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Frequently Asked Questions

Background: How and why NECO?
Why is NECO located in Minna?
SSCE Certificates
Legal Status of NECO
Functions of NECO
Is the creation of NECO,not an aberration on the international scene?
Will NECO certificates be accepted nationally and internationally?


National Examinations Council (NECO)

Background: How and why NECO?
    The National Examinations Council (NECO) was created by the Abdulsalami Abubakar administration. However, recommendations for its creation predated that administration. The creation of NECO was only the climax of a process that spanned over twenty years. It started with the widespread leakage of West African School Certificate examination questions in 1977. The outcry that greeted that development led the Federal Government to set up, in the same year, the Sogbetun Commission of Inquiry into the causes of such massive leakages which was also required to make appropriate recommendations to Government.
    The Commission found that WAEC workload was beyond its capability to conduct hitch-free examinations. It, therefore, recommended establishment of other examination bodies in Nigeria to which WAEC should cede some of its workload. For some reasons, that recommendation was not acted upon. But when, in October 1982, WAEC itself admitted before the House of Representatives' committee on education that Nigeria needed other examination boards, in order to reduce WAEC's workload, the Federal Government could not help but respond to outcry against its non-implementation of the recommendations of the Sogbetun Commission. It, therefore, set up the Angulu Panel of 1982 which recommended the establishment of three regional examination boards, each with a specific mandate. Somehow again, these recommendations could not be implemented.
    Another panel, headed by Mr Okoro, was constituted in 1989 because of the same problem of inability of WAEC to conduct confidence-inspiring examinations in Nigeria. The Okoro panel's report was not different from those of its predecessors.
    When Professor Babs Fafunwa was the Minister of Education, he constituted a task force, in 1991, with Professor Osiyale as chairman, to study the Sogbetun and Angulu committee reports and make appropriate recommendations to the Federal Government. The report of the task force led to the creation, in 1992, of the National Board for Educational Measurement (NBEM) and the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB). Their enabling decrees were promulgated in August 1993 as decrees numbers 69 and 70 respectively.      The reduction of WAEC workload, occasioned by the creation of these two examination outfits, did not seem to have solved WAEC's problems. The lapses in their conduct of examinations which informed the creation of these examination boards continued unabated. The Federal Government, in 1997, constituted the Etsu Nupe panel to re-examine the Nigerian education system. The Vision 2010 committee, constituted in the same year, did a similar thing as part of its more-embracing assignment. The reports of the panel and committee recommended the establishment of a national examination outfit in parallel with WAEC. The harmonized report of the two committees, published in January 1998, recommended the establishment of a national examinations council of the same standard as WAEC. In March 1999, the National Council on Education added its voice to all these recommendations at its 46th meeting held in Abeokuta. In April 1999, the Federal Government established NECO to assuage the public outcry.
    Since the establishment of NECO, there has been a lot of debate on many issues related to it. With the conduct of the maiden NECO senior school certificate examination (SSCE) some of the issues have been laid to rest while new ones have been raised.
    The purpose of this publication is to present the facts on some of these issues to enable the reader reach a more rational decision on them. The question and answer approach is taken because of its focused nature. It may be pertinent to point out that every question treated here has actually been posed either by inquirers or as part of the debate on NECO.

Why is NECO located in Minna?
Is it not a political decision aimed at serving the interests of the North?

     A national examination body must be located at some place in Nigeria, whether East, West, North or South. That would not necessarily imply that it is so located to serve the interests of that part of the Country.
    The mandate of NECO at its inception was to take over from WAEC, the conduct of school-based SSCE from 2000. With only one year to prepare, it would not be practicable to develop infrastructure from scratch and still fulfill this mandate. It became inevitable that NECO should be built on some pre-existing structure.
     Before the creation of NECO, Nigeria had four national examination bodies, each of them with a clear focus and clientele. The National Teachers Institute (NTI), with headquarters in Kaduna, focused on primary and secondary teacher education while the NABTEB, headquartered in Benin City, was concerned with business and technical education. The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (NECO) whose headquarters were in Abuja, was saddled with the task of selection for admission into tertiary institutions. NBEM's focus was on general education at the junior secondary school level. WAEC, an international body whose national office is in Lagos had responsibility for senior secondary school aspect of general education.
    It is easy to see that the pre-existing body most appropriate to form the substructure on which NECO, whose responsibility would be certification of general education at the senior secondary school level, should be built, would be NBEM. The headquarters of NBEM has been in Minna since its inception in 1992. This is how NECO, which absorbed NBEM, came to have its headquarters located in Minna. It was, therefore, common sense, rather than politics or interest of the North, that informed the location of NECO headquarters in Minna.

