• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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After student loan bill passage, questions remain

Nigerians have criticised the omission of the limit of the amount a student could obtain, and the inclusion of applicants from private universities in the bill while commending the National Assembly for a speedy piece of legislation.

Ajibade Ayodeji, the director of the entrepreneurship development centre at Babcock University said that it is a good thing that the bill has now been passed into law.

“We hope the implementation date will now be definite, given the fact that its execution has been postponed a couple of times.

However, there is still some nitty-gritty that appears silent in the bill, which may be dangerous to the president’s intention to repeal the initial bill.

“The fact that there’s no limit of loan a student can get and most importantly the fact that no mention was made of students from private universities being able to benefit from it,” he said.

Furthermore, Ayodeji expressed concerns that the student loan scheme would likely be managed like the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), which according to him, did not consider private universities in its implementation.

“It will shock you to know that up till now, private universities do not have any direct benefits from the TETFund, and the question that always comes to mind is whether students and staff of private universities are Nigerians who pay taxes to Nigeria, and contribute to the development of country or not?.

“I mean, I always wonder what the spirit behind such kind of enactment was and why such should still be practiced till today. I just hope this student loan scheme is not like that as well,” he noted.

Stanley Boroh, a lecturer at Federal University, Otuoke in Bayelsa State applauded the amended student loan scheme which he described as a better version of the initial one.

“I feel it is a bit better because a space is provided for two years post NYSC and one can also seek an extension if applicants have evidence they have not gotten jobs.

“My only worry is hope this loan won’t lead to high increment of school fees that even the loan might not be able to handle,” he said.

He also commended the wisdom of the lawmakers to make provisions for people who might not have guarantors because most persons would not want to stand surety for fear of defaulters.

On the issue of students from private universities benefiting from the loan, Boroh said; “It is assumed that people attending such schools are not indigent.”

He admonished the government to provide an enabling environment for people to do business and/or provide jobs because if these are not put in place it still means the scheme is going in cycles, which would amount to mopping the floor while the roof is still leaking.

Similarly, Friday Erhabor, director of media and strategies at Marklenez Limited believes the student loan for now is not meant to accommodate students from private universities.

“As of private universities, I read they are implementing it in phases starting from federal universities, later states, and probably private universities will be the last.

“But come to think of it, it makes sense for private universities to be excluded for now because this is supposed to be for indigent students. Any student that the parent can afford to send to a private university does not need a government loan,” he said.

However, Akintunde Sawyerr, the executive secretary of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFund) speaking on the limit of the loan a student can get while answering questions from an Arise News interview, said that the student loan would cover 100 percent of institutional fees of applicants.

“In terms of the amount available, it will be 100 percent of whatever course of their study is; this is for public tertiary institutions, and the objective is to be able to cover the cost of their institutional fees in total,” he said.

The National Assembly, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, passed the student loan bill.

The bill scaled first, second, and third readings in both parliamentary sittings to become law.

The Senate resolution followed the consideration of the report of the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND.

Muntari Dandutse, the chairman of the committee presented the report during the plenary.

President Bola Tinubu had on March 14 written to the National Assembly to repeal and reenact the student loan bill.

Tajudeen Abbas, the speaker of the House of Representatives, read the President’s letter during plenary.

The President also sent a similar letter to the Senate, asking the lawmakers to accord his request “expeditious consideration.”

Godswill Akpabio, the president of the Senate, read the Senate’s version during the plenary in the red chamber.

“Under Section 58 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), I forward, herewith, the Student Loan (Access to Higher Education) (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2024 for the kind consideration of the House.

“The Student Loan (Access to Higher Education) (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2024 seeks to enhance the implementation of the Higher Education Student Loan Scheme by addressing challenges related to the management structure of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFund), applicant eligibility requirements, loan purpose, funding sources, and disbursement and repayment procedures,” Tinubu’s letter read.