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The Cart Before The Horse

Recently, the news all over social media has it that a former candidate, Ejikeme Mmesoma, 19, who sat for the 2023 Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination in Nigeria, was alleged to have fraudulently inflated her result, making herself the overall best candidate in the just concluded JAMB examination. On this, the academic institution was reported to have investigated the issue above and punished the candidate by withdrawing her result and banning her from further participation in Jamb exams for the next three years.

Going forward, I will refrain from commenting on the validity or otherwise of the allegation against the candidate, the purported investigation, and the punishment. However, I wish to address the fundamental issue as to whether an institution can punish an erring candidate where there is a criminal allegation against such a candidate without first establishing the guilt of the candidate and the duty of JAMB.

The right to a fair hearing is enshrined and ingrained under the Nigerian Constitution. It is also a hallowed principle of natural justice, equity, and good conscience that a person should be accorded a fair hearing at all times to determine his civil rights and obligations.

As an institution, JAMB is vested with the administrative power to punish or discipline an erring candidate who sat for their examination. However, the principle of fair hearing entrenched in our constitution must strictly be observed at all the stages of the process leading to the application of any sanction against an erring candidate. It is essential to state that the only requirement to be met on the part of the university or institution in question is that in exercising its disciplinary powers, it must adhere strictly to the twin principles of natural justice, i.e., the doctrines of “audi alteram partem” and “nemo judex in a causa sua” in the conduct of its activities.

Though Mmesoma later admitted forging her results before the eight-man panel set up by the Governor of Anambra State, Charles Soludo, an investigation is still pending in the House of Representatives. Therefore, the questions as to whether the said candidate was actually guilty of the alleged offense, who determined her guilt, who carried out the investigation, was she given an opportunity to defend herself, are germane, such that if not adequately considered may contravene the provisions of the law.

This seems to be the case of putting the cart before the horse.

A snapshot of the HRF team and guest speakers’ view in light of “Liberty Pulpit.”  A program that involves essay writing contest and debate on human rights issues, amongst several schools at the state level. Liberty Pulpit took place at Government secondary School, Kuje, FCT, Abuja, Nigeria on July 4, 2023. The event catapulted HRF’s mandate of promoting human rights awareness and advocacy in the Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria.

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