• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Students loan application portal opens amid uncertainty 

Gowon’s student loan scheme holds lessons for Tinubu

The students loan scheme is one major landmark of the President Bola Tinubu’s led administration meant to affirm his quest to reposition education in Nigeria.

With the federal government rolling out the scheme on Friday, May 24, 2024, Nigerians now can heave a sigh of relief on how to bridge their children’s higher education gap, and actualise their dreams.

However, there are concerns in different quarters as the federal government seem to only be interested in offsetting the tuition fees of these teeming students without a comprehensive look into the entire funding challenges confronting tertiary education in Nigeria.

Experts see this as treating symptoms of malaria rather than addressing the sickness itself. They argue that scheme did not give considerations to other financial burdens students face while on campus which include but not limited to cost of living and other sundry charges and levies.

Gideon Adeyeni, spokesperson for the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) asked, “If a student pays tuition fee through loan but has no money to pay for other fees such as acceptance fee, development levy, and library fee, among others; will such a student be able to attend lectures, sit for tests, examinations and graduate?”

As President Tinubu makes real his promise to provide interest-free loans to students from low-income backgrounds which would allow them to meet their education goals, Nigerians seem uncertain of the eventual outcome of the scheme, fearing that it may go the way of the previous loan schemes.

According to Akintunde Sawyerr, the managing director of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND), students can access loans to pursue their academic aspirations without financial constraints through the scheme as it is going to be rolled out in phases.

“The first thing I can tell you is that we’re going to roll this out in phases, the first phase is going to be with federal institutions and then we’re going to move to the other tertiary institutions.

“It’s going to be public sector mainly at the beginning because that’s where we find the bulk of students who perhaps need the financing cover,” Sawyerr said.

Sawyer disclosed that the agency has a system in place to give the scheme the needed national spread and some degree of equal opportunities for those who have the desire, the capacity and of course the eligibility to engage in the scheme.

However, the managing director of NELFund explained that applying for the fund does not automatically mean that the applicant will get the loan immediately.

“It just means that they can begin to apply and then sometime after that there’ll be an evaluation as to those who have qualified for the loan, and then an approval for those who have qualified will be given and then the rest of the scheme takes life,” he said.

He pointed out that the fund disbursement will commence after due evaluation of applications, but reiterated that the agency does not know the number of students that would qualify.

“We don’t know exactly how many students would qualify per se but what we do know is that there are something like 1.2 million students in government-owned institutions in this country and most of them are there mainly because they’re the most affordable for most students,” he noted.

Eligible students are encouraged to take advantage of the opened portal to invest in their future and contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria.

The portal, he explained provides a user-friendly interface for students to submit their loan applications conveniently without seeking the services of any third party.

 Students can access the portal on http://nelf.gov.ng to begin application,” the statement adds.

What students must provide before applying:

Interested applicants will be required to provide the following to access the funds; Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) registration number, National Identification Number (NIN), Bank Verification Number (BVN) and their students’ matriculation numbers.

Ineligible students:

The following categories of people will be considered ineligible to access the loan; any student found guilty of examination malpractice by any school authority.

Students, otherwise known as applicants have defaulted in respect of any previous loan granted to them by any organisation.

Others are students with a criminal record of felony or any offence involving dishonesty or fraud.

Similarly, students whose parents either father or mother have defaulted in respect of student loans or any loan granted to him or her, and students who have been convicted of drug offences.

Consequently, Nigerian students in public higher learning institutions such as universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and vocational institutes who are not guilty of the listed offences are eligible to apply for the loan.

Nevertheless, the NELFund managing director pointed out that applicants must remember that the fund is not a grant but a loan that must be repaid.

“What we’re trying to do is say look you have the right to apply for a loan once you’ve applied for the loan remember you’re going to have to pay the loan back at some point therefore we expect that it’s those who need it that apply for loans,” he said.

Mechanism to checkmate defaulters:

Sawyerr reiterated that the agency is bent on getting every available information about applicants to ascertain their trustworthiness.

“We are trying to make sure that we get as much information as possible about an applicant and be sure he or she is a bonafide Nigerian citizen and is of good reputation,” he noted.

Speaking on the need for guarantors and other collaterals required of applicants as was in the former bill, Sawyerr said the new act signed into law on April 3, 2024, by President Bola Tinubu does not demand stringent conditions again.

“The president signed a new law and transmitted the old law to the National Assembly and asked for it to be repealed and re-enacted, we really need to catch the people who need help, so the new law has taken away those barriers,” he noted.