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Sunday, 2 October 2016

VARSITY ADMISSIONS SCAM How we were duped, by victims

Owing to the frustration that comes with difficulty in securing admission into choice universities in Nigeria, many youths of university age have fallen victim to fake admission racketeers. In the process, many waste vital years ‘chasing shadows,’ only to learn of their hard reality years later. But while some victims have been able to rise above the disappointment and move on, many have been disillusioned and their  ambitions wrecked for life. Dorcas Egede explores the travails of some ‘fake admission’ victims and how they have managed to pull through.

PROBABLY by virtue of Nigeria’s population and the sheer size of its youth demography, securing a university admission in the country has for decades been a herculean task. A quick look at Nigeria’s Demographics Profile (2014) showed that out of a whopping estimated population of 177,155,754 people, youths between the ages of 15-24 constituted 19.3%: 17,486,117 male and 16,732,533 female, totalling 34,218,650. That is not to talk of the spill-over in the 25-54 category, where the nation boasted of a whopping 54million.

As a result, high school graduates who feel time is fast running by and that they may be losing out on the appropriate time to go for higher education usually get desperate. In the process, they fall into dubious hands, who take advantage of their predicament by offering them ‘admission’ and ultimately getting their fingers burnt – so to speak.

Augustine Orireosobua Anyanna, 32 is one of such youths. Sitting on the pavement in front of his Surulere home, Anyanna narrated the arduous journey he had to undertake, just to get a university admission and further his education. He was a victim of fake admission, he told The Nation. After sitting for the Joint Admission and Matriculations Board (JAMB) examination three consecutive times: 2001-2003, without seeing his results because they were withheld purportedly because of some discrepancies, Anyanna decided it was time to try alternative routes. After all, there still exist other legal means of securing admission outside the very popular JAMB.

He went on to undertake an A levels programme at the Kogi State Polytechnic. Being the brilliant chap that he is, he finished the programme with a whopping 11 points. That should get him any course of his choice in any university, he reckoned. Pronto, he applied to the University of Ilorin to study Economics.

But his confidence soon began to dwindle after the merit list and first batch were released and his name was conspicuously absent. The second batch was released, and alas, his name wasn’t on it. Naturally, apprehension set in. His parents sought the help of a staff of the university (name withheld), who assured them that he would see to it that the young man got admitted. Why wouldn’t he when he had such good grades? He reassured them.

True to his words, the supplementary list was released and Anyanna’s name was there. Unlike the first three lists that were released however, this one wasn’t put up on the notice board. One had to go to admission office to check the list. Anyanna was shown the list and his name was there. His grateful parents parted with N 100,000 in appreciation of the official’s effort.

The problem, Anyanna revealed, began when they were given matriculation numbers. His number clashed with that of another student. “I ran to the man that helped with my admission and told him of the incident. He said it was an oversight and assigned another number to me. Things continued normally. I wrote tests and examinations. Soon the session was over. Remember I got in using my A level result, so that got me into 200 level.”

But Anyanna was soon to discover that the whole admission was a scam. “By the time the first session ended and I was to go into 300-level, I knew for sure that something was amiss. I already envisaged that I might get evicted from the school, so I decided to go and process admission in Delta State University (DELSU), Abraka. Since that’s my state and catchment area, I believed it would be easier to get admission there. Moreover, I had an uncle who was a faculty dean at the time, and felt he should be an added advantage. This was in 2005.”

Unfortunately however, it was another tough luck at the state university. The worst eventually happened in his 3rd fear at the University of Ilorin, as he got kicked out. All the while he was busy attending lectures, writing continuous assessment tests, and even exams, the school had no single record of him as its bonafide student. He had been a victim of fake admission.

Unable to secure admission into DELSU with his A-level result, Anyanna decided to sit for JAMB once again. By this time, his colleagues with whom he passed out of secondary school in 2001 had either graduated or were in their final year in university. Starting all over wasn’t an easy decision for Anyanna but it was a decision he thought was best taken in isolation, probably to avoid being discouraged by anyone. “As at the time I picked the JAMB form to start afresh, I remember not having any conversation with anybody, although I had consulted with my parents on every academic decision.”

