OBINNA EZUGWU

Some candidates of Eastern Nigeria origin, especially those born in the North, are adopting their states of birth as states of origin to beat discriminatory cut off marks for unity schools.

A source at the National Examinations Council, the body that conducts the entrance examination into the unity schools, confirmed the development to online medium, Sahara Reporters,

The source said the desperation is driven by discriminatory cut-off marks which in some cases require candidates from the East to score far higher than those from the northern states.

“You would see someone that is from Mbaise in Imo State, whose name is, say Chioma, changing her local government to Chikun in Kaduna State,” the source was quoted to have said.

But speaking to Business Hallmark, President of Igbo think tank group, Aka Ikenga, Bar Oscar Owudiwe said the practice did not start today.

The discriminatory cut off marks has continued more than five years after a Federal High court in Lagos ordered the minister for education to desist from applying it for admission into unity schools.

Former Nigerian Bar Association president, Olisa Agbakoba, filed the suit in December 2013. Nyesom Wike, the current governor of Rivers State, was the minister of education at the time.

Agbakoba, in his supporting application, said that since the inception of unity schools, the Federal Government had not addressed the disparity in admission requirements for candidates from different geopolitical zones of the country.

He stated that the Federal Government prescribes different cut-off marks for other states based on candidates’ gender and states of origin.

Despite a court judgement in 2014 that restrained the federal ministry of education from such discriminatory cut-offs, candidates from the Eastern have continued to face the same problem.

In the latest 2020 cut off marks for Unity Schools, Anambra has the highest cut off marks at 139 out of 300 marks for both males and females, followed by Imo with 138 for both gender and Enugu at 134.

Other states in the top 10 are Lagos 133, Delta 131, Ogun 131, Abia 130, Edo, Osun and Oyo with 127 respectively.

On the other hand, states in the bottom 10 include Gombe with 58 for both gender, Nasarawa 58, Borno 45, Bauchi 35, Kebbi 9 for males and 20 for females, Sokoto 9 for males and 13 for females, Zamfara 4 for males and 2 for females, Taraba 3 for males and 11 for females, and Yobe 2 for females and 27 for males.

Onwudiwe said its unfortunate that after the court order, the discriminatory cut off marks continue to be applied, even as he noted that the practice of candidates of Eastern origin adopting Northern states did not start today.

“They have been doing it, particularly those born in the North, so that they can get into the schools. They change name and everything. But there is a lawyer that went to court to stop that thing, and the court granted him relief; that all those discriminatory cut off marks would have to be abolished. But of course you know that some people will resist things that they feel don’t favour them and look for a way to still do the same thing,” he said.

“The court can give its own judgment on anything, but they will do whatever they like.

“But the idea of our own students deciding to do that is very shameful because by the time you finish, you have already established a fraud. You go to school in a different name, for instance why would your name be Okechukwu and you are from Zamfara State?

“The thing is, you will change it to Aminu Yaro, then go through Zamfara and by the time you graduate, you now say you want to do change of name. It’s too cumbersome. For what? All your certificates will bear Aminu Yaro, and you now say you are Okechukwu Okafor, all because of what?

“It’s not just the cut off marks. Some people do it to be able to go to school on scholarships. Then, students in the North don’t pay school fees. Their governments pay for them. In those days, there was a girl from Akwa Ibom who did it. Because she grew up in Maiduguri and her parents were not comfortable enough to pay for her university, she changed her name.

“She actually had her name in there, but also put a Northern name. She was also answering Aisha and all that. And she went through the state scholarship. But the thing is that she was in collusion with one of the people working in the ministry of education in Maiduguri. She graduated. In her final year, she did change, she decided to do a change of name so that her certificate will reflect her real name.

“At that time, no many people were doing it. She succeeded. The system is bad, and you find out that when you mix negative plus negative, you get positive. So, when a system is bad, you see people doing bad things to be able to achieve the little that they want to achieve.”