Pupils who altered their Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) scores are battling to extricate themselves from facing the law. The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is insisting they must serve as a deterrent to others, writes FRANK IKPEFAN
KINGSLEY Unekwe is 18 years old. He sat for the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), organised by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). Ordinarily, by now, Unekwe ought to either have written the post-UTME examination in his university of choice or concluded his admission processes in the school. But, instead, he is battling to save himself from being sent to jail.
Perhaps, if he had known the consequences of engaging in unlawful alteration of one’s original UTME results, he may not have attempted it. But, like most young people of his age, Unekwe may not have thought through the consequences of his act.
JAMB accused him of manipulating the original result issued to him by the board in May this year, from 201 to 269. He later confessed to the crime during a sitting at the Sheraton Hotels, Abuja, before a panel set up by JAMB to probe cases of alleged ‘double results’ witnessed this year.
Unekwe is one of four UTME candidates, who may soon be arraigned in court for allegedly altering their examination results. The other three are – Adah Eche (19), Cletus Kokowa, and Rejoice Mordi (19). They were all apprehended between June and September this year by JAMB and handed over to the police for investigation and prosecution.
Eche was arrested on June 24 for allegedly changing his score from 153 to 290.
The 19-year-old allegedly confessed to the crime. He confessed that some social media users (whose identities he failed to disclose) helped him to alter the results.
He said the unknown social media users claimed they could alter JAMB results. Eche said he called the numbers provided by the fraudsters to seek their help to add to his score. What turned out to be a fake result slip was later sent to him.
Kokowa was arrested in Abuja on July 4 by officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) on an allegation that he engaged a syndicate to alter his score from 162 to 206 after paying N10, 000.
Mordi was apprehended on September 8 for allegedly altering her score from 164 to 264. The candidate told JAMB that she got the fake results from an agent identified as Iyanu Oluwa through WhatsApp.
JAMB seeks prosecution
JAMB Registrar Prof. Is-haq Oloyede has vowed to ensure that Unekwe and others are prosecuted by the law of the land. Oloyede said his agency has recorded five of such cases of candidates caught in result falsification.
How the bubble burst
Unekwe would have been an undergraduate by now, but for his parent’s disapproval. When he wrote the examination in 2018, he scored 232 in that year’s UTME and was offered admission by JAMB to study Geology. But his father, a professor of Medicine of over 30 years standing, was said to have rejected the course, insisting that his son must study medicine. His parents wanted him to study medicine at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Earlier this year, when Unekwe presented his 2019 UTME score to his parents, they were happy, thinking that their son was on a good path to ending up in the same profession as his father. Unekwe was said to have presented 269, as his score, to his mother, which she printed to process his admission into the university.
When the school invited him for the post-UTME test, discrepancies were noticed in his score. What the school had from JAMB as his score was 201, while he paraded 269 as his score. Subsequent checks of the result from JAMB portal showed his earlier score of 201.
Angered by the confusion, Unekwe’s parents caused a petition to be written to JAMB, in which they among others, blamed the examination body for the inconsistencies and demanded that it corrected the error in the result released to their son.
At the receipt of the petition, JAMB invited the angry parents to its headquarters in Bwari, Abuja, and subsequently to the sitting of its probe panel, which sat in Sheraton Hotels, Abuja. But only his mother turned up with the son. The panel of the investigation was particularly set up by the board to look at cases of alleged double results by candidates, arising from the conduct of the 2019 UTME.
Initially, Unekwe had tried to play a smart one on the board by insisting that the 269 UTME score was his original result, not knowing that the software used by JAMB had registered his activities.
For a long time, he maintained his initial story, insisting that he never tampered with the UTME result issued to him. At some point, his story almost made him the victim. But that story soon changed after he was shown evidence of the several attempts he made to check his result.
In the course of the panel’s proceedings, members excused mother and son to enable them to have a private moment where the mother conversed with his son on the issue. When they returned about 30 minutes later, the story changed.
Unekwe told members of the panel and reporters (who witnessed the proceedings) how he allegedly manipulated the initial score to reflect the 269.
He said: “When JAMB released results, people were checking and I was checking mine and nothing was coming out. People were checking and getting their results, so I gave a friend my phone to help me check. When he came, he showed me 269 as a screenshot.
“But when I went to my room and shut my door and checked, I saw 201. I was shocked and checked again, it was 201, that was when my dad called if I had seen my result and I said no, I have not seen it yet. He now said okay, I should leave till the next day.
“The next day, I still saw 201. I was now confused. When my parents asked again, I showed them 269.”
Reacting to the turn of event, the mother said she felt betrayed and dumbfounded by the boy’s revelation that 201 was his actual score. “I’m dumbfounded. Had it been he told me all this, we won’t have come here,” she said.
