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Refund of post-UTME excess charges

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Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu

The order by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, to forty-two tertiary institutions to refund the excess payments candidates made for last year’s post-UTME test is unnecessary and smacks of military mentality.

While it may be populism, it is one taken too far and has the potential to compromise standards. More importantly, it is a ruse that does not speak to the real and fundamental problems, especially of standards, in the nation’s tertiary education system.

Worldwide, tertiary institutions are autonomous with powers to conduct examinations and set standards in line with the vision and mission of the institutions. Nowhere in the world are universities and other tertiary institutions made to fit into one tight compartment.

Standards do differ and conducts vary from one institution to the other. Uniformity has never been the culture of learning. For distinction and competitive standards, each institution should be free to operate liberally, and of course, within the ambit of the law.

Each institution has an enabling Act that guides its operations. The Senate or Governing Board of each institution constitutes the highest authority that decides how things should be done.

It is, therefore, in bad faith for the Minister of Education to arrogate unto himself powers to impose on all institutions what should be charged for the post-UTME test that in itself is a controversial exercise.

The fact that the cost of living and cost of services across the country differ is the more reason the institutions cannot possibly charge the same fee for the same test.

Already, there is no uniformity in the tuition fees and other charges in the institutions in Nigeria. Why the fees charged for the post-UTME test should be uniform beats the imagination.

Each institution is in a better position to determine the appropriate fee, taking due consideration of the unique circumstances affecting the conduct of the test. Any argument that the fees should be uniform to reduce burden on parents, therefore, is, at best, empty.

In the first place, the fact that candidates are compelled to take another test after the JAMB entrance examination is a burden over which a debate is still raging.

The burden can only be reduced if the test is entirely scrapped. After all, the post-UTME was scrapped in 2016 but arbitrarily re-introduced in 2017 despite all the complaints against it.

Reports say the Minister directed some 42 tertiary institutions that charged more than the N2, 000 official fees for the post–Unified Tertiary Matriculation test to refund such excess payment to the candidates.

The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, who made the disclosure at a stakeholders meeting in Abuja said some institutions had started complying with the directive.

He reiterated that the Minister had warned tertiary institutions against charging above the stipulated N2, 000 for the test to reduce the burden on parents, adding that those that failed would be sanctioned and made to refund the excess payment.

Accordingly, the Minister directed that the institutions should pay the money to a non-religious orphanage owned by the government or individuals in any situation whereby a candidate could not be traced.

As outlandish as the order is, it is surprising that some of the institutions have started complying rather than putting up a position that the order was ill-advised. It goes to reveal the poor personality of some of the heads of Nigeria’s institutions who, it would seem, are easily cowed to submission by officialdom and cannot put their feet down to defend their own integrity.

Today’s Vice-Chancellors appear too beggarly, docile and bend readily to any direction without questioning. This is not only bad for academic excellence, it portends danger for the future.

It needs to be emphasized that whereas the Minister and the National Universities Commission (NUC), are mere regulators. The day-to-day running of the institutions is the responsibility of the VCs, rectors and the Governing Board of the institutions, as the case may be.

Consequently, the heads of the institution should not allow themselves to be dictated to or manipulated, otherwise standards will continue to go down.

The confusion that has trailed the re-introduction of the post-UTME test in tertiary educational institutions over the fees payable by candidates continues to fester because there is no law institutionalising it. The test has become so controversial and ought to be challenged in court of law.

The Act setting up JAMB empowers it to conduct entrance examinations to qualify candidates for entry into the nation’s tertiary institutions. After JAMB has discharged this responsibility, introducing another exam, however, well intended, is illegal.

The House of Representatives had stressed that the introduction of post-UTME in universities is subjective, stressful, and exploitative of parents and candidates and therefore an aberration. It noted that the universities conduct post matriculation exams only to raise internally generated revenue (IGR) to the detriment of poor candidates and parents.

The House of Representatives should therefore act to defend its mandate by passing a law to scrap the post-UTME or enact one to guide its conduct in order to create sanity in the system.


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