The Federal Government on Wednesday announced that students attending tertiary institutions of learning in Nigeria will start benefiting from the student loan from September/October this year for the 2023/2024 Accademic Session.
Andrew Adejo, the permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education who stated this at a press briefing in Abuja, also noted that the Federal Government had set up an inter-ministerial committee to fine tune and ensure the realisation of the scheme, “so that it does not end up like similar initiatives in the past such as the Nigeria education bank.”
BusinessDay recalls that President Bola Tinubu on June 12 signed into law, the Access To Higher Education Bill, popularly called the Student Loan Bill, which offers interest-free loans to students to ensure that every Nigerian has access to higher education.
“The President has approved the constitution of inter-ministerial committee made up of the necessary ministries and agencies, and the inaugural meeting would be coming up Tuesday June 20. The President has also directed that by September/October, 2023, this 2023/2024 Academic Session, he wants to see recipients of this loan, so it is a very serious match for us. So between now and then, we have to fine tune the processes for this programme.
“The inter-ministerial committee will do an assessment of all the previous schemes, why they failed, and what do we do to ensure that this does not tow that part. It is the answers to the questions that the committee give will be submitted to the President in the next four to six weeks. Like I said, he has directed that he wants to see beneficiaries by September/October for the 2023/2024 Academic Session. So all these ground works have to be completed”, he said.
The permanent secretary said that the Act signed by the President would not be made public until it has been gazetted, and it is the bill that is currently in circulation. He noted that there are refinements in the Act.
“As at June 12, only the President, the chief of staff and by the grace of God myself, have seen the Act. What has been circulating is the bill that was presented and went through final reading at the House of Representatives before the President’s assent”, Adejo explained.
Adejo, therefore explained that loan would not only cover tuition fees, adding, “Apart from tuition, there are other fees charged, such as faculty fees, and somebody looking for loan also needs money to feed, get accommodation. Federal Government will not give a loan that will not make sure you get in school, stay in school and graduate.”
The permanent secretary noted that students applying for private schools would benefit as the qualifications to benefit is that the person is a Nigerian and has admission to a school.
“We don’t want to make it something that only people who will go to public school will benefit. For now private schools are paying tuitions, so you’ll have to give somebody who wants to go to private school opportunity to get in and pay tuition. Not because somebody is in private school you say he will not benefit”, he said.
On loan repayment payment, the permanent secretary said beneficiaries could only start paying when they become employed, and not two years after compulsory service.
“The loan recovery does not start until the person gets employed. There is going to ensure a tracking system, everybody have a NIN now, immediately you get a job, there will be a requirement for all employers to register new employees”, he explained.
On concerns over difficulties in getting a job considering the unemployment rate in the country, the permanent secretary assured that the Tinubu-led administration would open up the economy for jobs, so that those who access the loan can get jobs.
The permanent secretary also stated that Government would create a new bank. He said the structure of the bank would learn from past mistakes, and would not be established for the purpose of loans, but would also perform other functions.
“The reason is because we have cases of low recovery late. For this, there will be a mechanism which the Act has already alluded to. But, knowing that it is not an interest free loan, this bank will perform other functions”, he said.
On measures to prosecute defaulters, Adejo said the Act learned from past mistakes where Government loans were taken as free money. He said the committee would come up with an operational manual for the bank which would not be different from industry standards of a bank system.
He also assured students that Government would try to remove the influence of politics in awarding scholarship. “You won’t apply directly on the site, you are applying through your school, the school will tell us who is indigent or not, who is their students or not”, he said.