NECO SSCE certificates
    The recognition of SSCE certificates to be awarded by NECO was the focus of a lot of debate among Nigerians at the inception of NECO. Although determination of acceptability of certificates for any purpose in Nigeria is the statutory responsibility of the Evaluation and Accreditation Division of the Federal Ministry of Education, that division did not receive any application for such determination as regarded SSCE certificates that NECO was to award. In any case, the maiden examinations were yet to be conducted when some highly placed university administrators began to assert that they would reject the certificates as qualification for admission into their institutions. The Federal Ministry of Education had to organise a number of meetings to brief stakeholders on its stand on the issue. In February 2000, Professor Tunde Adeniran, the Minister of Education, reminded vice chancellors of universities that they did not have the right to decide which certificates to accept or reject but were duty bound to operate according to rules and regulations formulated by the government. Later, in the National Council on Education meeting held in Bauchi in June 2000, during which the issue of recognition of NECO SSCE certificate also came up for discussion, the Minister categorically asserted that the certificates would be recognized for purposes of employment and, also, admission into tertiary institutions.
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Legal status of NECO
    At the inception of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in May 1999, it was discovered, curiously, that no one could produce a signed copy of the decree by which General Abdulsalami Abubakar administration created NECO only a month earlier. Only drafts of the decree were seen. Consequently, it was not possible to provide, financially, for the new examination body in its own right.
    It stands to the credit of the ingenuity of the Obasanjo administration that a way out was found in the constitution of a Management Board for the legally existent NBEM which was supposed to have metamorphosed into NECO by the decree whose signed copy could no longer be found. Although the metamorphosis was complete de facto, it appeared not so de jure. So, NECO was kept alive by this arrangement.
    Meanwhile, the Obasanjo Presidency had to fashion a bill to give proper legal backing to NECO in lieu of the Abdulsalami decree, a signed copy of which could not be found. This Bill which was quintessentially the Abdulsalami decree, was first submitted to the National Assembly in 2000, later withdrawn for modification, and then re-submitted early in 2001. It was passed with amendments by the Senate on 15 November 2001 and the House of Representatives on 4 December 2001. The House of Representatives version provided for NECO to conduct only the SSCE for school-based candidates whilst WAEC was to restrict itself to the handling of the private candidates' version. The Senate, however, ruled that both examination bodies should be free to conduct both versions of the SSCE. The joint committee of the National Assembly finally voted in favour of the Senate version. That Bill was signed into law on 18 February 2002 as the National Examinations Council (NECO) (Establishment) Act, 2002. Up


Functions of NECO
    Section 7 of NECO's enabling Act provides that NECO shall be responsible for