By this time, Anyanna was also sure of his choice of course. There wasn’t a question of whether it should be Economics or Sociology. “Not to forget, I was a person who was given to some social youth development programmes. I attended youth seminars, conferences. And what these conferences did to me over time was create that self-awareness in me. I began to have a relationship with myself. By myself, I mean my passion and desires. In essence, I had discovered myself. So I had no problem filling in Sociology. I’d found passion in trying to understand society. I had also begun to pay attention to several societies and the things going on there, culture and all that.”

Now a Sociology graduate of the University of Abuja and pursuing his Masters degree, Anyanna said his sojourn as a student in UNIABUJA opened him to a lot of opportunities. After his 100-level, he started tutoring full-time and part-time students for a fee. In the process, he discovered he has a passion for lecturing. He hopes to further study for his PhD and retire as a lecturer in the nearest future. He currently works in one of the leading new generation banks.

Asked how he found the courage to pick up the broken pieces and begin afresh, Anyanna said, “People always say God, but I’d like to put God in a proper perspective; so I’d say the Holy Spirit. It was He who made me see that my goal should be my focus, not the means to achieving it. I just wanted to be able to hold my head high. I was on the floor and the only thing I could do was get up. They say, ‘He that is down fears no fall.’ So, in a way, I wasn’t afraid of falling because I was already down.”

Is there something he would have done better given the same opportunity? Anyanna said, “I would be more proactive. Rather than waiting until 2007 to take JAMB, I would have taken it immediately I started noticing that my admission in UNILORIN was a fraud. Instead I spent a lot of time trying to manage a dead situation. I didn’t understand this simple principle of life that says ‘borrow yourself some sense,’ else I would have just buried the situation and moved on.”

In similar fate, Edward Nweke also fell victim to fake admission racketeers. When in 1999 he applied to study Economics in the University of Ibadan, he didn’t think things would turn out the way they eventually did. According to him, his name didn’t appear on the first two lists that were released because he didn’t get up to the cut-off point; so his dad sought the help of a lecturer in the school, who after collecting a sum, promised them that things would be worked out.

Soon, the supplementary list was released and true to the lecturer’s promise, Nweke’s name appeared on the list. “I matriculated, wrote tests and even exams. I also didn’t suspect anything because I was among those students whose names came out after the exams.”

All this while, he had been in Economics department. It wasn’t until he got to 200-level that the man who helped in processing his admission told him he wasn’t actually supposed to be in Economics department. He told him that if he hoped to continue with his education in the school, he must move to Geography department.

Ruffled and unable to understand the development, Nweke reported the matter to his dad. “We reasoned that it was possible the man had scammed us. So, instead of proceeding to Geography department as he advised or waiting until I was sent out, we decided it was best to move to another school and start afresh.”

Nweke thus went to start a part-time programme at the Lagos State University. He however didn’t have to go the length; his church, Winners Chapel had set up a university and his father, whom Nweke said had been very supportive, suggested that he went to Covenant University.

Nweke confessed that starting all over was “Depressing, especially when most of my mates had gone far with their studies. Some of them were in 300 and 400 levels. It was very discouraging, but I had a very close cousin that advised me that it’s not about how long it took me to get a university degree, but how well I fared.”

Does he have any regrets? “No regrets” was his resounding response. Continuing, he said, “I don’t have any cause for regrets. I would say every disappointment is a blessing in disguise. The network of friends has expanded as a result of attending CU; besides, when people hear you’re from CU, there’s this special treatment that you get. I’m actually happy I went through the experience.”

He however has a word of advice for young people. “The world might look oblique, and appear like it has ended, but the truth is that it is just beginning. There are many opportunities that come with every disappointment. They should not be discouraged. They should take advantage of every help they get from supportive family and friends.”

David Asanga however had a completely different experience. After spending four academic years (2003-2006) studying Public Administration in one of the universities in the South-South region of the country, the National Universities Commissions (NUC), the body regulating university operations in the country suddenly declared that the course was not accredited for the university.

