The federal government has launched a clampdown on all ‘miracle centres’ aiding examination malpractice in the country.
Permanent secretary in federal ministry of Education, Sunny Echono, disclosed this yesterday during a tour of some schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to access the ongoing West African Examinations Council (WAEC) examination.
Echono warned students and supervisors to disengage in examination malpractice, vowing that government will ensure all the ‘miracle centres’ in the country are eliminated.
“We are also eliminating anything miracle centres. COVID-19 has helped because with the reduction in numbers too, we are no longer having the physical cheating where students are so many that one or two supervisors cannot be able to effectively cover”, he noted.
On the issue of exam leakages, the perm sec said government was working with all the relevant agencies to ensure that fraudulent activities are no longer in the system.
He stated: “Previously, attempts were made to try and get access to these questions before the date of the exam. Now, anybody who does that is wasting their time because we have moved our timing and we have secured the exams such that the papers do not leak.
“There is no such thing about anybody getting access to any question and that is why those who fraudulently want to benefit from this were disappointed because when you go there on the date of exam you discover the questions are completely different. A few Nigerians are taking advantage of innocent people and the market that exist for it”.
He lamented that some schools across the country were not doing as well as government expect, even as he urged them to up their game as prevention remain the only and most effective weapon against the pandemic.
While commending the level of compliance in the schools visited, Echono noted that government was also carrying out a major review of all the tiers of educational system to see how it can gradually begin to reopen.
Earlier, the head of WAEC national office, Patrick Areghan, revealed that the Council has arrested two supervisors in Bauchi and Nasarawa States respectively as well as one student in Port Harcourt who tried to undermine the integrity of its ongoing West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Areghan also lamented that invigilators and supervisors were conniving with candidate to promote exam malpractice.
He said, “We have arrested some and today it is going to be a harvest of arrest. In Bauchi we arrested a supervisor; in Nasarawa we arrested a supervisor and in Port Harcourt we arrested a candidate.
“I must use this opportunity to say that the invigilators and supervisors are not on our side. They take sides with the candidate. We say don’t allow any candidate to come in with their handset but they close their eyes and allow them to come in. This is what they use to snap questions and post them on designated WhatsApp groups, not that there is anything called leakage.”
He also stressed that the reported cases of COVID-19 of students writing WAEC in some parts of the country were carried out before the commencement of the exam.
“So what is coming out now is just the result of those tests, not that new cases are emerging in the examination Hall”, he added.
He said the Council currently lacks man power to match up with the number of centres across the country.
“WAEC staff are just 2000; we can’t cover over 19,129 centres. So, we rely on the teachers nominated by the various ministries of Education to supervise. There are supposed to be men and women of integrity but 99 per cent of supervisors as we are seeing now are engaged.”
The schools visited during the tour included, Federal Government College, Apo, Abuja, Government Secondary School, Garki and Funtaj International School, Apo.
Why Candidates Didn’t Sit For BECE – NECO
Meanwhile, the National Examinations Council (NECO) has said it was not the fault of the Council that candidates in some schools were unable to sit for the on-going Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
A statement by the head of information and public relations of the Council, Azeez Sani, said ample time was given in advance for all schools to register their candidates.
Sani stated: “The attention of the Council has been drawn to complaints by some schools whose candidates are unable to sit for the on-going Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) that commenced on Monday, 24th August 2020.
“NECO wishes to state that adequate opportunity was provided well in advance for all schools to register their candidates.
“This was given that some schools and/or candidates may have faced difficulties in the course of the registrations. Due largely to this and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council extended the duration for registration to 12 midnight of Friday, 21st August 2020.”
According to Malam Sani , the extension was widely publicized through various platforms, adding that the aim was largely to accommodate late registration.
He continued: “It is regrettable that despite these measures, some schools failed to complete the registration or enrollment processes.
“It is therefore instructive to restate that the closure of the Portal on the said date was not punitive or designed to undermine registrants and schools. It was however to allow the Council produce and distribute materials to Examination Centers for seamless conduct of the exercise.
“Consequently, NECO assures the public of its commitment to effective and efficient conduct of all examinations within its statutory mandates. In this regard, it will continue to engage all stakeholders as may be appropriate”.
Rivers Govt Denies Withdrawal From NECO Sponsorship
Meanwhile, Rivers State government has denied media reports that it has withdrawn from the sponsorship of the National Examination Council (NECO) examination in the state.
It said Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike had given a standing directive to the state ministry of Education to take necessary actions for state sponsorship of public examinations yearly.
The Commissioner for Education, Professor Kaniye Ebeku, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, described said report as fake.
The statement reads in part: “The attention of the Rivers Ministry on Education has been drawn to a fake news aired in Wazobia Radio and Nigerian Info and published in other news media that the Rivers State Government has withdrawn from the sponsorship of NECO Examination.
“The truth is that the Rivers State Government, led by His Excellency Governor Nyesom Wike, has not withdrawn from the sponsorship of public examinations, including NECO Examination.
“In fact, it is verifiable that the State Governor has given a standing Directive to the Ministry of Education to take necessary actions for state sponsorship of public examinations yearly.
“Information regarding the registration for NECO examination was received from NECO only a few days ago and this can be verified from NECO Office in Port Harcourt. The Ministry of Education is preparing papers for state sponsorship of NECO 2020 examination.”
Presidential Visitation Panel To UNILAG Inaugurated
Meanwhile, the federal government has inaugurated the Special Presidential Visitation Panel to the University Of Lagos as part of its effort to reposition the institution.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu who inaugurated the council in Abuja yesterday, as constituted and approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, charged them to conclude its assignment and submit report within two weeks from today.
Adamu explained that President Buhari has no interest in the ongoing crisis which is currently rocking the institution.
