The NECO palaver and its “why” ache!
•Nigerians go to war over its proposed scrapping
In accepting the Steve Orasanye’s Committee’s recommendation that National Examinations Council (NECO) and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB)’s, Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), be scrapped, for, reportedly outliving their usefulness, the Federal Government has literally sent Nigerians to war, given the reactions that have continued to trail last week’s bombshell of an announcement on the issue.
While some are in support of the scrapping, others strong oppose the move. Our correspondents report: “Proposal ridiculous, unbelievable, FG shouldn’t dare it” – Stakeholders
There is no doubt that many Nigerian stakeholders in education were jolted by the news of the planned move by the federal government to scrap the National Examinations Council (NECO), the only examination body that is wholly Nigerian in the conduct of Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE). Of course, there are other bodies like the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), which is a regional body, and the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB), which does not conduct SSCE.
The announcement left some Nigerians dumbfounded, especially as it relates to the handing over of not only the statutory responsibilities of NECO to WAEC but also the idea of handing over the structures for use in conducting examinations for other West African countries. Even though normal official activities have been going on at the headquarters of NECO in Minna, Niger State, since the announcement, the news, obviously rattled the staff as some of them could be seen, gathered in groups and discussing the development in low tones.
When approached, officials in the information unit of the council in Minna kept mum on the issue while directing our correspondent to the Registrar/Chief Executive of the council, Prof. Promise Nwachukwu Okpala. But unfortunately, he was unavailable for comments, as at the time of visit.
But a senior official, who did not want his name in print questioned, the rationality behind the move. “Britain is not up to half the size of Nigeria and it has about eight examination bodies.
How then can Nigeria scrap its only examination body?” he asked. “Secondly, why WAEC? WAEC does not even belong to Nigeria, so what does the country stand to gain by handing over structures of NECO to WAEC?
Again, how possible is it for WAEC or any examination body for that matter to organise one SSCE in November and another two months later in January when it has not released the result of the one conducted in November?
“Have we forgotten so soon when Nigerian candidates suffered untold hardship in the hands of WAEC? During that time, if you opened to any newspaper, what you would see were pleas by candidates, asking WAEC to release their results.
The coming of NECO actually stopped all that. Now we are taking ourselves back to the era of colonialism. Maybe, we should hand over the presidency of this country back to Britain.” Speaking in similar vein with our correspondent, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, a school principal in Minna, Niger State, simply described the government’s move as laughable.
“Honestly, I am not going to say more than that. It is quite ridiculous.” Although the Niger State Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Danladi Abdulhameed, believes that government’s policies are dynamic and can be changed at any time, he feels it is “definitely not in this manner.
I don’t think it is right is for government, in an attempt to solve one problem, to start creating another. Examination is the only way to evaluate the performance of students and if you now scrap NECO, how do you evaluate candidates? If it is NECO that federal government does not want, let them set up another one, but there must be an examination body that is wholly Nigerian.”
Evangelist Peter Udoh, a Minna-based human rights activist, known as the “Gani Fawehinmi of Niger State”, called on the federal government to scrutinise the Orasanye report.
“Why would any sensible person recommend that NECO be scrapped and its structures and statutory responsibility be taken over by WAEC, a regional body?
This is unimaginable, honestly, it is ridiculous.” Niger State government and the people of Minna emirate are already counting their possible losses should federal government go ahead and carry out its plan to scrap the National Examinations Council (NECO). Feelers from the government circles revealed to Daily Sun that the state stands to lose a great deal of revenue, accruing to it from taxes, beside other economic losses.
“We are definitely going to lose the revenue from NECO if the federal government should go ahead to scrap the body and it is going to be in millions,” one of the officials said. Alhaji Abubakar Tafida, a traditional ruler from the emirate passionately appealed to the federal government to, urgently, rescind its decision to scrap NECO. “As far as I am concerned, Nigeria is too big to be left at the mercy of only one examination body that is not even wholly Nigerian,” he said.
“This country should have nothing less than four or five examination bodies, it is shocking to hear that even the only one we have conducting SSCE for our children is going to be handed over to a foreign body, because the way I see it, WAEC is a foreign examination body that will take us back to the era of colonialism.
“Again, majority of the junior staff in NECO are our people. Are they going to be taken to Lagos to continue their services?
This is the only federal government establishment that has its headquarters here in Minna. This is not the way to pay us for voting for this government. “We know the number of our sons and daughters working as messengers and cleaners in NECO, how are they going to cope if transferred to Lagos? I believe government at the centre should have a rethink over this matter especially as it affects NECO.”
In a related development, the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) of the National Examinations Council (NECO) has joined other stakeholders in condemning the proposed plan by the federal government to scrap the council.
Addressing newsmen in Minna at the weekend, the chairman, Comrade Abdulrasheed Rabana, accompanied by other members, described the decision as a policy summersault and appealed to the federal government not to implement the recommendations by the Orasanye-led committee for the interest of educational development in the country.
Rabana pointed out that NECO, has, in the face of daunting challenges, continued to deliver on its mandate with every sense of patriotism and industrial zeal, since its establishment and stressed that any attempt to interrupt the progress it has recorded so far will amount to setting the clock back in our national drive towards self-reliant education.
He lamented that such a national asset in which the country has invested so much human and material resources would fall victim of government policy summersault on the mere logic of rationalizing governance. “Investment in education is a matter of national security, there should be no compromise in that,” he noted.
“Moreso, it is a curious irony that with this contemplation, we risk being seen as a people that lack the capacity to manage success.
“As we speak, having more than one examination body is seen globally, as a mark of national achievement rather than a burden, this is more reason why countries that still manage with one institution aspire to have more, in tandem with global explosion in school enrolments and, by implication, examination candidates.”
Handing over NECO to WAEC to manage, he argued, is tantamount to possible subjugation of the Nigerian sovereignty and national pride to the regional body, adding that, “as our leaders contemplate tying our educational life to the apron string of the regional body, the big question arising from this dangerous dance is, should anything unexpected happen to WAEC and, with no national examination body to fall back to, where does Nigeria run to”?
Comrade Rabana further pointed out that one of key indices of the transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration is job creation and wondered why the government would want to throw the over 4000 workers of NECO into the job market in the name of cutting costs and wondered: “who are they cutting the cost for and for God’s sake, what definition are we giving to the transformation agenda?”
Meanwhile, the governing board and management of NECO have assured the general public that the various NECO examinations are to go on as scheduled.
A statement signed by Lamara Garba, the Assistant Chief Information Officer of the council said it was necessary for the council to notify the general public as well as candidates and schools for the council’s examinations that the examinations schedules and time-tables remain unchanged.
The examinations, according to the statement, include the National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE), slated for 13th April, 2013, the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), holding between 9th and 23rd of May, 2013 and the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) scheduled for between 1st and June, 2013.