Varsity admissions and illegality
It is, indeed, very disturbing that against the background of the recent verdict of a Federal High Court in Abuja outlawing the conduct of post-University Tertiary Matriculation Examination (post-UTME) in the country, the Federal Government is still talking about conducting the test for this year’s admission exercise into tertiary institutions. This is unacceptable in a democracy where the rule of law should be sacrosanct.
What example is the government setting by standing the law on its head every now and then? What hope is there when the rule of law is trampled upon? Government should learn to obey court orders to save this country from turning into a banana republic where lawlessness is the norm.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, recently announced the conduct of this year’s post-UTME against all legal injunctions. The announcement was made during this year’s Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) Policy Meeting on Admissions into Tertiary Institutions at Gbongan, Osun State.
Adamu also cautioned the tertiary institutions against illegal admissions. But how the minister could be disobeying a court order on one hand and at the same time advocating compliance with legality on another hand is ridiculous and amounts to double standards.
Whereas the institutions are being forced to follow laid down rules, the minister should do also likewise.
Besides, warning the institutions against charging more than N2000 for the post-UTME examination is uncalled for as the cost of living is not the same across the country. The point is that there should be no post-UTME in the first place.
A lot has been said about the flaws inherent in the post-UTME exercise. That the institutions are using it to make money rather than ensuring quality is well known. Aside from being a burden on parents and guardians, many candidates have lost their lives in fatal accidents travelling to take the test.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had, last March, declared the post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (Post-UTME) conducted by universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in Nigeria illegal, saying there was no extant law authorising the exercise.
The judgment was delivered following a suit filed by the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) against the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, the Minister of Education and the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Justice John Tsoho held that the defendants have no power to allow or direct tertiary institutions to conduct further screening of candidates after they had taken the examination required by law for admission into universities.
Furthermore, the court held that only the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board could conduct matriculation examinations and give admissions into tertiary institutions by virtue of Section 5 (1) (2) of the JAMB Act.
The court then issued a perpetual injunction restraining all tertiary institutions in the country from conducting the Post-UTME or any other form of admission screening tests.
JAMB, in opposing the suit argued that LEDAP had no locus standi to institute the action but the court rejected the objection and held that a registered non-governmental organisation (NGO) or an activist lawyer is allowed by law to pursue in court, the right of the largely ignorant members of the society.
LEDAP had submitted that Section 5 (1) (2) of the JAMB Act provides that the body should conduct matriculation examinations for admissions into all tertiary institutions.
Subsection (2) (3) provides thus: “JAMB shall be responsible for determining matriculation requirements and conducting examinations leading to undergraduate admissions and also for admission to National Diploma and the Nigerian Certificate in Education courses.”
The plaintiff noted that since 2005, tertiary institutions nationwide had been illegally conducting tests and screening candidates seeking admission in violation of Section 5 (10) (2) of the JAMB Act.
The court agreed with the plaintiff and further held that the defendants had the responsibility to ensure compliance with the JAMB Act and that the imposition of the post-UTME on candidates seeking admission was illegal and unlawful.
It is, however, curious that JAMB, whose mandate and credibility is being protected by the judgment, opposed such.
Given the subsisting judgment, which has not been vacated by any court of law, of what essence is the proposal to conduct another post-UTME?
Why are Nigerians still talking about post-UTME since neither JAMB nor the National Universities Commission (NUC) nor any tertiary institution is known to have appealed the case. Unless vacated, the verdict has to be obeyed whether any institution likes it or not. The institutions should therefore be allowed to carry out their admission exercises using JAMB scores and other academic criteria recognised by the law.
Government, of course, should not be disobeying court orders. Disobeying the courts is contemptuous of the judiciary, undermines the rule of law and erodes the foundation of democracy.