Court puts an end to inequality of admission cut-off marks in unity schools

by Adedayo Ademuwagun

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The Federal High Court in Lagos has annulled the federal government’s use of different admission cutoff marks for its unity schools.

Former NBA president Olisa Agbakoba filed the suit against the federal attorney-general and the minister of education based on the provisions of the Constitution and the 2009 Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Rules.

He argued that it was unlawful for the government secondary schools to admit students based on gender and state of origin as against merit.

He stated that it violates the students’ fundamental right to freedom from discrimination, which the Constitution guarantees. He also said the policy breaches the Constitution, which prohibits the government from discriminating against Nigerians on grounds of ethnicity, gender, religion and place of origin.

The government’s defence lawyers argued, however, that the purpose of the cutoff arrangement is to promote unity and peace among Nigerians. They said that using different cutoff marks is done to allot admission slots without placing students from educationally less developed states at a disadvantage.

“This strategically differentiated cut-off mark allows for the diversity of students from different ethnic groups in the unity schools. A single and uniform cutoff mark normally applied would mean that some states would be absent from the unity schools.”

The presiding judge, Justice John Tsoho, upheld Agbakoba’s case and directed the government to apply uniform cutoff marks to all applying students irrespective of their gender or state of origin.

The federal government has a federal character principle that says certain government institutions should appoint or admit people in a way that every state is duly representated in that institution. This is why unity schools admit students using this special quota system.

But some people believe the system is badly skewed. For instance, a student from Delta needs to score 131 at the entrance exam to get into a unity school, but
a student from Sokoto needs only 13 marks.

David says, “I think the cutoff should be the same for everybody so that we encourage these young people to work harder and match their peers. I think the admission process should be more merit-based so that the students have a level playing field wherever they’re from and whether their male or female.  And even if we can’t uniformise the cutoffs, we should at least narrow the disparity. I think it’s ludicrous the way it is now.”

Here’s a table of the cutoff system.

State
Male
Female

Abia
130
130

Adamawa
62
62

Akwa-Ibom
123
123

Anambra
139
139

Bauchi
35
35

Bayelsa
72
72

Benue
111
111

Borno
45
45

Cross River
97
97

Delta
131
131

Ebonyi
112
112

Edo
127
127

Ekiti
119
119

Enugu
134
134

Gombe
58
58

Imo
138
138

Jigawa
44
44

Kaduna
91
91

Kano
67
67

Katsina
60
60

Kebbi
9
20

Kogi
119
119

Kwara
123
123

Lagos
133
133

Nasarawa
58
58

Niger
93
93

Ogun
131
131

Ondo
126
126

Osun
127
127

Oyo
127
127

Plateau
97
97

Rivers
118
118

Sokoto
9
13

Taraba
3
11

Yobe
2
27

Zamfara
4
2

FCT Abuja
90
90

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