Niger civil service clash over digital exam

By on 08/04/2018
The Computer Based Test Centre at the Federal University of Technology, Minna (Image courtesy: Federal University of Technology, Minna).

A scheduled entrance test for positions in Niger’s largest state government was cancelled at the last minute over Easter due to conflicts within its civil service commission.

More than 3,500 candidates were due to take the computer-based test (CBT) on 3 April 2018 under the application procedures for civil service posts across Niger state in the centre of the country.

But the test was postponed to an undisclosed date by the commission’s permanent secretary Yusuf B Kagara. Writing in an undated announcement on the Niger State Civil Service Commission (NSCSC) website, Kagara gave no reason for the decision.

Rapid u-turn

The announcement was posted on the Niger State’s Facebook Page @nigerstate2015 on Saturday 31 March, just a day after a disclaimer denying rumours that the exam had been cancelled was published on the same page.

“The commission wishes to inform the general public that the rumour going round about the postponement of the CBT test is untrue,” the disclaimer stated. “The exam will go ahead as scheduled as the preparation for the exam is completed.”

Test tussle

The last-minute cancellation was due to a squabble between the chairman of the NSCSC and its four permanent commissioners over whether the test would be conducted electronically or in the traditional pen-and-paper mode, according to local media.

The commissioners accused NSCSC chairman Alhaji Shehu Galadima of taking a unilateral decision to mount an electronic test at the Federal University of Technology, Minna’s Computer Based Test Centre.

Permanent commissioner 1 Mohammed Adams Erena said: “The electronic test to be purportedly conducted by Federal University of Technology, Minna was unknown to us.

“When I heard the rumours about the CBT, I confronted the chairman and explained to him the position of other members but he told me point blank that the exercise must go on whether we like it or not.”

Digital but not remote

Permanent commissioner 1 Mohammed Adams Erena says the computer-based test will not serve the interests of candidates in Niger State (Image courtesy: Niger State Civil Service Commission).

Erena said the four members fought against the chairman’s decision because he refused to take their opinions into consideration, including the view that “the computer-based test will not serve the interests of candidates in Niger State.”

Permanent commissioner Hajiya Asmau Usman said the CBT would not serve the interests of applicants in her area because of its “rural nature” and they would face travel costs of around N20,000 (US$55.6) to attend the examination in Minna.

However, Galadima disputed the commissioners’ claims, adding: “We will go home and resolve our differences.”

The Niger State House of Assembly has summoned the officials to explain their behaviour over the issue and also directed them to suspend the CBT, according to ThisDay newspaper.

This story was updated at 9:30am 9 April 2018

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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