As a result of rising cases of certificate forgery among its workers and malpractices among schools and candidates, the National Examinations Council is taking a number of measures to sanitise the examination system, OLALEYE ALUKO reports
The National Examinations Council is currently verifying its workers and examination officers in its bid to fish out those in possession of forged certificates and to sanitise the examination system.
The Staff Certificate Verification Committee, which was set up by the acting Registrar of the council, Mr Abubakar Gana, has a mandate to verify and query the certificates being used by NECO workers.
The registrar set up the committee, headed by the Director of Human Resource Management, Mr Mustapha Abdul in 2019, in line with the council’s policy of zero tolerance for corruption, with the registrar directing that the committee should fish out any worker using fake certificates.
The council told our correspondent on Wednesday that about 157 members of staff of NECO had cases to answer concerning their certificates. It added that they were invited for further screening by the Verification Committee.
It was also discovered that 89 workers had been indicted by NECO and confirmed to be using fake certificates.
The council’s Governing Board has directed that the 89 workers are not only dismissed from NECO, but also their files should be transferred to the police and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission for prosecution.
Of the 89 dismissed workers, NECO said on Wednesday that most of them are Executive Officers and General Duties personnel. Meanwhile, five of them are Chief Examination Officers, four are Principal Examination Officers while six are Senior Examination Officers.
The first phase of the big stick wielded by the council started on November 15, 2019, when the Governing Board directed that 70 of the 89 workers be dismissed and quit from work henceforth.
NECO’s Verification Committee had contacted the schools and tertiary institutions which the affected workers claimed they attended and found out that they did not obtain such school’s certificates
“The committee contacted the schools which the affected workers claimed to have attended but the institutions denied them. On completion of the assignment, the committee submitted its findings to the NECO management which forwarded it to the NECO Governing Board.
“At its 17th extra-ordinary meeting, the Governing Board vetted the report and approved the dismissal of the affected staff. The acting Registrar has no tolerance for corruption and is sanitising the system in line with the President’s anti-corruption stance,” the NECO Head of Information and Public Relations Division, Mr Azeez Sani, explained.
The second phase of the verification exercise took place in February 2020 and 19 workers were found to be in possession of fake certificates.
The Governing Board of the council, led by the Chairman, Dr Abubakar Saddique, reconvened on February 25 for its 52nd Regular meeting and approved the dismissal of the affected staff.
“The NECO’s Governing Board approved the dismissal. The Staff Certificate Verification Committee carried out its assignment diligently by inviting some workers with questionable credentials to appear before it, during which the affected personnel attested that their certificates were forged. The certificate verification exercise which is ongoing is aimed at sanitising the system,” Sani added.
The council told our correspondent on Wednesday that over 1,000 workers had been screened and the 89 dismissed personnel would be prosecuted by the police and the ICPC.
The council said, “The screening is for all NECO workers nationwide, whether at state level, in the zonal offices or the headquarters. The details of those found with issues of falsification of results or certificates have been given to the ICPC and the police for prosecution.
“It is difficult to predict the duration of the exercise, since the responses from institutions are gradual and the concerned members are only invited for screening if there are issues raised on them by their institutions.
“Of the 89 workers, five are Chief Examination Officers, four are Principal Examination Officers while six are Senior Examination Officers. There is no Assistant Director, Deputy Director or Director found to have falsified results or certificates so far.”
Our correspondent learnt that NECO would not beam its searchlight on only its workers. The council also planned to investigate students of various tertiary institutions who used forged NECO certificates to gain admission to the schools.
On March 2, 2020, the council received four students from the University of Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory, who were taken to court for allegedly forging their NECO certificates.
The four suspects reportedly used the NECO results to gain admission, but they were found out when the council embarked on a screening exercise at the university.
The screening exercise is not limited to the University of Abuja; it is ongoing in some major tertiary institutions in the country.
The council handed the indicted students, who have also been dismissed by the university, were handed by the council to the police and they were arraigned at the FCT Magistrate Court in Wuse, in the first week of March 2020.
Apart from the war on forged certificates, the council registrar, Gana, has also sought the partnership of the Department of State Services to curb the rising cases of malpractices during the conduct of its school examinations.
On January 20, the NECO Board Chairman, Saddique, and the registrar, Gana, met with the DSS Director-General, Yusuf Bichi, in Abuja, on the modalities of deploying operatives to curb such malpractices.
The DSS DG noted after the meeting that his department would look into the request so as to ensure the credibility of NECO examinations.
Apart from the DSS, the council also has been delisting schools which are found to be culpable in the offence of examination malpractices.
In October 2019, NECO announced the delisting of three schools in Katsina, Kebbi and Oyo states for two years over their involvement in collusion and mass cheating.
It said that in its 2019 June and July Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, the cases of malpractices stood at over 40,000.
The registrar who announced the delisting noted that NECO had acquired 8,000 biometric verification machines but it would still need more biometric verification devices to serve its over 16,000 centres.
Apart from examination malpractices, the council is also grappling with financial fraud in some schools where fees exceeding the Federal Government-approved sum of N9,850 are being demanded from pupils registering for the 2020 Senior School Certificate Examination.
The council said it had written to the Commissioners of Education in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, informing them of the extortion going on in their schools despite the directive from the Federal Government.
The NECO registrar, Gana, had last week warned that the council was monitoring the activities of schools and would take serious actions on infractions and extortions of the NECO candidates.
“Not quite up to a month, we wrote to all the commissioners of education, highlighting that some schools, both public and private, were demanding extra fees from candidates. While the NECO fee itself is N9,850, some are even charging N20,000 in the name of administrative charges.
“Most of these schools are miracle centres and what they do there is perpetrate malpractice. Candidates who are lazy and don’t have confidence can go to the extent of paying N50,000 to register so that they can have their way. We are on their case and we will sanction them,” he said.