#EDUCATION: Candidates engage WAEC in legal war over cancelled results

#EDUCATION: Candidates engage WAEC in legal war over cancelled results
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WAEC results
Inside story of how pupil secured N10m judgment against exam body
Brilliant pupil nearly harmed himself over cancelled result, says lawyer

WAEC: time not ripe for comments

Many candidates seeking to use their West African Examination (WAEC) results to gain admission into higher institutions of learning have at various times had their plans jeopardized as their results are either cancelled or withheld without explanation. The Nation gathered that some candidates have had their academic careers in higher institutions ruined because they found out very late that the result with which they secured admission had been cancelled by WAEC without notification. INNOCENT DURU reports that some privileged candidates have instituted cases against WAEC while indigent ones have had to accept their fate because they cannot afford the cost of hiring a lawyer.

Like a woman delivered of a bouncing baby, Emmanuel Gbenga Akeredolu’s face beamed with smiles. He had just sat for the 2016 May/June West African Schools certificate (WASC) exam, popularly called WAEC.

His joy stemmed from the efforts he had put into the exam and his confidence that he would come out in flying colours. Thereafter, he would use the result to actualise his ambition of going to the university.

Like an expectant mother, he started gathering the items he would need in the university as kith and kin, knowing his mental capability, congratulated him in advance.

His hopes were, however, dashed when the West African Examination Council (WAEC) released his results. Of the 20 candidates who sat for the examination in his school, only Emmanuel’s result was withheld by the regional examination body without any explanation for the action.

The unsavoury news hit him like a thunderbolt and he struggled to come to terms with it. He wished the development was a dream, but it was as real as daybreak. He was instantly plunged into disbelief and confusion.

Efforts made by his father and the management of his school to get WAEC to release his result yielded no fruit, prompting his father to engage a lawyer who filed a legal action against WAEC.

The lawyer to the candidate, Barrister Jide Zaid, told our correspondent that he was moved with pity upon learning about the poor pupil’s case.

He said: “I only ran into the case by accident. I was on holiday with my family in Los Angeles, California in the winter of 2016 when I met a guy who incidentally is a Nigerian.

“I was excited to have met him. But when I asked him the last time he was in Nigeria, he said he did not want to come to Nigeria again because he was pissed off with what was happening in the country.

“He specifically referred to the case of his nephew who happens to be a very brilliant young boy. He said the boy sat for the 2016 May/June WAEC exam, and out of the 20 students that sat for the exam in his school, his result was the only one cancelled by WAEC for no reason.

“He said he was planning to bring the boy to the USA to study because he is very brilliant and he had lost faith in Nigeria.

“I became very interested at that point. He later linked me up with his brother who is the father of the boy whose result was cancelled by WAEC.”

Zaid recalled that when Emmanuel’s father visited his office in Lagos, “he came with past results of the candidates and the awards he had received for his academic brilliance. I became convinced that he could not have cheated in the exam as alleged, and WAEC had not given any reason for the cancellation at that time.

“I saw several letters written by the principal of the school to WAEC on the issue, which received no response. I also saw a letter written by the father of the candidate to WAEC. When WAEC responded to the letter, they said he did not write the letter within 60 days of releasing the result, and that by their regulations, they would not entertain it.

“I have read the act that set up WAEC but did not see such stipulations in their laws. I was really shocked that an international organisation like WAEC could be so inconsiderate in the treatment of its candidate. I felt constrained to take up the case.

“I wrote a comprehensive letter to WAEC requesting them to release unconditionally the result of the candidate, but WAEC even refused to acknowledge my letter.

“For that purpose, I was constrained to file an action against WAEC at the High Court on June 5, 2017.

“Surprisingly, three days to the hearing of the matter, WAEC released the result on their website and sent two of their staff to my office to inform me about it.

“The result was cancelled in August 2016 and released on October 20, 2017. WAEC did not give any reason for cancelling the result.

“By that cancellation, the boy could not apply to any university of his choice. His mates were already in the university in 2016. The boy was depressed. The parents had to go and get experts to counsel him so that he would not harm himself.

