The disagreement between the government of Sokoto State, North-west Nigeria, and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) further degenerated at the weekend following the exchange of words by officials of the two institutions.
In separate telephone interviews with our reporter, both the commissioner for basic and secondary education in Sokoto State, Bello Guiwa, and the head of Nigeria’s office of WAEC (HNO), Patrick Areghan, engaged in blame games, and accused each other of being responsible for the impasse.
WAEC had on Monday, May 9, while announcing its preparation for the 2022 edition of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), declared that Sokoto and Zamfara States presented no candidates from public schools for the examination.
PREMIUM TIMES’ findings revealed only a few public technical schools which are under the state’s ministry of science and technology have continued to register candidates for WASSCE.
The basic and secondary education ministry which controls a large number of state-owned secondary schools has since 2021 stopped patronising WAEC over what the two organisations described as “fundamental” differences.
While Sokoto State accused WAEC of commercialising its examinations, the examination body has refuted the allegation and also accused the state of its failure to play by the rule.
Speaking on the matter, Mr Guiwa accused WAEC of focusing on money to be made from the examination and not the future of the candidates.
According to him, during the 2021 registration, mistakes were noticed in the details of many of the candidates presented for enrollment but rather than allowing the errors to be corrected without stress, WAEC had continued to demand money to effect the correction.
Mr Guiwa, however, did not state how much WAEC had demanded for the correction.
He said: “In 2021, we had problems with the continuous assessment score of our candidates that were uploaded on the WAEC portal. There were some mixed-ups. The names were also not registered properly, and I personally took the pain to engage WAEC.
“But WAEC deliberately frustrated our efforts by charging us all manner of fees. I don’t believe WAEC is a business organisation but an examination body that should be concerned with the future of the candidates. But that was not the case.”
Mr Guiwa said correspondences were exchanged on the matter but that WAEC stood its ground to the disadvantage of the candidates.
He said the development forced the state to decide to enrol the candidates for the senior school certificate examination (SSCE) conducted by the National Examinations Council (NECO) and the national technical certificate examination conducted by the National Business and Technical Examination Board.
He said the choice is for the state to make, and that both NABTEB and NECO are established by the Nigerian government and so should be patronised.
“Is there any law that says candidates cannot enrol for other examinations apart from WASSCE conducted by WAEC? There is none. And no one can deceive us that there are certain benefits WAEC examinations confer on its candidates. There is not anyone. I am saying this because we have our students all over the world who used their NECO results for admission without stress,” Mr Guiwa said.
He said the state’s disagreement with WAEC was based on principle and the fight against exploitation.
But in his response, WAEC advised Sokoto State to “stop blackmailing it and face the reality.”
The HNO in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES accused the state of pulling down the entire continuous assessment scores (CASS) of its candidates during the registration, and that to upload it again required payment of a N100,000 fine for all the public schools in the state.
He said rather than cooperating with the examination body, the state insisted that it would not pay a penny.
Mr Areghan said: “In line with Nigeria’s national policy on education, schools must upload the CASS of each of its candidates from SS1 to SS3 so that the performance can be assessed.
“But suddenly, Sokoto State pulled down the CASS for all the schools without any reason. We don’t do all these alone, there are technical partners who charge for the activities. So we insisted the state should pay just N100,000 for all the schools to be uploaded again but the government refused.”
WAEC said it never begged any individual or organisation to enrol for its examinations and that it will never do so.
According to the HNO, there are a series of ploys by individuals and organisations to compromise the examination body, but the integrity it has built over the last 70 years of its existence cannot be rubbished.
He said the examination body is also aware of an allegation that some other individuals in the state are making about WAEC demanding upfront payments, and urged the public to disregard it.
“When states approach us that they would sponsor candidates we always demand a commitment of payment of 60 per cent of the total fees. At a time when Sokoto came and following pleas, we agreed that instead of 60 per cent, they should pay 40 per cent. I think that is simply part-payment and not upfront payment,” Mr Areghan added.
He gave the total number of candidates sitting the examination from private schools and government-owned technical schools in the state as 5,303.
The HNO also said WAEC does not understand what the state meant by the tax identification number (TIN). “WAEC does not use TIN for registration, so I don’t know what they meant by TIN.”
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