A record move by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which blocked corrupt practices and seeks to prosecute the ones done before its new leadership, is now the reason for series of national jokes about snakes swallowing money, even as the little entertainment draws attention away from a massive anti-corruption score for the government and Professor Ishaq Oloyede, the Board’s highly revered Registrar.
Professor Oloyede, who is also the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, was appointed JAMB Registrar in August 2016.
The former University Don reinforced the Computer-Based Test (CBT) and registered over a million candidates as against the 1,500 expected in the first three weeks. Despite known and seemingly insurmountable loopholes in digitalizing any part of government processes, JAMB registered 1, 736, 571 candidates for the 2017 UTME for 624 centres nationwide. It exceeded the estimated number of candidates by nearly 250,000 candidates. The examination held on Saturday, May 13, 2017 was relatively hitch-free.
The total amount JAMB remitted to the federal government coffers between 2010 and 2016 was N50,752,544. This is about one percent of the N5 billion the agency remitted to the federal government in 2017 alone when Professor Oloyede took office.
This embarrassing gap between what the respected Professor brought in and what used to be the case led to the decision of the Federal Executive Council that all former heads of JAMB be investigated.
“Now they (JAMB) have not increased their charges, they have not increased their fees. The question that FEC and council members were asking was ‘where was this money before?’” Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, had said.
Another reform Professor Oloyede’s leadership carried out was the scrapping of Scratch Cards and replacement with more effective and reliable options. Subsequently, Auditors were sent to branches of JAMB to take inventory of scratch cards that were sold while the sales lasted.
In Benue State, a sales clerk, Philomina Chieshe, told JAMB registrar and his team that she could not account for N36 million she made in previous years before the abolition of scratch cards. In the course of interrogation, Philomena denied the allegations that she stole the money but confessed that her housemaid connived with another JAMB staff, Joan Asen, to “spiritually” (through a snake) steal the money from the vault in the account office.
This became the issue all over the media and on social media. Even the EFCC official handle joined the joke with a picture of an Eagle holding a snake. Others seem to be claiming they found the snake while some others conducted interviews with the imaginary snake. Some made fun with the whole animal story – rats invading the President’s office, Nigeria being called a Zoo, and media houses (aside ETN24) did repeated piece on this side story and separate multiple pieces on the reaction of Nigerians. Many lost the background story, there were zero real conversations about JAMB and its achievements or corruption itself.
As expected, a political group, The Action Democratic Party (ADP), used the opportunity to criticize the Buhari-led administration, claiming corruption is striving under it whereas it claims to be fighting corruption.
The group did not sound like they knew it was the Administration’s new JAMB Cheif who stopped the scratch card business, remitted more than JAMB’s remittance in 40 years all in one year, and thus spurred the Federal Executive Council to begin investigation into JAMB as it was. The story of suspected corrupt practice was also discovered and made public by JAMB itself even as the body promptly suspended the Clerk involved.
Media Coverage, Sensation as usual
The EFCC twitter handle is known across the social media as one with an air of informality and literal wit. So in response to the story the EFCC twitted a picture of an Eagle holding down a python and it added that the Eagle shows no mercy for money-swallowing snakes.
ThePunch and DailyPost obviously took this too serious as the former ran a story with Ibrahim Magu’s picture titled “JAMB: EFCC pledges to deal with money-swallowing snake” while the latter did a story titled “EFCC SPEAKS on Claims that Snake Swallowed 36m in JAMB Office”
Spokesman for the Ekiti State Government also tried to score some points, but only raised questions as to if he actually read the reports or just fell for the screaming headlines.
In December 2017, Lere also spread a Fake News that the APC’s National Publicity Secretary said there is feul scarcity because the economy is now good and Nigerians can now buy more cars.
There were also those who thought everyone in JAMB stole the money.