  1. Revising and considering, annually, in the public interest the examinations to be held for admission into Federal Government Colleges and other allied institutions;
  2. Collecting and disseminating information on all matters relating to admission into Federal Government Colleges and other allied institutions;
  3. The general control and conduct of the National Common Entrance Examinations for admission into Federal Government Colleges and other allied institutions;
  4. Developing and administering selection examinations into the Suleja Academy in accordance with such guidelines as may be approved, from time to time, by the Minister;
  5. Developing administering and conducting aptitude tests for all candidates into Federal Government Colleges and other allied institutions;
  6. Monitoring, collecting and keeping records of continuous assessment in all Federal Government Colleges and other allied institutions and in the Suleja Academy toward the award of the Junior and Senior School Certificates;
  7. The general control of the conduct of the Junior Secondary School certificate Examinations in all Federal Government Colleges, and other allied institutions and in the Suleja Academy;
  8. The general control of the conduct of the internal and external Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations in Nigeria without prejudice to the existing powers and functions of the West African Examinations Council;
  9. Conducting a Standard National Assessment of Educational Performance at junior and senior Secondary School levels;
  10. Conducting researches leading to national improvement of testing and examination procedures at Junior and Senior Secondary School levels;
  11. Preparing and submitting to the Minister the annual report on standards of examinations and such other related matters as the Minister may, from time to time, require; and
  12. Carrying out such other activities as are expedient for the discharge of all or any of the functions conferred on the Council under or to this Act.
   Since 2000, NECO has performed most of these functions, especially those stipulated in subsections (c), (d), (e), (g), (j), and (l). These were functions inherited from NBEM. In addition, NECO had successfully conducted the SSCE for school-based candidates in 2000 and 2001 in keeping with its mandate under the 1999 decree that established it. But under the 2002 Act, it conducted its maiden SSCE for private candidates in November/December 2002.
   Although NECO had conducted two years' SSCE before the enactment of the 2002 Act, the Act provides legal backing for the examinations and certificates awarded for them. In section 27(1), it provides that
    At the commencement of this Act, the powers of the National Board for Educational Measurement over the conduct of examination, lists, or issuance of certificates referred to in section 7 of this Act shall, without prejudice to any examinations already conducted by the Council, be vested in the Council.
    This implies that anybody that rejects any SSCE certificate awarded by NECO would only be doing so in contempt of the law of the land and can only expect the wrath of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


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Is the creation of NECO, not an aberration on the international scene?
    It is not. The general trend on the international scene is more toward the establishment of national rather than regional examination bodies. In some countries, there are two or more bodies. For example, a recent South African Certification Council publication states,
    The senior certificate examination, which is currently the exit point in the FET band, is administered by the nine provincial examining bodies for public schooling and by the independent examination boards for private schooling.
    There are three such independent examination boards. This means that South Africa has 12 senior school certificate examination bodies. None of them is examining both school-based and private candidates. Other examples include

  • Australia:Qualification Authority of Australia

  • Cameroun:Cameroun General Certificate of Education Board

  • Egypt:National Centre for Examinations and Educational Evaluation

  • Kenya:Kenya National Examinations Council

  • Korea:National Board of Educational Evaluation

  • Malawi:Malawi National Examinations Board

  • Mauritius:Mauritius Examinations Syndicate

  • New Zealand: New Zealand Qualification Authority

  • Tanzania:National Examinations Council of Tanzania

  • Uganda:Uganda National Examinations Board

  • Zambia:Examinations Council of Zambia

  • Zimbabwe:Zimbabwe School Examinations Council


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Will NECO certificates be accepted nationally and internationally?
    On page 29 of the Tuesday, February 29, 2000 edition of THE PUNCH, it was reported

... that some vice chancellors insisted that they would not accept NECO certificates for admission into their universities for degree programmes. But at the ministerial press briefing on Thursday, Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, made it clear that the VCs do not have the right to decide which certificate to accept or reject. Adeniran's words: "The vice chancellors operate on the basis of rules and regulations formulated by the government and none of them could make such rules, so they have no right to reject the certificate."

    Moreover, at the 47th meeting of the National Council on Education held in Bauchi in June 2000, the issue of recognition of NECO certificates was discussed. The Minister of Education categorically asserted that NECO certificates would be recognized for purposes of admission into tertiary institutions as well as for employment.

    On the international scene, on page 2 of the November 2000 issue of AEAA Newsletter, it was reported that
The Federal Government of Nigeria has established a new examination board known as National Examinations Council (NECO). The new examination council is situated in Minna, Niger State.... Professor 'Dibu Ojerinde who nurtured NBEM to a successful height was given another mandate to pilot the new examination council... NECO had its first test of SSC examinations just this last May/June 2000.

    AEAA, the Association of Educational Assessment in Africa, is the body that unites recognized national examination bodies in Africa. NECO (as well as WAEC, JAMB, NTI and NABTEB) is a member. AEAA and its members are also members of the International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA), a body bringing together all national examination bodies in the world.

    If the Federal Government of Nigeria recognizes NECO and both AEAA and IAEA also do, then, it stands to reason that NECO certificates would be acceptable nationally and internationally. Indeed, requests for confirmation of results have been flooding NECO headquarters from tertiary institutions at home and abroad. These, obviously, suggest acceptance of NECO results worldwide.
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