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Discriminatory cut-off marks to Unity Schools: Southern candidates adopt northern states as states of origin

Chidi Ogbuokiri

As the Federal Government shuns court ruling against imbalance in admission into the Federal Government collages, otherwise known as Unity Schools, many candidates from the Southern part of the country seeking to gain admission to the Unity Schools are now adopting northern states as their states of origin to qualify for admission, National Mail has learnt.

A source, who works for the National Examinations Council, the body that conducts the entrance examination into the Unity Schools, expressed concerns over the development.

The source says the desperation is driven by discriminatory cut-off marks which in some cases require candidates from the South East to score ten times more than those from the northern states.   

Close to 70 months after a Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the minister for education to desist from applying discriminatory cut-off for admission into Unity Schools , the Federal Ministry of Education has yet to obey the judgement.

It will be recalled that a 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 when the lawsuit was filed.

Agbakoba, in his supporting application, said that since the inception of the 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 that restrained the Federal Ministry of Education from such discriminatory cut-offs, candidates from the South East have continued to face the same problem nearly six years after the court order.

Revealing the impact to National Mail, the source said, “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.”

Because candidates from states in the North West or North East are not required to score up to 100 out of 300 to qualify for admission, many candidates from the South East are now choosing these states as states of origin.

The judgment against discriminatory cut-offs was obtained by Olisa Agbakoba, former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, from a Federal High Court in 2014.

Since the court order, the discriminatory cut-offs had continued to be applied for admission into the 104 federal government colleges, with candidates from the South East disproportionately affected by the policy which stems from the quota system and federal character principle. 

The unwillingness of the Federal Government to obey the judgment has led experts in education to say that the government follows a tribal pattern in deciding what laws are to be obeyed.

“When a law is made, and it doesn’t favour a section of the country, it will just exist on paper, and there will be no manifestation of it anywhere,” Bamikole Fagbohungbe, a professor of psychology at the University of Lagos said in an interview.

“Nigeria is a peculiar country,” he says. “Here, when it comes to the rule of law, the government chooses which one to obey.”

Last year, male candidates from Kebbi State, who scored 9 over 300, were eligible for admission into the federal unity schools while candidates from the South East who scored more than 100 were not.

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