After the release of the 2021 admissions into the Federal Government Academy, Suleja, Niger State, some parents have criticised the process, saying the list was questionable and bereft of federal character.
The parents, who spoke with THISDAY, stated that it was gross misconduct which had become an annual practice with a section of the country given preferential treatment at the expense of other regions in a facility and programme that is federal government owned and sponsored.
They said the list was divisive and alleged that it could not have been released to the public without the input of the Minister of State for Education, Dr. Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba, who is in charge of basic education, and the Permanent Secretary, Sonny Echonu, in collaboration with the principal of the school.
The school, which is scholarship-based, is tagged Centre for the Gifted and Talented and is one of the 110 unity colleges established to encourage excellence. Its exams are based on merit from the 36 states, including the FCT.
The list, which has 200 names of successful candidates, has 70 slots given to the South eastern states with Anambra clinching 30 slots. Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia have 17, seven, 10 and six respectively, while Bayelsa and Borno have the lowest with 1 and two slots respectively.
Adamawa, Cross River, Taraba, Borno, Delta, Ekiti, Yobe, Rivers, FCT, Gombe, Jigawa, Edo, Zamfara, Kano, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger and Ondo states have three slots each.
Akwa Ibom has five, Plateau, Benue, Bauchi, have eight, nine, and six, respectively.
Oyo, Kaduna, Sokoto, Osun, Katsina, and Kebbi have four each, and Kogi, Kwara have 13 and six.
A parent, Fatima Iliyasu, said two of her sons wrote the exams and were not admitted even when they had consistently been on top in their classes.
She said for the purpose of transparency, NECO should have been mandated to conduct the exams like it does for common entrance
“Why can’t an external body like NECO conduct the exams? Why should the ministry leave such sensitive exams and admission process in the hands of the school management?
“Every state is endowed with brilliant students. What is so special about a particular state that a whole 30 slots will be given to it at the detriment of other states? Is it because the minister who is in charge of basic education is an Igbo man? Why should they play politics with our educational system? Do you mean to tell me that it is only Anambra state that has intelligent children? This is totally unacceptable,” she said.
Another parent, Boniface Ekwe, while condemning the list and calling for fresh admissions, said the issue of admission had never been so bad. Lamenting the incident, he said the school needed to purge itself of bad eggs, alleging that they may have leaked question papers.
According to him: “An Igbo man will do anything to get the questions for his child and once he is able to get it, he will syndicate for a price to other parents who will also buy and give to their children.
“Didn’t the minister and the permanent secretary see the list before it was published? Did they not go through it? Did they ask questions? Didn’t the permanent secretary sign it? The director in charge of basic education is from which part of the country? Find out. They know what they are doing. They are simply incompetent,” he said.
Meanwhile, the principal of the school, Dr. Asma’u Yakubu Abdullahi, who spoke with THISDAY on telephone, said over the years, candidates from the South-east, especially Anambra State have proven to be the most intelligent.
She said parents from the South-east have distinguished themselves in coaching their children with past question papers and have formed the habit of getting suitable teachers to coach their children in preparation for the exams, hence their outstanding performance.
“According to her, “This has been the practice for a very long time and Anambra has always been the highest on the list.
“For a whole year, Anambra parents prepare their students for the entrance examinations. They prepare adequately. They have a centre and you can make enquiries. All they do is to practice past questions from the academy for the past 10-15 years.
“We work with merit list and we excel. We give 50 per cent as merit and most of them are from Anambra and that’s why they are more in number. We have given three slots from each state which is the second part of our admission which is based on merit at the state level. 50 per cent divided among the 36 states and that is how we arrived at those figures.
“I have told myself that I will be truthful and at my age, I will not begin to do anything that will be detrimental. I will not be biased and will not be selfish. It is Anambra that did well and to Anambra I gave admissions. I am from Katsina and they didn’t do well and so I didn’t give them. I have received calls from parents and have also been criticised,” she said.
The director of information and public affairs, Mr. Ben Goong could not be reached as at the time of this report. However, sources close to the ministry confirmed that indeed the permanent secretary approved the list devoid of federal character.