“He was highly depressed and rendered himself incommunicado because he could not believe what WAEC did to him.”

The lawyer recalled that after releasing the result, WAEC tried to persuade him and the candidate’s family to drop the case, “but I said no because there were issues to be resolved. Up until that time, they had not told us why the result was cancelled.

“I told them that the poor boy would not be able to live with that for the rest of his life. We wanted to know why such injustice was meted out to him in the first place.

“I also asked that they had to compensate him financially and must give him something to assuage the pains they had inflicted on him without any just cause.

“I also demanded that they must give him a written apology. All those requests were rebuffed by WAEC.

“They later invited me to their office and I went with the candidate’s parents. All they said was that we should just accept the release of the result and walk away; that that was the best they could do. I was shocked at the level of their arrogance.”

Zaid added that the mediation judge later referred them to a trial judge when WAEC was adamant, adding: “When hearing commenced, they brought an application to amend their pleading, claiming in their new statement of defence that the boy engaged in exam malpractice; that they found that his answer scripts in Mathematics 2 contained two different handwritings.

“I didn’t bother to amend mine because it was strange that they could come up with such allegations at that point. WAEC could not produce the answer script they claimed contained two different handwritings at the trial. It was at that level that we closed our case and judgment was delivered.

“The judge, Justice Phineiro, gave a landmark, remarkable and brilliant judgment through which she expressed shock at the attitude of the defendant, their refusal to take advantage of their mediation process.

“In such a clear case, you would have expected a responsible organisation to settle the matter. Their head of legal was boasting that WAEC had never compensated a candidate for any reason and that we should just accept the apology and walk away, and that we should even thank God that they had released the result in the first place.

“One of the issues I raised was why WAEC released the result when they claimed that he was involved in malpractice. On what basis was the result released? Thank God, the judge saw through their lies and awarded N10 million general damages against the defendant.”

Asked what would be the fate of indigent candidates who must have suffered similar treatment, the lawyer said: “This is the point that I am making; that this case must be followed to the logical conclusion.

“When the news of this judgment was flashed in your newspaper (The Nation), a lot of calls have been made to me and I began to wonder what would have been the fate of thousands of candidates that must have been victims of this kind of problem without any redress.

“It is very, very sad.”

Other legal actions against WAEC

Findings showed that Emmanuel was not the first candidate to have filed a legal action against WAEC over result issues. The examination body is not new to going to court with candidates. Records showed that WAEC had had to go all the way from High Court to the Supreme Court to make sure that its position on a candidate’s grouse subsists.

In 2011, the Branch Controller West African Examinations Council, Ilorin and the West African Examinations Council in Suit No: CA/IL/3/2011 appealed against the decision of Saleeman, J. of the High Court of Justice of Kwara State, given in favour of Kazeem Saidu Alade, Government Secondary School Malete, Kwara State, and Ministry of Education Kwara State

The 1st respondent (Kazeem Saidu Alade) sat for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination conducted by the appellants while he was a student under the 2nd and 3rd respondents. At the end of the marking of the examination, the appellants issued the 1st respondent with a West African Senior School Certificate with the passport photograph of another candidate, one Adeoye Yinka, fixed on it.

The 1st respondent brought an originating summons before the trial court, requesting for the rectification of the school certificate by the appellants to bear the true identity of the 1st respondent. The 2nd and 3rd respondents were co-defendants in the originating summons.

Appellants filed two preliminary objections on whether the suit was triable only in the Federal High Court, and whether the Public Officers (Protection) Act (supra) availed the appellants. The objections were heard and disposed of against the appellants. The suit then proceeded on merit where the court found in its judgment that the 2nd and 3rd respondents, as agents of the appellants, mistakenly fixed the passport photograph of one Adeoye Yinka on 1st respondent’s slot in the school album used to conduct the examinations, which misled the appellants to issue the 1st respondent the West African Senior School Certificate bearing the passport photograph of another candidate.

