The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) says it has sanctioned some of its accredited officials for asking a hijab-wearing female Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) candidate to remove her headcover before being allowed entrance into the exam hall.

This came after a female Muslim student, Aisha Tiamiyu, was harassed by JAMB officials and asked to remove her hijab before she was permitted to write the examination.

The incident happened on Friday, April 19, at Bafuto Institute, Ile-Iwe Bus-Stop, Ejigbo, Lagos.

According to the victim, “On getting to the centre, the man at the gate asked me to remove my hijab and because I insisted I wasn’t going to do that, I was delayed outside. A woman yelled at me from one of the offices, saying that hijab was not allowed.

“When I couldn’t bear it any longer, I was helpless because time was running out. I removed my hijab, so I was allowed to go into the exam hall. However, a man told me to use my hijab thirty minutes into the exam.”

Reacting to the incident in a statement on Sunday, the board, which said such action was not in line with its rules, explained that the affected officials have been issued sanctions to serve as a deterrent to others who might wish to toe the same line going forward.

In the statement, tagged: “Re: Lagos Centre Stops Hijab-wearing Candidates”, through its spokesman, Fabian Benjamin, JAMB said it regretted the incident.

JAMB’s statement reads in full, “The attention of the Board was drawn to an unfortunate incident at the Bafuto Institute, Ile-Iwe Bus Stop, Ejigbo, Lagos, where it was reported by Muslim News of Sunday, 21st April, 2024, and other platforms that a candidate donning hijab was asked to remove her headcover during the accreditation process before being allowed into the examination hall.

“The Board deeply regretted the incident and, on investigation discovered, that this particular incident or others in the past, is not linked to any of its examination guidelines but rather a product of the misplaced priority of some of the Board’s accredited partners or officials who claimed ignorance of the Board’s guidelines on accreditation, which ensures that all candidates are screened allowing only female officials to screen female candidates before allowing them to gain entrance into the hall.

“This situation was instantly addressed by a senior official of the Board at the centre and the candidate in question allowed in after the usual checks with her hijab.

“However, since ignorance of the law is not an excuse, the officials have been appropriately sanctioned to serve as a deterrent to others, who might wish to toe the same line going forward.

“It’s worthy of note that the Board, as a national institution, has no policy barring candidates from sporting the religious paraphernalia peculiar to their religious persuasions as these are the facts of everyday life in Nigeria, which everyone should have been familiar with by now.

“Furthermore, the Board assures the general public that this issue would be properly investigated, as it had done in past incidents, to prevent a recurrence and nothing would be swept under the carpet.

“The Board is committed to the discharge of its statutory role of ensuring that suitably-qualified candidates are selected for admission into the nation’s tertiary institutions and would not allow anything or anyone to detract it from the pursuit of this noble goal.

“Meanwhile, the conduct of the 2024 UTME, which commenced on Friday, 19th April, 2024, had been seamless as over 1.2million candidates would have successfully taken the examination by Monday. “