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Why I Objected To The Manner JAMB Handled The Case Of Mmesoma And How It Ended



Why I Objected To The Manner JAMB Handled The Case Of Mmesoma And How It Ended

By Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire

From the moment the case of Mmesoma (we can now all use her first name only) went viral, my mind went to due process. Instantly, I knew there were a big issue and a small issue involved. I knew also that it was possible that most people would focus on the small issue while ignoring or downplaying the big issue. I also knew there was a big party and a small party in this story.

When you have a big issue and small issue mixed up, you have the fear of the problem prioritization. Tackling the problem of prioritization helps us understand what are the first set of problems that need solving. We do this by factoring in the intersection of all the things that are important in identifying the central problem and solving it. The risk is that priority or more attention would be given to the small issue, rather than the big issue. And when you have a big party and a small party in a conflict, the fear is that of the possibility of abuse of power and influence by the big party. The fear is never that the small party would intimidate the big party or abuse the rights of the big party and thereby forcing an outcome on the big party. The concept of due process is intended to check the potential for the bigger party to abuse its power and position of influence. And force a suboptimal or inefficient outcome.

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One illustration of error of prioritization in legal matter that comes to mind was in the case of Senator Ike Ekweremadu. Most Nigerians focused on the age of David Nwamini. The argument was whether he was 15 as he claimed then or 21 as otherwise suggested. This debate dominated the discussion of the subject. And if that case was decided by a Nigerian judge, probably, the age issue would be have been the deciding factor. But good a thing the judge in that case was able to focus on the big ignore rather than the small and irrelevant issue of David’s age.

Mmesoma is too small to intimidate or overwhelm the Government of Nigeria. She had no capacity to force an outcome on JAMB or the Nigerian Government. I never feared that she would have her way or that she would be able to cover up anything she did wrong. But I feared that if JAMB did anything wrong to contribute to the problem at hand, JAMB could and would use its power and position to cover it up. I was afraid of what JAMB could do, and not of what Mmesoma could do. I knew that JAMB could force any outcome it desired upon Mmesoma. That was my fear.

Unfortunately, many people committed the main errors that could be committed in the case. Their priority was on what Mmesoma did or did not do, rather than on what JAMB did or did not do. Also, their focus was on how to stop the small party (Mmesoma) from abusing the powers she never had. If she cheated, it would be so easy to detect that. There was no way a single JAMB candidate could overwhelm the entire JAMB system. But once priority was misplaced and the bigger party was ignored, I knew that we would never solve the problem in an efficient or optimal fashion.

JAMB is a government institution that is well-funded by tax-pawer’s money. That is our money. The Nigerian people fund JAMB. So, JAMB should account to us. JAMB should show us that it had a transparent system that could not be so easily manipulated. JAMB had to show us that it had a method of dealing with these issues. JAMB had to show us that its system was transparent enough. JAMB had to show Nigerians that it is credible. Unfortunately, JAMB didn’t show this because we focused on the small party. And the worst of it all was that most people reasoned only through their perception of their ethnic identity.

The fact that Nigerians never had a clear idea of how to verify authentic JAMB result was a problem. That was what made it difficult for the Anambra State Government, Innoson and other to know the truth until after three weeks of publicly celebrating what was fake JAMB scores. So, if Mmesoma had operated quietly and away from public glare, she would have fooled many individuals and institutions and get away with it.

To understand the absurdity of the JAMB position, you will note the egotistical personalization of its mission in this case as revealed in the following statement:

“We’ve been vindicated – JAMB declares as Mmesoma acknowledges she forged UTME result. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, has issued an official statement following the acknowledgment by Ejikeme Mmesoma that she forged her contested UTME result.”

All that JAMB officials wanted was for them to wipe the mud on their faces and declare themselves vindicated. But vindicated from what?