The Court ordered the appellants to issue 1st respondent with a fresh West African Senior School certificate bearing the identity of the 1st respondent by fixing his actual passport photograph on the certificate.

Dissatisfied, the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal. On the whole, the appeal was dismissed.

In 1977, a candidate JOSEPH CEYLON KOROYE, sued WAEC because he was not satisfied with the result he got in the 1969/70 G.C.E. examination.

He was examined in History, Government and Economics but he failed to score pass grades in all the subjects. The respondent (Koroye) was not satisfied with the results. He sent a letter dated 27th July, 1970 to WAEC, protesting the grades awarded him as he thought the grades fell short of his brilliant performances at the examinations, and requesting the appellants to permit him to see his answer scripts.

To reinforce his protest and claim to high scholarship, he attached to that letter for “perusal and return” the following documents: (1) A complimentary personal letter of the Principal of Rapid Result College, London; (2) Marked answer scripts from Rapid Result College, London; (3) Marked answer scripts from School of Careers, Lagos. He also enclosed therein a postage stamp meant for the return of the aforementioned documents.

Up until 31st January, 1972, WAEC did not return the documents to the respondent when his solicitor by a letter of that date demanded their return.

By their reply dated 18th March, 1972, the appellants (WAEC) informed the solicitor that they had sent the documents by post to the respondent under the cover of their letter dated 7th August, 1970, a photocopy of which they attached to the reply. Subsequently, the respondent instituted a case in court.

His claim was for the return of his documents or their value in the sum of N3000 and damages for their conversion and for wrongfully depriving him of them despite repeated demands for their return.

In the alternative, the respondent claimed the sum of N3,000 as damages for loss of the documents caused by the negligence of the appellants, their servants or agents.

The learned trial judge found that the respondent proved entrusting the appellant with the documents in question and that they had failed to return the documents to him on his demand for their return.

He also found that the appellants failed to prove that the documents had been lost without any fault on their part. He thereupon found the appellants liable in detinue. He gave judgment for the return of the documents, or, in default, awarded him the sum of N400 as damages with costs assessed at N180. It is against this judgment that the appellant brought this appeal.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Court held that the appeal had merits and same was allowed.

The case between WAEC (Appellant) and Providence Ogechukwu Mekwunye (Respondent) is another matter in which the examination body decided to roll out its arsenal against a candidate instead of allowing reason to prevail.

Providence’s family had earlier sued WAEC and got a favourable decision at the High Court of Lagos State delivered on November 19, 2013 by Hon. Justice O. O. Femi-Adeniyi.

Sometime in April 2008, the Appellant published an advert in the national dailies inviting interested candidates to register online via Appellant’s website for the Senior Certificate Exams for November/December 2008 batch. In view of the advert, the Respondent purchased a scratch card for the online registration and then accessed the Appellant’s website to register.

It is the case of the Respondent that she registered for the examination with the name “Mekwunye Providence Ogechukwu” but upon acknowledgment of the registration the last two letters of her name was omitted to read thus “Mekwunye Providence Ogechuk”. She tried to contact the Appellant in a bid to find out why her name was cut short but her effort proved abortive. She then instructed her counsel to write to the Appellant on the same issue.

Later, the Appellant contacted her and her father informing them that the Respondent’s name was cut short because the registration platform/software was configured to admit only 25 letters and that the Respondent’s name was made up of 27 letters. By a letter dated 17th day of October, 2008, the Respondent, through her counsel, demanded that her name be rectified. In reply to the letter for amendment, the Appellant requested for the payment of a fee of N5,000 and some other requirements in order to effect the amendment. In compliance, the Respondent paid the fee, however the Appellant failed to correct the error.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the Appellant filed a notice of Appeal dated 31st January 2014 consisting of six grounds of appeal.

While the first issue (of jurisdiction) was resolved in favour of the Respondent (Candidate) the remaining issues were resolved in favour of the Appellant (WAEC).

The case between WAEC (Appellant) and Omodolapo Yemisi Adeyanju is one of the instances where a candidate’s career suffered a setback after her result was suddenly cancelled by the examination body.

