By Ngozi Nwankwo
Ms. Esther Abiona’s allegation, which was published in the Punch of Saturday, 4th March 2023, that she was denied the right to register for the 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination,UTME, on account of her disability, is false, said Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB.
In a press statement issued to journalists by Fabian Benjamin, Dr.
Head, Public Affairs and Protocol, JAMB, said the Board is an equal opportunity organisation and, as such, has put in place adequate operational processes to cater for all candidates including those with special needs right from registration to admission.
Explaining in details, JAMB said Ms. Abiona registered for UTME at Mountain Top University CBT Centre, Ogun State, at 4.46pm on 12th May, 2021. Given her obvious condition and in line with the guidelines, she was registered with five fingers and five toes. She applied for MBBS at OAU. Unfortunately, she did not meet the requirement for admission into any course.
He recalled that the Board, since 2020, when the biometric verification process was grossly abused by some candidates, had established that anyone whose disability is not obvious would have to come to Abuja for his/her registration and the Board had always borne their travel expenses.
“It is, however, instructive that Ms. Abiona had never been among those invited to Abuja as she had all along been registered without necessarily having to undertake the trip.
“Thus, she was registered in Ogun State and not required to come to Abuja because her disability was obvious and not in doubt. Those whose disability to thumbprint was doubtful or not physically obvious had to register in Abuja (with their transport expenses paid by the Board), just as the Board provides transportation, hotel accommodation and feeding for every blind candidate as well as his/her guide for the UTME.”
Explaining further, the examination body said, ” Again, just as it was in 2021, she was registered with five fingers and five toes on 8th March, 2022, at 3:24 pm in Oye-Ekiti for the UTME and applied to Federal University, Oye -Ekiti, to study Medical Laboratory Science.
“While this was being processed, she suddenly changed to Microbiology last month (February, 2023).
” The Board felt the change to Microbiology was unnecessary because she could still make her first choice and was investigating the reason for the change. That was where we were when she went to the media.
“In the Newspaper, she claimed that the “University admission officer told her to register for a supplementary admission in another department in the faculty of sciences” which she did. A claim that the University Admission Officer has refuted.
“She later informed the Board that an unidentified person in town, who claimed to be a staff of the university advised her to do the change.”
For 2023 UTME registration, JAMB explained that, Abiona obtained the ePIN on 14th February, 2023, the initial last day for the exercise and approached its office in Abeokuta on 15th February 2023, which was the day designated for those candidates whose disability was not obvious to come to Abuja for verification and registration (again at the Board’s expense).
According to the Board, she was then told that the registration exercise would end on 15th February, 2023, as a result of which she panicked, though the exercise was on that day eventually extended to 22nd February, 2023, which was widely advertised.
“Is it not baffling that after registering for UTME in 2021 and 2022 with five fingers and five toes as provided for by the Board, she would turn around to allege that she was denied registration in 2023 on account of the same disability? If she was exempted from travelling to Abuja in 2021 and to the Zonal Headquarters in 2022, why would she then be required for 2023 when her biometric data are in our system?
” It should be noted that the category of candidates required to come to Abuja to complete their registration are those whose finger defects were not obvious and almost all the fingers are not biometrically registrable. She did not belong to this group.
“The Board takes a keen interest in candidates with disability hence the establishment of the JAMB Equal Opportunity Group (JEOG) as a standing committee saddled with the responsibility of catering for candidates with visual impairment among other disabilities.
“The Board understands the challenges of the disabled and it has done everything within its powers to ensure that they are provided with a level playing field so that they could also meet their aspirations.
“Despite Ms. Abiona’s unacceptable approach of publicising half-truths, the Board will continue to seek her best interest of securing admission for her initial choice for 2022/2023 Academic Session,” said JAMB.