“It is instructive to note that the decision of the council, instead of stabilizing the University of Lagos, only managed to open up a plethora of accusations and counter-accusation,” the minister said.
President Buhari, in setting up the panel last Friday, directed both Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the former vice chancellor and Dr Babalakin, the former chairman of Council, to step aside from their functions pending the time the panel will conclude its reports.
Adamu said the chairman and members of the panel were carefully selected in recognition of their integrity, track records and antecedents in university management and leadership.
According to him, the terms of the reference of the Special Visitation Panel are “to view the report of the Council Sub-Committee on Review of the Expenditure of the University of Lagos since May, 2017 and make appropriate recommendations, after affording all those indicted an opportunity to defend themselves.
“Examine the steps taken by the council leading to the removal of the vice chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Temitope Ogundipe, and ascertain whether due process was followed as stipulated in the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act, 2003, and the principle of fair hearing adhered to.
“To determine whether the process (if any) leading to the appointment of the acting vice-chancellor for the university was consistent with the provisions of the enabling Act.
“To make appropriate recommendations, including sanctions for all those found culpable by the Special Visitation Team, on the allegations contained in the report as well as other subsequent actions arising therefrom; and to make any recommendations that will assist government to take decisions that will ensure peaceful, stable and effective administration of the university.”
Adamu further expressed confidence that the panel will bring expertise in university administration in the discharge of the task in order to bring the institution back to the path of progress and greatness.
The Special Presidential Visitation Panel led by Professor Tukur Sa’ad has six other members as follows: Barrister Victor Onuoha, Member, Professor Ikenna Onyido, Member, Professor Ekanem Braide, Professor Adamu K Usman, Chief Jimoh Bankole, Barrister Grace Ekanem.
Responding, chairman of the Panel, Professor Sa’ad, promised to work together with the team to ensure that things become accurate.
COVID-19: FG Approves N10bn Palliative Funds For Transport Operators
By EJIKE EJIKE, Abuja
The federal government has approved a ₦10billion survival fund for transport operators in the country.
The fund is to serve as palliative to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on transporters nationwide.
Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, made this known when the president, Public Transport Owners of Nigeria Association (PTONA), Engr Isaac Uhunwagho, led the association’s National Executive Committee and Trustees on a courtesy visit to the minister in Abuja yesterday.
The minister said the funds will help cushion the sufferings of road transport workers and operators as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She stated that the fund is domiciled at the federal ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, adding that the federal ministry of Transportation was currently working on the modalities for its disbursement.
A statement signed by the director of press of the ministry, Erik Ojiekwe, said the minister who said she recognises the fact that about 90 per cent of Nigerians travel by road revealed that the federal government will soon initiate a master plan that will reform the sector, even as she sought the buy-in of all stakeholders.
Reacting to the challenges operators face from state governments and other stakeholders, the minister assured that she will discuss the issues through the National Transport Commissioners Forum.
She also disclosed that she is in talks with the federal ministry of Works and Housing on the concessioning of some routes which she believes is the best way to go so as to increase government revenue.
She further enjoined members of the association to avoid duplicity and formalise their structures in an organised manner for better engagements, with the ministry and other relevant agencies.
Earlier, president of PTONA, Uhunwagho, stated that their visit was to intimate the minister with the challenges their members were facing.
Uhunwagho said, “Our future in the ‘one chance’ business is now encouraging.”
He pleaded for financial palliative for his members to prevent their businesses from folding up.
Zenith Bank Seeks Expansion Of Non-Oil Exports
Meanwhile, the group managing director/chief executive of Zenith Bank, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, has called for a concerted effort towards diversifying the country’s export base through the promotion of non-oil exports.
He made the call during a Webinar with the theme, “Prospects of Non-Oil Export During and Post COVID-19”, organised by the bank yesterday.
According to him, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted the demand for oil and, by extension, the price of crude oil in the international commodities market has further exposed Nigeria’s over-dependence on crude oil earnings and its susceptibility to oil-related shocks.
He added that the events of the last couple of months have also highlighted the limited range of the country’s value-added products exported to foreign markets.
Speaking further, he noted that boosting non-oil export was imperative in view of the opportunities that exist in the broader contexts of ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which seeks to create a continent-wide market of 1.2 billion people with combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.5trillion and about $4 trillion in consumer and business spending.
While commending the efforts of the government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to deepen the non-oil export business in the country, Onyeagwu urged players in the non-oil export value-chain including exporters and financial institutions to play their part in the drive towards expanding the nation’s non-oil export base.
Delivering the keynote address, the director of Trade & Exchange, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr (Mrs) Ozoemena Nnaji, who commended Zenith Bank for organising the Webinar at a time like this, observed that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for the country, as it has once again exposed the over-dependence of the Nigerian economy on one product.
She therefore called for a deeper policy to look at the non-oil sector to find ways of genuinely improving the quality and quantity of the nation’s non-oil export goods.
Also speaking at the Webinar, the chief executive/executive director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr Olusegun Awolowo, commended the efforts of Zenith Bank in promoting non-oil export business in Nigeria, describing the bank as ‘the Export Trade Bank of Nigeria’.
Speaking on the topic, “Repositioning Non-oil export as a Leading Revenue Earner: Government Plans and Programmes”, Awolowo noted that the crash in oil prices following the COVID-19 pandemic and OPEC’s price war with Russia reinforced what everyone already knows – the mono-product economy of the country is not sustainable- calling for a buy-in into the Zero oil policy of NEPC.
Zenith Bank has remained committed to the promotion of the non-oil export sector in Nigeria by identifying emerging opportunities which help in stimulating non-oil exports and developing robust financial products and incentives for operators in the sector.
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