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The long arm of the law has caught up with 608 candidates who engaged in exam malpractices, just as the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) impounded and cancelled their certificates issued several years ago.The decision to impound and cancel the certificates was approved at the 65th, 66th, 68th and 69th meetings of the Nigeria Examinations Committee (NEC), the highest policy-making organ of WAEC on examination-related matters.

WAEC said: ‘’The certificates of the candidates were impounded at the zonal/branch offices while issuing certificates. The candidates willingly made confessional statements to the fact that they were impersonated in the various examinations indicated against their names. The result slips/certificates have been returned by the offices concerned to the Post Examinations Department for presentation to this committee for subsequent cancellation.’’

The committee meets twice a year, to consider matters related to the conduct of the May/June and November/December West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

Membership of NEC comprises representatives of state Ministries of Education, the All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS) and the universities.  It also includes the Registrar to council, the Head of the Nigeria National Office, the Head of the Test Development Division (TDD) and the Head of the Test Administration Division (TAD) of the council.

At its 65th meeting, the committee whose statutory chairman is the Director (Basic and Secondary Education), Federal Ministry of Education and chief Federal Government nominee on council, cancelled 500 certificates with the oldest obtained in 1978. Among the impounded certificates for either the school or private candidate examinations were four issued 42 years ago dated December 1978 with certificate numbers P0075428, P0078982, POO73578 and P0073003.

Three certificates belonging to same candidate with different dates, 1978, 1979 and 1981 were approved for impoundment. The confiscated certificates with numbers P007003, P0210639 were issued December 1979 and P0674446 also issued December 1981.

The same meeting approved the confiscation of three certificates issued to a candidate on different dates, September 1991 with certificate number NGSP 0020165, December 1992 with certificate number NGSP 0187211 and December 1994 with certificate number NGSP 0123182. Also, another candidate with two certificates were impounded by WAEC for examination fraud issued December 1992 with certificate NGSP 0190131 and December 1993 with certificate number NGSP 0525393.

Interestingly, private candidate exam (Nov/Dec) recorded the highest numbers of cancelled certificates with 537 while school exam (May/June) accounted for 71. Further breakdown showed that 1991 had the highest number of impounded certificates with 76, followed by 2002 recorded 57, 2001 with 56, 1995 recorded 41, 2000 had 32 and 1994 came up with 30 and 1993 had 13 confiscated certificates.

Others include 1992 -23, 1989 -31, 1990 -31,  2003-21, 1986 -18, 1991 -14, 2007 -4 while 2008 -3, 2011 -3, 2014- 3, 1979 -8, 1981 -5,1987 -24, 1997 -16, 1999 -76, 2004 -15, 2013 -4 and 2014 -3.

Chief Executive Officer of Education Services Consult, Lagos, Dr Mike Okogie, commended the council for impounding the certificates of candidates found wanting and asked the exam body to make their names and photo public to serve as deterrent to others:

“Though it took some years to discover and sanction the candidates. The action will send the right signal to candidates that no matter how long it takes, the fraud committed during their exams will be exposed and WAEC will apply the necessary sanction. Cheating during examinations either for May/June or Nov/Dec WASSCE is unacceptable, candidates should prepare for exams rather than engage in examination malpractice or hire mercenaries to write the exam.”

A lawyer, Mr Kunle Olaniran, said the fight against exam malpractice by WAEC is slow and wondered why it took the exam body several years to impound certificates of candidates that cheated and warned that some of the affected candidates will go to court to seek redress:

“The sanction by NEC is a welcome development. The import of the sanction is that no matter how many years the exam fraud was committed, those involved will be fish out and appropriate sanction meted out to them. My fear is that some of them may head to the court to challenge the decision of WAEC NEC.”

He did not rule out that some politicians who engaged mercenaries during such exams could be among the list considering that some of the certificates cancelled date back to the 70s, 80s and 90s. “You know we had cases of some politicians involved in certificate mess during the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections.”

In August 2003, the council began the embossment of photograph on the candidate’s certificate making it difficult to forge WAEC certificates or impersonate during the exam.  The innovation allows institutions of higher education and employers a greater deal of certainty that credentials presented to them are earned and genuine.

WAEC said the effort “is being done to check the growing rate of certificate racketeering, forgery and to eliminate impersonation during the exam, which has characterised Nigeria’s educational system over the past 20 years.” Some of the features on the new embossed certificate include gender identification, date of birth, the coat of arms of the WAEC member-country, a watermark of the WAEC logo and the candidate’s photograph.

Investigations revealed that since the embossment of candidate’s photograph on the certificate was introduced 17 years ago, the level of impersonation in the exam halls has reduced drastically because at the point of collecting the certificates, candidates are asked to come along with their recent passport photos and in some cases it does not march with the one attached to the form/document filled by such candidate.

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