Also, what is this obsessive behavior in politicians trying to claim credit where they did not work? How come that Anambra State which never awarded Mmesoma scholarship throughout her education so far would try to cash in on her best-result claims? If Anambra State Government had not tried to shine with the so-called best scores, maybe it would never have mattered. Why couldn’t Anambra State Government focus its educational policies in producing many excellent students, rather than having a jamboree and media show with one single candidate called “best student in JAMB?”

By the way, what exactly did Mmesoma do wrong? What was her offense? That she went to the internet and awarded herself some nice scores and made that information part of her social media profile? What else did she do? Did she try to use the fake scores to mislead a university for admission purposes? JAMB scores are intended for only one purpose – getting admission into a higher institution. That is actually the only legal purpose of JAMB. Did Mmesoma try to get admission into a university with fake JAMB result? No! If not, then whatever else she did with fake JAMB result is not a crime. It is simply a manipulation of a social media profile, rather than a manipulation of her JAMB scores with intent to frustrate the purpose of JAMB. That Innoson saw her social media profile and fell for it is not a crime. That was Innoson’s poor judgment.

Every day, people manipulate their social media profiles either by manipulating their pictures, claiming to work where they don’t work, claiming to graduate from institutions they never attended, claiming to be single though married, etc. It is not a crime to manipulate your social media profile, even if people fall for that such as a man looking at your profile pictures and concluding that you are beautiful and sending you invitation or manipulating your profile pictures showing where you are driving Lamborghini and a woman taking that to mean you are rich (when in fact, you are poor) and she agrees to date you. Deception through social media profile manipulation is the game. So, if Mmesoma manipulated her social media profile with exaggerated JAMB scores, how is that different from other manipulations on social media?

(Well, you can now see the nightmare that JAMB will face in court if it were to try to prosecute Mmesoma, even though JAMB will make it look as if it is doing her a favor by not prosecuting her).

There were many questions to ask, all going to the issue of process rather than the single outcome. The moment Mmesoma was suspected of forging JAMB scores, she was generally accused in the media of committing a crime. From that moment, her due process rights under the constitution of Nigeria were implicated. And what are the elements of due process of the law under the Nigerian constitution? The following elements are obvious:

1. Notice:
Individuals must be properly informed of the charges or allegations brought against them. They have the right to receive notice of the legal proceedings. Nobody clearly articulated in clear terms what crime Mmesoma committed. Whether it was that she manipulated JAMB scores or that she manipulated her social media profile, she was never informed in clear terms what her offense was. Under this element is the role of a detailed and honest investigation, which didn’t happen.

2. Fair Hearing:
Every person has the right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time. This includes the right to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and have legal representation. None of those allegations made against her was ever submitted to an independent and impartial arbiter. It was all lynching by media castigations.

3. Impartial Tribunal:
Cases must be heard by an impartial tribunal that is independent of any undue influence or bias. There was none. In fact, everybody became judges – JAMB sentenced her to a three-year ban without a trial, how much less a fair one.

4. Presumption of Innocence:
Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof rests on the prosecution to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Bur Mmesoma was presumed guilty by JAMB from day one.

5. Right to Legal Representation:
Individuals have the right to legal counsel and to consult with an attorney both before and during legal proceedings. She never had any lawyer and none was recommended to her. A person appearing before panels and being pressured to confess never had a lawyer throughout the process.

6. Right to Silence:
Individuals have the right to remain silent and not to incriminate themselves. No person should be compelled to make a statement against their own interest. Contrary to this right, Mmesoma was goaded to make several contradictory statements by JAMB and Anambra State Government.

7. Equality before the Law:
All individuals are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection under the law without discrimination based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or other grounds. Obviously, from the start, Mmesoma was treated as less than many under the law. While people forge certificates and run for the office of Governor with forged certificate, a young girl was crucified for showing off false result on Facebook.

Again, the real issue in Mmesoma case is JAMB and how it operated. The case was an excellent opportunity for JAMB to market itself to the Nigerians. But JAMB did not do that. It did the opposite. We saw JAMB chasing shadow instead of substance.


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