He said, “Initially, we were not collecting any registration fee from them. But we realised that many of them were not transacting the business with transparency; hence, we introduced the registration fee.
“In 2011, the sum was refundable, but when that did not come through, we ensured that those of them who participated in 2012 exercise did not pay any further fee. Again, by 2012, the fee had become non-refundable.”
Meanwhile, the official sum for the 2014 UTME application form is N4,000, while N700 is the service charge for the authorised cybercafé operators.
The board is also to provide candidates with writing materials and calculators at the point of purchase of the e-registration scratch cards.
Besides, findings by our correspondent show that the board has not been providing candidates the writing materials and calculators at the point of purchase.
It, nonetheless, has been providing the soft and the hard copies of the admission brochures to the candidates.
However, further findings on Monday show that many of the candidates who obtained the application form paid between N5,000 and N8,000.
For instance, at the Zenith Bank, Ikotun, Lagos State, the form alone sold for N5,000, without the accompanying writing materials and calculators.
On the non-availabilty of the writing materials and calculators, Benjamin said it was deliberate.
According to him, the board has made adequate arrangement to provide candidates with the materials on the day of the examinations.
He said, “The board has decided to provide the materials to the candidates at the point of entry. Many students, especially those who want to cheat, come up with all manner of excuses. Some will tell you that they have lost their materials, while some will tell you that fire burnt their home. So, we have decided to come to the centres with the materials. The distribution will be ready 24 hours before the examination.
At Bigos Computer House on Ikwerre Road in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the form sold for N4,000, while the cost of processing was N700.
But at Vantage Project Services, the form and processing went for N5,500. Vantage Project Services is on Nsukka Street in Port Harcourt.
Similarly, Media City Computer Service, another business centre, on Nsukka Street, performed the same role for N5,500.
Operators of tutorial centres, who volunteer to assist the candidates in the full registration, collect amounts far ahead of the official N4,000. In fact, they collect between N7,000 and N10,000.