The respondent was a candidate in the November/December 1995 Senior School Certificate Examination conducted by the appellant. The respondent’s contention was that she was successful in the said examination and with the result, she sought and was admitted into the University of Lagos.

The document she presented to the University for her admission was a notification of results signed by one Wumi Ajiboye, on behalf of the head of the appellant’s national office. The respondent claimed that she was making good progress in her course in the university. But in April 1998, she received a letter from the appellant dated 27th March, 1998 and signed by one N. A. Onadeko, in which she was informed that the notification of results earlier issued to her was cancelled.

The respondent made several efforts to secure a reversal of the cancellation of her said results by the appellant but all such efforts failed. She therefore commenced an action by applying ex-parte to the High Court of Lagos for leave to enforce her fundamental right to fair hearing under Section 46(1) and (2) and 316 of the 1999 Constitution.

The application was supported with an affidavit to which a number of documents were exhibited. The appellant also filed a counter-affidavit in which it denied that it issued any result to the respondent, and that in fact investigations conducted by it showed that the respondent did not sit for one of the subjects she claimed she passed. After hearing the parties, the learned trial Judge ruled that the issue of fundamental rights did not arise, since the relationship between the parties was a direct contract between them which the respondent had agreed to abide with.

The application was therefore dismissed. But an appeal to the Court of Appeal was however allowed and all the reliefs sought were granted. In the final analysis, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and upheld the judgment of the trial Court.

The case between the West Africa examination body and Akinola Oladipo Akinkumi is similar to the above.

The respondent sat for the May/June 1992 West African Senior School Certificate Examinations conducted by the appellant. In September, 1992 when the examination results were released, the respondent obtained two distinctions, four credits and a pass grade. The respondent thereafter secured admission into the University of Ilorin in November 1992. Between 1992 and 1997, the respondent was a student at the University of Ilorin.

As part of his final screening preparatory to his graduating from the University, the respondent was obliged to present his Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination statement of result, amongst other papers. After screening, the university requested for the original result issued by the appellant for the examination.

Consequently, the respondent went to the school where he sat for the examination but was told by the principal of the school that six months after the results were released, the appellant canceled the entirety of the results in the centre for that year on the ground that the candidates engaged in examination malpractices.

Being unable to secure the original certificate reflecting the result on the basis of which he secured the admission into the university, the respondent was unable to graduate in 1997 as he ought to.

The respondent was aggrieved and he commenced a suit at the High Court under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) rules in which he sought a declaratory relief to the effect that the cancellation of his result without any hearing violates his right to fair hearing. The respondent also sought a consequential relief to the effect that the result cancelled by the appellant should be revalidated and that a certificate should be issued to him on the basis of the revalidated result.

The crux of the respondent’s case was that the appellant did not grant him a hearing on the allegation of examination malpractices levelled against him before his result was cancelled and that the appellant was estopped by its conduct from cancelling the respondent’s result.

The case for the appellant on the other hand was that it granted a hearing to the principal of the school where the respondent sat for the examination before the entire results, including the respondent’s result, were cancelled. The appellant further contended that the respondent was wrong to have commenced his action under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules because the respondent’s claim was not for the enforcement of a fundamental right and that consequently, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine the respondent’s suit. It was also the contention of the appellant that the relationship between the appellant and the respondent was contractual.

The trial court in its considered ruling, held that it had jurisdiction to entertain the respondent’s suit. The trial court also declared that the cancellation of the result of the respondent by the appellant after its release was illegal, unconstitutional, null and void in that it violated the respondent’s right to fair hearing. Consequently, the trial court quashed the decision of the appellant cancelling the result and ordered the appellant to furnish the University of Ilorin with the requisite certificate for the purportedly canceled result of the respondent.

Contacted, WAEC’s spokesman, Demian Ejijiogu, said: Sorry, I said let’s see how it goes because I don’t want to promise you and fail. We are having our end of the year meeting a la AGM (not in Lagos). It is not a very favourable time for your request. I will see what I can do.”

The examination body was yet to make further response at press time.

Micheal King

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