This was a rude shock to Asanga and his colleagues, as the university never hinted them that it didn’t have accreditation for the course. They pushed, even for just a statement of result, but nothing was issued. Alas, all the years spent in the school was a waste.

While they waited for the issue to be resolved, some of his colleagues who could afford it, Asanga revealed, paid their ways to get a certificate and also paid to be mobilised. “The discrepancy made it difficult for people to believe that I truly graduated. They said a lot of unkind things about me. Some said I was just deceiving my parents with my religious boy façade and that I just went to school to waste their money for nothing.”

In 2008, Asange said the university assured them that the results would soon be ready; so he went to pick a masters form from the University of Lagos. “But UNILAG said they couldn’t offer me admission because I didn’t have a certificate. I wrote to them that the certificate would soon be ready, but they stood their ground.

“So I missed that chance. 2009 came; still the result wasn’t ready. I was totally discouraged. People told my father all sorts of negative things about me and that he should send me out of the house. I took up a vocation to start training school children in music, to keep body and soul together; but I knew that wasn’t what I was cut out for.

“Believe me; what I passed through is strong enough to make some people commit suicide. But I drew strength from God’s word. I kept getting the reassurance that if I’m patient, God will come to my rescue. I spoke to someone who advised me to start from the scratch. I wept at first. I counted the number of years I’d spent in school. 1999-2006. I first took a diploma course in Personnel management before I was admitted to study Public Administration.”

After spending about 7 years to get a degree and waiting for another three years for its result to be released, Asanga was faced with the option of going for another degree or waiting endlessly for that which may never be released.

After deliberating with his mum, Asanga took the decision to register for JAMB. Following that bitter experience, he thought it wise to school in a completely new environment. So, he chose UNILAG Law. He said that while he actually had an interest in studying law from the start, he decided to choose law to shut the mouth of gainsayers who had been accusing him of lying about going to school. “At least if they hear that I’m studying law, they would think that I’m pursuing my passion. After all, I’ve heard of 50-year-old men who to the university to study law.”

Unfortunately, Asanga did not meet the cut-off for Law. After a long wait, he was offered History and Strategic studies.

As a 100-level student, it was a completely different ball game. His course mates, Asanga noted, were mostly 17 and 18-year-olds while he was in his late twenties. He was however not embarrassed by the fact, but focused on the goal.

“On the verge of graduating from UNILAG, I received information that NUC had finally accredited our course and others which were awaiting accreditation. So now, I have two certificates. Of course, I couldn’t serve. I was given an exemption certificate. I immediately registered for my master’s programme in History and Strategic Studies, with focus on International Relations and Conflict Resolution. As I speak with you, I’m on the verge of starting my PhD, and of course, I’m married. Everything simply fell in place within a short while.

Commenting on how he survived the emotional trauma, Asanga said, “I never paid attention to what people were saying; I focused on what I wanted to achieve. It’s been 10 years since my first degree (was delayed); but I was able to pick up my life’s pieces and today, I have a success story to tell.”

Late expulsion, not intended to punish students

But how come school authorities take action on such issues late? Most times, students get notified of their true status far into their courses of study, making the students waste vital years in the process. Is it a deliberate ploy to punish or a case of late reaction? Speaking with The Nation, a senior staff of Delta State University, who spoke on condition of anonymity admitted that indeed there is such thing as fake admission in universities and other higher institutions of learning. He said it is usually referred to as ‘admission runs.’

“In a case where a student has the qualification and his name didn’t come out on the first batch, which is purely based on merit, he or she may expect to see his name on the second list. But the second batch is also based on merit – at least that’s how we operate in our own system. In the list that follows, the governor has a list, the house of assembly has a list, the monarch has his own; so also the VC and some principal officers. This is where their allies come in. They promise to help students gain admission and collect money from them as gratification.” Our source said.

Asked if members of staff are sometimes involved in admission runs and if the authorities have a way of punishing such erring staff, he said, “It is not only the students that are punished. Members of staff lose their job when they are caught in such practice. Any staff caught doing such will have to face the staff disciplinary committee. And if found wanting, they can be sacked, because all staff have already been warned not to indulge in admission runs. As a staff, you’re not supposed to extort money from students for the purpose of admission.”

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