The House of Representatives has proposed that the funding of the Students Loan Scheme from Federal Government revenue be increased to three percent to ensure sufficient funds to cater for all qualified students.
The Access to Higher Education Act, 2023, otherwise known as the Students Loan Act stipulates that sources of funding will include one percent of all profits accruing to the Federal Government from oil and other minerals; one percent of taxes, levies and duties accruing to the Federal Government from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS); education bonds and education endowment fund schemes.
Terseer Ugbor, chairman of the ad-hoc Committee on Students Loan Fund and Access to Higher Education, stated this while addressing the federal ministry of education and the implementation committee on Tuesday.
Ugbor expressed displeasure with the slow implementation of the students loan scheme which he said would cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal and asked the implementers to ensure there was fairness in distribution.
“We hope the system you are creating will be robust enough to take account of students who are already in school who want the loan to cover for the one year or two years of their schooling or students who are coming through direct entry.
“It seems to us from this perspective that one percent of the Federal Government revenue as stated in the act would not be enough to cover students’ loans for a year given the hundreds of thousands of students that we have getting admission every year and those who are currently in school who may wish to also apply for a loan to cover for other years of their schooling”, he said.
“I want to suggest that if there is a need to increase the requirement of one percent to three percent; then propose that and we are ever willing to look at it. It is something that is quite critical”, he added.
The lawmakers hinted that some states or local governments may not permit the deduction and the possibility of a constitutional amendment before that one percent may be drawn.
“So, if that is not done, the Federal Government can only draw from its own share of revenue which means state universities may be excluded if the state governments do not agree to participate in funding this student loan from their allocation from the federation account”, he said.
Ugbor, while noting that there could be a supplementary budget so that the scheme can take off, however, said the National Assembly can’t propose a supplementary budget if lawmakers don’t have an idea of what the students’ loans scheme will cost Nigeria.
On his part, David Adejo, permanent secretary, federal ministry of education, assured that the scheme would kick off in the 2023/2024 academic session which may begin in October or December.
“The assurances I give to you are based on what I see. First is that no academic session in Nigeria is starting before September. Remember because of the strike apart from private and some state universities, the academic calendar has been moved back.
“So, what we are saying now is, it might not be a 100 percent catchment, but the loan is going to start in the 2023/2024 academic session. Between October and November, we still stand a good chance.
“Once the technical committee is finished and comes to the main committee, then we will revert to the National Assembly with the clean bill. I know we can start this loan 2023/2024 academic session,” he stated.