The Joint Admission Matriculation Board has described as untrue claims by Esther Abiona that she was denied the opportunity of registering for the 2023 United Tertiary Matriculation Examination on the grounds of her disability.
The 18-year-old admission seeker is a person living with disability after losing five fingers on her right hand.
Abiona had in an interview with PUNCH, claimed that her incapability to provide 10 fingers for biometric verification was responsible for the failure of the JAMB registration officers to capture her in the system for the 2023 registration.
She also claimed that on reaching the board’s headquarters in Abeokuta for an explanation, she was told by a registration officer to go to the national headquarters, Abuja, for her registration.
According to her, her parents could not afford the trip, making her lose out on the 2023 admission process.
This is despite the fact that she had paid in full for the registration and presented receipts of payment to the officials.
Abiona also noted that she wrote the 2022 UTME and applied to study Medical Laboratory Science at the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, but had not been offered admission yet, which made her apply for the 2023 cycle, in order not to lose out on both ends.
Speaking, JAMB’s spokesperson, Dr Fabian Benjamin, said it was not true that Abiona was denied the opportunity to register solely on the grounds of her disability, noting that the JAMB registration portal catered to all issues relating to matters of disability of all kinds.
“When there is a challenge in capturing 10 fingers, the officers are meant to capture the fingers that are available and write a report on why the others could not be captured,” he told Saturday PUNCH.
Furthermore, in a rejoinder titled, “The True Story of Esther Abiona – JAMB”, a copy of which was sent to The PUNCH on Tuesday evening, Benjamin stated that Abiona was not saying all the truth in the matter.
This is as the JAMB spokesperson also noted that the admission seeker had registered for the UTME examination twice – 2021 and 2022 despite her disability– before the 2023 cycle, which was unsuccessful for unknown reasons.
He said, “Ms. Abiona registered for UTME at Mountain Top University CBT Centre, Ogun State, at 4.46 pm. on 12th May 2021. Given her obvious condition and in line with the guidelines, she was registered with five fingers and five toes. She applied for MBBS at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. Unfortunately, she did not meet the requirements for admission into any course.
“Again, just as it was in 2021, she was registered with five fingers and five toes on 8th March 2022, at 3:24 pm in Oye-Ekiti for the UTME and applied to Federal University, Oye -Ekiti, to study Medical Laboratory Science.
“While this was being processed, she suddenly changed to Microbiology last month (February 2023).
“The Board felt the change to Microbiology was unnecessary because she could still make her first choice and was investigating the reason for the change. That was where we were when she went to the media.”
After the Saturday PUNCH story, Benjamin noted that Abiona was confronted on why she made that swift change to Microbiology and she was quoted to have said ‘an unidentified person in town who claimed to be a staff of the university (FUOYE) advised her to do the change’.
For the 2023 registration, the spokesperson confirmed that Abiona indeed obtained the ePIN on February 14, 2023 , as stated in her interview with Saturday PUNCH.
This, according to Benjamin, was ‘the last day for the exercise’.
Benjamin said, “She approached our office in Abeokuta on 15th February 2023, which was the day designated for those candidates whose disability was not obvious to come to Abuja for verification and registration at the board’s expense.
“She was then told that the registration would end on February 15, 2023, as a result of which she panicked, though the exercise was on that day eventually extended to 22nd February 2023, which was widely advertised.
“Is it not baffling that after registering for the UTME in 2021 and 2022 with five fingers and five toes as provided for by the board, she would turn around to allege that she was denied registration in 2023 on account of the same disability?
“If she was exempted from travelling to Abuja in 2021 and to the Zonal headquarters in 2022, why would she then be required for 2023 when her biometric data are in our system?”
Benjamin stressed that the category of candidates required to travel to Abuja to complete their registration were those whose finger defects were not ‘obvious and almost all the fingers are not biometrically registrable’, adding that Abiona did not belong to this group.
When posed with the questions raised by JAMB, Abiona said the registration officers misled her, making her believe she needed to travel to Abuja, as the directive was a ‘new one from the board’.
She, however, appealed to well-meaning Nigerians to come to her aid, as she did not want to lose the year’s registration because of the misunderstanding.
But, Benjamin, however, added that the board would ‘continue to seek Abiona’s best interest of securing admission for her initial choice for 2022/2023 academic session’.