THE FACE OF INTEGRITY IN NECO

The new management put in place last year to restore service delivery and integrity in the National Examinations Council record Impressive achievements.

By Oscar Nwogu

Adamu Adamu, immediate past Minister of Education may likely be pleased with the one year service record of the management he put in place atthe National Examinations Council(NECO) last year. Adamu, a die-hard campaigner for integrity in office stuck out his neck to suspend key management staff of NECO, found to have been clogs in the wheel of progress in the indigenous examinations body created in 1999 to handle the conduct of the School-based (June/July) and External (November/December) Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE)in Nigeria. The exercise is fast yielding positive result.

NECO is now wearing a new face. Not really in aesthetics of available infrastructure within the premises of the indigenous examination body, with headquarters in Minna, Niger state. A higher degree of management efficiency, leadership by example and service with integrity appears to be in place now, in sharp contrast to the era of crisis and pervading aura of malpractices which swept out the immediate past administration in May last year.

The 12 month old, new management team, led by Abubakar Gana, Acting Registrar, under the supervision of Dr. Abubakar Saddiq, Board Chairman of NECO, now have a growing list of achievements to showcase.

The management team and council went into action soon after they were sworn in and came out with reforms to turn around NECO. Among others, sanity and peace was restored through a prompt resolution of trade disputes with union groups in the Council. At present, and for the first time, the Management and the Trade Unions have resolved all contentious issues and are both working harmoniously for the overall interest of the Council.

Satisfied with the outcome of reforms, less than four months of being sworn in, Abubakar Gana,Acting Registrar called a press conference in Abuja, capital of Nigeria. At the conference, he announced that on-going reforms and NECO’s efforts at fulfilling its mandate were beginning to yield bountiful results.
 He said, among other things: “All issues between union and the management are now resolved as the management and staff of the Council have come to agree to work together on issues that divided them to attain the main objectives of the council.

“As part of the reforms, NECO commenced immediate implementation of the manpower development plan recommended by a Ministerial Committee under the Chairmanship of Muhammed Umar, a former Director of Human Resources, Federal Ministry of Education.”

Gana said the reforms which were being implemented by way of internal postings and transfer of personnel based on their areas of specialisation had ensured efficiency in the council’s overall operations.
He added that the recent reforms being implemented had helped NECO to take its place as a reliable examination management body.
He explained that for the first time, since its establishment, it had been able to also end a decade-long industrial dispute between its management and unions and commenced reforms that would ensure specialisation for its staff.

The Acting Registrar explained that one core manifestation of the dividend of reform was in the result of recent examinations organised by NECO.He said that in the results of the NECO examinations of 2017, specifically, Mathematics and English language, showed that 70.85 per cent of candidates obtained five credits and above.

In the case of  2018 NECO results, he said that 875,464 candidates, representing 84.77 per cent scored credits in English Language, while 850,331 candidates representing 82.34 per cent, scored credits in Mathematics.
He added that 742,455 candidates representing 71.48 per cent scored five credits and above, including English Language and Mathematics.

Gana attributed the early release of results to efforts made by NECO to satisfy the quest of candidates awaiting UTME results to gain admissions into the universities of their choice. His words: “NECO’s effectiveness in beating the deadlines is historic. Prior to this time, NECO results took between two to three months or even more before they were released. This was done to ease off pressure mounted on awaiting-result candidates participating in the Unified Tertiary Matriculations Examination, conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. The council also realigned its procedures to ensure that results are released early to meet JAMB’s deadlines.”

Gana also explained that for the first time since NECO was established in 1999 its examinations were well-coordinated in June/July 2018 and results released forty days after. He said this similar schedule had also been adopted by the West African Examination Council, which released its 2018 results after two months of conducting the West African School Certificate Examination, WASSCE.

The 2019 National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE) has been successfully conducted and the results released while Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) has been concluded and results released to schools.

The Council Registration portal has also been repositioned to checkmate financial leakage of the Council resources, and allow seamless registration process which is evident in the record breaking figures of candidates’ registration in the on-going June/July SSCE Internal Examinations. The linkage of the portal with TSA is a demonstration of the Acting Registrar’s Transparency style of Leadership, as income and expenditure of the Council can now be accessed by all relevant stakeholders without bottleneck.

It was the Chairman of NECO Board that released the cheering news that NECO   has stopped the use of scratch cards for the conduct of its Senior Secondary School Examinations. Dr. Saddiq, the Chairman released the information during the commissioning and unveiling of 8,000 biometric machines and 20 Toyota Hilux vans bought by the agency in Minna State.

