The National Examination Council (NECO) in Nasarawa State has said some unauthorized individuals and cyber café operators selling Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) scratch cards have been identified.
The council had earlier said the use of scratch cards from illicit dealers contributed to the delay in the release of results of previous exams affecting students in about 90 schools.
Hundreds of students had taken to the streets in Lafia against the delay, which they said would affect their chances of getting admission into higher institutions despite their Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), results.
NECO State Officer, Batelomi Kokoh, made the disclosure to newsmen while fielding questions on the fate of students whose examination results were withheld.
He said investigation was continuing but many of the affected schools have reconciled the challenges and their lists forwarded to NECO headquarters adding that the results would be released in less than one week’s time.
He also stated that the matter was under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). “I cannot reveal the identity of the suspects but definitely there will be sanctions on the perpetrators and it will be made public.”
One official in Lafia said some NECO personnel and commercial cyber cafes in the state connived with principals of the affected schools in the illegal transactions of the scratch cards.
The source said some staff of the council were conniving with some commercial banks to clone the Treasury Single Account (TSA) code numbers and replicate same to other people.
“Already, some fraudulent people, especially in commercial banks, are replicating the TSA codes and issuing them to other prospective candidates but NECO is clever enough to detect this fraud with the use of its new software,” the source said.
The source said some officials in the affected schools were persuaded to disclose the identity of the NECO staff involved in the scratch card deal.
“NECO has discovered the commercial cyber cafes selling the scratch cards to principals and all the necessary steps were taken to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book,” the source said.
He pointed out that “NECO had for long cancelled cross border sale of scratch cards and you cannot buy a card in Abuja and register in Nasarawa or buy it in one state and register in another state. We have only one selling point in the state.”
The students caught in the exam result delay said they staged a street protest due to lack of satisfactory answer on why their NECO results have not been released.
Many of them said they scored the required marks in UTME but were denied admission because of lack of SSCE results.
They appealed to the state government to come to their aid to enable them secure admission.
Attempts by our correspondent to get the response of the state Ministry of Education proved abortive as the commissioner, Aliyu Tijjani, and permanent secretary could not be reached.
Meanwhile, speaking when he received the protesters, the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Aliyu Agwai, said the ministry was not aware of the delay but promised to resolve their grievances through peaceful channel.
A source at the ministry, however, said the education authorities were aware of the NECO examination scandal even before the students protest but didn’t take prompt action.
The source added that it was after the students’ protest that the ministry summoned all principals to a meeting where the affected schools were asked to sort out the challenges with NECO office in Lafia and also warned not speaks with journalists about the matter.
“Let me tell you this, NECO results were released since August 20, 2018 and the ministry is fully aware of the delay of results from over 120 schools,” he stressed.
Many of the principals involved declined to comment. One of the affected schools is Government Secondary School, Maina, Lafia. The principal, Malam Hamza Laminu Maina, said, “I will not comment on the matter because we were warned by the ministry not to speak to the press about the NECO results, if you want any information about the issue you should go to the ministry.”
The mother of one of the affected students, Halima Hussaini, told Daily Trust that her son wrote the examination in Keffi LGA but the result was yet to be released.
Halima, who is retired civil servant, said, “My son, Umar, has scored the required UTME marks to get admission but NECO hasn’t released his SSCE results. I visited the school more than 10 times but the principal kept pleading that the results will be released soon. I don’t want my son to lose his admission chances.”
The Acting Registrar, Alhaji Abubakar Gana, said schools whose results were not released did not follow appropriate channel to purchase scratch cards to register the students for the examination.
Okegbemi Olusoji Festus is an Editor/Creative writer at campustori.com, A digital media Executive and a known Social Media Enthusiast.