Guardian, Nigeria: The Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) has sought clarification on the ₦36 million cash allegedly swallowed by a snake at the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
It all began when a team of auditors working with JAMB arrived in Makurdi, Benue State to take an inventory of sold and unsold scratch cards and to audit the finances of the office in the state.
But a sales clerk in the office, Philomina Chieshe, told the JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, and his team that she could not account for ₦36 million she made in previous years before the abolition of scratch cards.
In the course of interrogation, Chieshe confessed that it was her housemaid that connived with another JAMB official, Joan Asen, to “spiritually” steal the money from the vault in the accounts office.
“I was one of the four sales clerks attached to JAMB office in Makurdi. My responsibility was to sell scratch cards to candidates. I’m not involved in handling the money, it was the responsibility of Joan Asen and other senior colleagues. I only remit money of sold scratch cards. But a few months ago, there was an issue of fraud in the office. Auditors were sent from Abuja. The state coordinator, Obilo, was not around when the audit team came. But in the course of the audit, N36m was discovered to be missing from the account. An investigation was launched.
“I have been saving the money in the bank but I found it difficult to account for it. So, I started saving it in a vault in the office. But each time I open the vault, I will find nothing. I became worried and surprised how millions of naira could be disappearing from the vault. I began to interrogate everybody in the house and office, and no one could agree on what might have happened to the money.
“I continued to press until my maid confessed. She said that the money disappeared spiritually. She said that a mysterious snake sneaked into the house and swallowed the money in the vault,” Chieshe told the team,
But Oloyede had since dismissed the claim, saying the case was that of pure criminality and fraud on the part of an official.
The Chairman of PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, who led other members of the committee to the headquarters of JAMB yesterday, said he was also interested in the other challenges being faced by the board that required the panel’s assistance.
JAMB had earlier explained that the fraud was committed before the coming of the current registrar. It said the fraud was discovered in one of the states when the Oloyede-led management embarked on a tour of the board’s offices to ascertain their actual financial standing and their general operations.
This prompted Oloyede to introduce reforms when he assumed office in 2016, including the recommendation that the use of scratch cards should be stopped and replaced with a more efficient and effective mode of pin vending.
Sagay commended Oloyede for his high level of integrity. JAMB had remitted about ₦7.8 billion in 2017 to the Federal government.
“We are also curious about some other things. For example, I remember in some time past, it used to be commonly believed that if you sit for a JAMB examination, different results would be prepared for you and you will score high marks and when you go to the university, you underperform.
“Has this problem been eliminated? Also, we read recently of some members of staff of JAMB at the lower level who accumulated a lot of cash and did not properly account for the money, leading them to make very absurd defences which have created a lot of fun nationwide.
The JAMB registrar, in his response before journalists were excused from the meeting, said it was unfortunate that Nigeria had gone down to the extent that serious issues were being trivialised, especially the “crazy talk” about a snake swallowing JAMB money.
Oloyede said: “Since I came here, nobody has called me to do any wrong thing. Nobody has called me and said somebody has done what is wrong, allow it to go.
“People who have authority over me have been the people who are even calling me to strengthen what I am doing. Whereas my fear when I came here was that I was not going to stay long because what we used to peddle in the university was that these politicians would be intervening on one’s activities.
“So, I have made up my mind that if they call me to do what I am not supposed to do, I will go,” he said.
The registrar, who blamed parents for aiding and abetting examination malpractice, said arrests were made during the just-concluded Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), and the suspects were handed over to the police for prosecution.