Unekwe’s case brings to the fore a possible negative effect of parental influence on children, as often noted by Oloyede. He had repeatedly blamed parents for the increasing rate of examination malpractices in the country.
Oloyede had accused parents of putting pressure on their children beyond their strength. He once argued that the pressure from parents often prevents children from focusing on their areas of strength.
“Because your father is a professor of Medicine, he wants you to study Medicine at all cost. That is the problem; that is where parents create problems for their kids and that is why you got yourself involved in this type of faking in other to convince them.
“You are the fifth person. Two of them are already being prosecuted because we showed them clearly that they forged their results to deceive their desperate parents like your parents are for you to study medicine.
“We will prosecute you for attempting to damage the image of the board. We told your father that we have all the facts, if we find out that the facts are not correct you will be prosecuted,” he said about Unekwe’s case.
What the law says
Under the Criminal Code Act (applicable in the Southern part of the country), forgery is an offence. The Act provides, in Chapter 44, two to three years jail term, with an option of fine, as punishment for forgery. The Penal Code Act (applicable in the Northern part) also has similar provisions (with a maximum of 14 years), where the guilt of the alleged offender is proved.
On the offence of forgery, the Criminal Code Act reads: “Any person, who forges any document, writing, or seal, is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a felony, and he is liable if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years.”
The task before the prosecutor
A rights activist Sunday Essienekak, said: “Forgery can be found under Section 262-380 of the Penal Code Law of the Federation. And, under the Criminal Code, which is available in the South, the punishment for forgery is about two to three years. The punishment in the south is lower than the punishment in the north. And the provision for forgery in the south is provided under Section 293-312.”
Essienekak, who is a public interest litigation lawyer, added: “If they (alleged offenders) have forged documents and are brought before the court and the court convicts them, the years and terms of imprisonment can extend to fourteen years imprisonment with an option to pay fine.
“But before they can prove forgery, the state or JAMB must be able to show that the document was forged and that the boy was in possession of that document and that he had knowledge that that document was forged and that he wanted to dishonestly use it.
“Those are the things that the prosecution must have to scale through. They must prove that the document was forged, they must prove that the guy knew that the document was forged, they must prove that he was in possession of the forged document then they must also prove that he intended to use that document for a purpose either to his advantage or to his disadvantage.”
JAMB’s strategies against malpractices
On JAMB’s strategies against malpractices, Oloyede said unknown to some fraudsters, the board was ahead of them. He said that JAMB has decided to release candidates’ results directly to institutions of their choice to forestall situations in the past where candidates falsified results and presented them to their institution for admission.
Also, JAMB’s Head of Information, Dr Fabian Benjamin, said that the board has cancelled the results of the candidates. He said that anybody who does post-result infractions will have their results withdrawn by the board.
Benjamin said that the board would continue to act responsibly in its fight against infractions. The JAMB spokesperson said that whosoever was found wanting would be dealt with according to established laws irrespective of his/her position in the society.
He said: “Our major preoccupation in this area is to keep the various laws concerning examination malpractices active, we will not abdicate our responsibilities and whoever is found wanting will be dealt with according to established norms and laws irrespective of his/her position in the society. Our staff are not exempted from this renewed resolve on the board.
“To announce clearly that it’s no longer business as usual, the board has spread its anti-examination malpractice dragnets to all nooks and crannies of the nation. Malpractices as it affects public examination, implied infractions before the conduct of examination, during registration, at the conduct of examination and after an examination.
“Even when admitted, a candidate could be apprehended and accordingly punished if found to have benefited from such unholy acts. The good news here is that we are committed to screening candidates all through the processes even after they are admitted.
“At the moment we are running checks on candidates currently in our tertiary institutions through several platforms and once anyone is caught, he/she will not only be expelled but prosecuted.
“We advised any candidate who had benefited from any infraction to own up before it’s too late and for upcoming candidates to stay away from such acts as with our present facilities, they will certainly be caught.”
JAMB’s deterrent measures
The JAMB spokesperson explained that over 200 candidates were arrested for one infraction or another during the 2019 UTME.
He said some of the candidates were arrested during registration exercise and are being prosecuted, adding that the board has secured several convictions in Zamfara and Kebbi states.
“A good number was equally arrested during the main conduct and after the examination, some were arrested for result falsification.
“The recent arrests are those arrested for result falsification. About seven candidates were arrested for falsifying results and claiming that the board issued them two separate results.
“Such candidates were invited to come forward with their claims and when confronted with proofs they confessed that they forged the results due to pressure from their parents for them to read programmes that require higher score and because they scored less they decided to falsify the results not knowing that they could be detected.
“These candidates are presently being prosecuted and the board is determined to follow up to ensure that they are convicted to serve as a deterrent to other,” he added