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By NBF News

The Chairman, Exam Ethics International, Mr Ike Onyechere, has called on the Federal Government to sack the leadership of the National Examinations Council (NECO) led by Professor Promise Okpala. Onyechere's demand for the sack of NECO leadership was made during a press briefing in Lagos while reacting to the current face-off between the Niger State-based examination body and Edo State government over the ongoing June/July 2010 SSCE.

He faulted NECO's decision to suspend the conduct of the SSCE on June 22 thus causing the candidates to miss two papers. Onyechere noted that the action was taken without the approval of the minister of education.

The examination ethics boss also urged the Education Minister, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufa'i to carry out a complete reorganisation of NECO management to save the nation from further embarrassment.

But a top management staff of the examination body told Daily Sun, that Onyechere should not be taken seriously with his call for sack of the leadership of NECO, saying that his clamour was questionable and that no amount of intimidation would stop the council from fighting examination fraud.

According to Onyechere, the Edo State government was right to have taken a stand against some of the practices adopted by NECO in conducting the examination insisting 'the issue raised by the NECO/Edo State face-off are fundamental to the reform of the education sector.'

He argued that the state had the highest concentration of special examination magic centres and that out of 324 schools derecognised by the Federal Government, 63 or 19.4 per cent were from Edo State. According to the Exam Ethics chairman, Edo also recorded the higher score of examiners, supervisors and invigilators blacklisted from participation in examinations conducted by the Ministry of Education.

His swords: 'It is against this background that Edo State decided to take steps to redeem the image of the state as haven for magic centres and examination malpractices. Some of the measures include, but not restricted to the screening of schools to determine which schools are mere examination centres. There'll also be screening of candidates to ensure that only bonafide candidates promoted from SS2 to SS3 are registered for examinations, appointment of credible individuals to serve as monitors, supervisors and invigilators.'

Onyechere revealed that reports had confirmed that Edo State Ministry of Education discussed the measures with examination bodies which complied except NECO thus the Commissioner of Education in June 2009 officially reported to NECO Registrar that its staff were 'making concerted efforts to obstruct the fight against examination malpractices in Edo State.'

The chairman, Exam Ethics disclosed that in the aftermath of the 98.2 per cent failure in NECO's 2009 and Nov/Dec SSCE, he made a case that NECO lacked the competence to conduct credible examination because of its weak start up foundation, poor preparation, distracted, unfocused and ethics-unfriendly leadership, crisis-ridden management and weak structure.

He faulted the use of horsewhip armed paramilitary personnel to monitor examination, which distracted the candidates as well as intimidated some and asked if the Federal Ministry of Education authorised their use as exam monitors and supervisors.

Onyechere said NECO did not receive the order of the minister before suspending the SSCE in Edo State, adding that 'if NECO did not get such approval, does it have the right to suspend the exams unilaterally and breach the contract with the candidates.

'The minister will leave behind golden footprint in the sands of history if she can restore sanity, integrity and public confidence in Nigeria's examination system. And the right way to start is by the sack of NECO leadership and the complete re-organisation of its management.'

Giving insight of its face-off with Edo State, the top NECO officials wondered why Onyechere got involved but stressed that the education commissioner in the state wanted the Nigeria Security Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) outside the exam halls while malpractice took place inside the halls.

He also revealed that the commissioner wanted to clear NECO monitoring team and bank-roll the state monitoring team even as he insisted that Onyechere was dabbling into an issue the root cause of which he did not know.