THE Federal Government,Thursday, said there were no plans to scrap the University Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UMTE) and National Examination Council (NECO) as being speculated, stressing that mischief makers were out to pitch the government against the people.
Speaking, yesterday, when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Education, led by Senator Uche Chukwumerije, PDP, Abia North, Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, said in politics, it was possible for people who might have issues with government to come up with how government will be seen as unpopular, adding that critics of government had a hidden agenda.
Following reports of government’s plans to scrap the two examination bodies, the Senate had, on resumption from its Easter break, summoned critical stakeholders as Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufa’i, Minister of State, Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, heads of NECO and Joint Admissions And Matriculation Board, JAMB, but the senior minister was absent as she was said to have accompanied the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on an official assignment outside the country.
Wike, who alluded to the recommendation of the Steve Oronsaye panel set up by the Federal Government to rationalise over 400 government agencies, noted that they were not before the senators to discuss the existence of NECO.
He said: ‘’I don’t know where they got the information that government wanted to scrap NECO. Government has at no time scrapped NECO and JAMB.
“Even if government has to scrap any of these agencies, it has to give reasons for its action. No position has been taken. It is the handiwork of mischievous people who want to pitch the government against the people.
“Even if government has to scrap JAMB or NECO, government has to write the National Assembly to repeal the Acts that established them. I don’t know where the rumours are coming from.”
Wike also frowned on a situation where some professional agencies as Computer Association, Library Association, among others, existed within the Education Ministry and funded by the Ministry.
It will be recalled that the Steve Oronsaye panel was reported to have recommended scrapping of UTME and NECO respectively.
The panel, which report has become the subject of a white paper committee, also recommended the scrapping of double examinations for secondary school students but made a case for existence of only the West African Examination Council (WAEC).
When asked by a member of the committee, Senator Pius Ewherido, DPP, Delta Central, if there was the need to retain the body, Registrar of JAMB, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, stressed the need for the examination body to remain.
He also explained that when scrapped, the unifying factor of UTME as well as its very cheap nature would be defeated.
According to him, UMTE is the only way of addressing the diverse problems of the country, including that of federal character.
Cautioning against the scrap of UMTE, Prof. Ojerinde said the scrapping “would be grave for a Nigerian child. Each child would have to purchase forms for the university he wants to go.”
Also speaking, the Registrar of NECO, Professor Promise Okpala, who canvassed that NECO should be retained, however, said the body had brought a choice to the doorsteps of Nigerian children rather than being pigeon-holed to one examination body.