The Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on Wednesday told the House of Representatives that it will be completely comfortable to be taken off the national budget but on certain conditions, prominent among which is to review the examination fees upward.
Ishaq Oloyede, the JAMB registrar said this when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, interfacing with agencies on the 2023-2025 Medium Term Expenditure on Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF-FSP), said there are conditions before the JAMB could be removed from the annual budget.
Oloyede while explaining the conditions said when he came in as Registrar in 2016, JAMB was charging N5,000 for form and it rendered N7.8 billion to government at the end of the first year and felt it was too much.
He explained that the board decided to review the fees downward in 2017 and the amount charged for registration fees was reduced from N5,000 to N3,500.
“We approached the federal government and they agreed that we should reduce the cost by 30 percent. We effected that 30 percent reduction and until today, we have not increased the cost.
“At that time, some examination bodies were charging N13,000 and today, they are charging about N20,000 because of the cost involved. But we have not increased our own by one kobo. Before now, people were buying the form unofficially at exorbitant cost because it was being hoarded. That is not possible right now, he said.
The professor of Islamic studies added that if JAMB must exit budgetary allocation it “must be allowed to fix a new price for the form and return to the old price of N5,000. For example, if we fix N10,000 for the form, nobody will ask the federal government for a kobo.
“I believe we should revert to the N5000 we were charging. Given the inflation, if we charge N10,000 – I am just giving it as an example, nobody will ask the federal government for one kobo. I am not aware of anywhere in the world, except maybe Finland — that charges as low as JAMB is charging. In Finland, we know that everything is free.
“We are hearing that you are planning to borrow billions. We are all going to sink at the end of the day. If there is any way anybody believes he can save this country, we should start doing that. The earlier we start the better for us,” he said.
Oloyede said as much as JAMB returns revenue surplus to the federal government, it is not comfortable with being categorised as a revenue centre because that has created a lot of problems for the board.
The registrar said: “Education is a social service, but we also felt that even though we are not a revenue centre, we are also not a revenue wasting centre. That explains why we return what we feel belongs to the federal government as surplus.
“Categorising us as a revenue centre is putting undue pressure on some of our colleagues and giving the impression that they are not doing well, why it may not be so. I want to plead with you to allow us to render what is the surplus to the federal government.
“But it is an aberration to classify us as a revenue centre simply because in the last five or six years, we have been returning whatever is the surplus.”
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He pleaded that: “if it is possible for us to bear our expenditure, except for salaries. We bear the cost of our capital and overhead. Ours is not just conducting examinations. It is just an insignificant aspect of our work. Our job is admission and matriculation and the examination that we conduct is just to be able to determine one of the functions.
“Our function as a board is the placement and the examination that we conduct is just a tool. In fact, not all our candidates take exams because those going for direct entry does not take exams. That shows clearly that examination is just part of our functions. That is why it is not ideal to place us as a revenue generating agency, but we will continue to do what we are supposed to do.”
Oleyede disclosed that in the last JAMB examination the board cancelled some centres because it got information that some parents paid N200,000 per candidate to achieve some examination results.
Saidu Abdulahi, the deputy chairman of the committee said though JAMB is not a revenue generating agency, it can do more to help get more funds for the government, noting that increasing the examination fee will affect poor Nigerians.
He said: “While we appreciate your position, it is imperative that all Nigerians are not in a position to afford that. We are not trying to over burden Nigerians, even though the government is doing a lot. We are all aware that these resources are not readily available. We have had courses to raise concern on the need for increased revenue generation.
“What Nigerians will be interested in is to see that their money is working. Once they can see that the money they are generating is being expended well especially on sectors that have an impact on them, I don’t think they will complain. So, I think we should be realistic to look at what is sustainable.
“As much as we don’t want to see you as a revenue generating agency, if there are avenues for you to explore. We will take this back home and sit with the committee, the Budget Office and Ministry of Finance to discuss the issue. If we do that, we will be ridding the government of some burden because you have demonstrated that you generate enough to take care of your operation. So, we will look at that possibility.”