By Farooq Kperogi
People who want to impeach the credibility of JAMB, especially its current leadership, as a pretext for believing Mmesoma Ejikeme’s UTME result fraud routinely invoked (and some people still invoke) the February 2018 story of a JAMB clerk in Benue by the name of Philomina Chieshe who had lied that N36 million realized from the sale of JAMB scratch cards couldn’t be accounted for because it had been “swallowed” by a “snake.”
Based on this story, I have seen statements like, “An organization in which snakes swallow money can’t be trusted on face value,” “An organization that allows snakes to swallow money can sell the results of a poor teenager,” etc.
But that’s a ludicrous, grotesque inversion not just of logic but also of the import of what actually happened.
First, the money wasn’t missing in the life of the current JAMB leadership, which started in 2016. As I pointed out in my February 17, 2018, column titled “Superstitions and the Thieving, Omnivor9ous Snake in Benue,” most people didn’t go beyond the story’s headline and just jumped to conclusions based on their preconceptions.
The N36 million was, in fact, stolen between 2006 and 2007. The fraud was discovered only because current JAMB registrar Professor Ishaq Oloyede ordered a broad and thorough audit of the finances of the organization shortly after he took over in 2016. The audit led to the recovery of millions of naira from many fraudulent JAMB employees and the prosecution and firing of several others.
Philomina Chieshe made national headlines because of the absurdity of her explanation for why she couldn’t account for N36 million in her care: that a sneaky spiritual snake had mysteriously swallowed up all the money.
But through EFCC’s prosecutorial pressure, we later learned that the money-guzzling “snake” was no other than Chieshe’s boss by the name of Samuel Saleh Umoru.
The last time I read, both Chieshe and Umoru are still standing trial not just for the N36 million fraud but for attempting to bribe a JAMB auditor by the name of Ibrahim Oba. Oba reported the bribe to JAMB’s Audit Unit, which deposited it into the Board’s account.
I thought the lesson from the 2018 snake story should be that an organization that audits its finances and invites the public to share in the knowledge of the outcome of its internal audit is too transparent and too accountable to cheat and deprive a poor 19-year-old woman of her legitimate UTME scores.