He stated that the era of scratch cards for NECO examinations registration is now a thing of the past and that students will henceforth be registered online and given code to complete their registration. The device is expected to make it difficult for impersonation of candidates during examination.

The NECO Board Chairman said that the procurement of the equipment was necessary as the council had in the past been borrowing vehicles to enable it run its examinations. He noted that impersonation had become a major problem in the conduct of its examination, saying that with such procurement, monitoring of examinations will now be smooth.

“Last year, we went to INEC to beg for vehicles to enable us run our examinations. We learnt from our mistakes and decided that this year, we are going to organise a hitch free examination.Our examination materials will reach their point in time now; impersonation has become a major problem. I monitored examination last year and was not happy because I saw those who did not register but sat for the examination.With this improvement, we can now go round with the machine and get to book anyone who impersonates’’, he said.

Dr. Saddiq explained that the council’s ICT unit would be improved and made effective for the conduct of any of its examination. He added that NECO will boast of a website befitting of any examination standard through its ICT units while promising to upgrade other units of the council.

At the commissioning ceremony too, Abubakar Gana,Acting Registrar, revealed that NECO spent N500 million and N327.8 million to procure the biometric machines and 20 Toyota Hilux Van respectively. Each vehicle was said to have been bought for N16, 390,000 while a unit of each biometric machine cost N62, 500.

He said:  “The last time the council bought vehicles was in 2013; we have also bought 8,000 units of biometric capture machines, which can verify the identity of candidates, as well as record attendance. In the last year, we were able to save money and sought approval from the Board and Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). The essence of the biometric is to deal with impersonation to help sanitise the system thereby having quality standards.We have been able to utilise our scarce resources and saved more to be able to procure the necessary equipment for our operations.’’

While commissioning the equipment, Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, said the procurement was aimed at boosting the operations of the council. Echono, who was represented by Abubakar Koko, Director (Human Resources) in the ministry, advised the management of the council to ensure that the equipment were well maintained for the benefit of humanity.He, therefore, pledged the ministry’s continued support and collaboration in all of the council’s projects.

In the last one year, Gana has indeed demonstrated that he is a team player. For the first time, Council conducted her June/July examination during which every staff participated. As a consequence, the Council has witnessed calmness and peace never seen before.

Under the able leadership of Mr. Gana, NECO has been repositioned in the hearts of her critical stakeholders. Stakeholders like External monitors, Supervisors, Security Personnel and other ad-hoc staff, for the first time gave testimonial reports of how happy they were that their honorarium was promptly paid by the NECO Management unlike in the past when such payments were delayed.

Other achievements recorded under the leadership of Gana include:remittance of about N1 billion to the coffers of the Federal Government, due to prudent management of available resources. He has also carried out timely and transparent conduct of staff promotion examinations as well as prompt and full payment of Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) to Officers on out of station assignments.

Under his one year leadership too, there has been an upward review and prompt payment of honorarium to Examiners and other ad-hoc staff engaged by the Council, Development of new government-approved website for the Council and interlocking of the link roads and parking areas in the Council Headquarters.

Mr. Gana as a seasoned and astute Administrator, is a good listener but not given to unnecessary rhetoric as he believes in the sanctity of facts. These qualities have distinguished as well as endeared him to his admirers within and outside NECO. In appreciation of his qualities,the achievements as Acting Registrar so far and recognition of his immense contributions to the development of the education sector, the leadership of the Senate, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) conferred an award of excellence on Gana a few weeks ago.

Giving reasons for honouring the Acting Registrar, Gambo Mohammed, Senate President of NANS, explained in a statement he read, June 17, 2019,  that  Gana“restored peace alongside confidence and trust which has resulted in the bonding of NECO as a very united family with matching positive results”.

Mohammed added also that “Gana’s leadership of NECO has given every Staff and stakeholder the opportunity of bringing out the best in them with the sole and singular purpose of moving NECO to greater heights as evidenced by the consistent streak of achievements being recorded on a regular basis”.  Looking back on the years past, the NAN’s spokesman said, “There was evident absence of Staff motivation which subjected the Council to the inglorious status of an Organization in static embrace. Thus, NECO was at a standstill while accountability and transparency were relegated to the back seat at the detriment of Staff welfare”.

Gana has, on account of many testimonials in his favour, raised the bar of excellence in NECO. The good relationship which exists today, between him and the Council Chairman, his colleagues,the Directors of the Council and union members who speak for the mass of staff at NECO cannot be easily forgotten, as key reason why Gana is leaving solid legacies already,in the arduous task of repositioning NECO, along the path of integrity and honour.

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