The Student Loan Bill, spearheaded by Femi Gbajabiamila, has attracted significant attention. It aims to tackle the persistent funding challenges faced by tertiary institutions in Nigeria and ensure that higher education becomes more accessible to all Nigerians.
Under the bill’s provisions, the Nigerian Education Bank would be established as the central authority responsible for administering, coordinating, and monitoring student loans. This entity would receive loan applications for applicants from higher education institutions nationwide. The applications would then be thoroughly screened to ensure that all requirements stipulated in the Act are met before granting the loans.
The bill emphasizes the importance of equal opportunity, stating that all students seeking higher education in public institutions should have the same right to access these loans, irrespective of their gender, religion, tribe, position, or disability. This provision seeks to promote fairness and inclusivity in the distribution of educational loans.
Regarding the repayment plan, the bill mandates that beneficiaries of the loan will commence repayment two years after completing the National Youth Service Corps program. The repayment process will involve a direct deduction of 10% from the beneficiary’s salary by their employer, which will then be credited to the designated student loan account as prescribed by the bank. This arrangement ensures a systematic and convenient approach to loan repayment.
However, the bill has not been without its share of criticism. Some have expressed concerns about the viability of the proposed Student Loan Bank and its ability to manage the loan program effectively. Femi Gbajabiamila, the bill’s sponsor, has urged caution against condemning the Student Loan Bank before it has even been allowed to prove its efficacy in addressing the funding challenges faced by Nigerian students.
Overall, the Student Loan Bill represents a significant step towards enhancing access to higher education in Nigeria. It seeks to establish a robust framework for student loans, ensuring that qualified individuals receive financial support to pursue their educational aspirations.
“Where the beneficiary is self-employed, he shall remit 10% of his total profit monthly to the student loan account to be prescribed by the bank.
“For the purpose of sub-section 3 above, a self-employed person shall, within 60 days of assuming that status, submit all information such as the name of business, address and location, registration documents, registered, name of bankers, names of partners, name of directors and shareholders to the Commission.
“Anyone in default of the provisions of sub-section 4 above or found to be aiding the default of any of the provisions of this Act is guilty of an offense and, if convicted, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years or a fine of N500,000 or both.”
During a recent interview in Abuja, Prof Gbolahan Bolarin, the chairperson of the Academic Staff Union of Universities at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, expressed his views on the law, referring to it as being “dead on arrival.”
He said, “The problem in Nigeria is that we copy policies from other countries and want to replicate them in our country without considering the situation here. Where are the jobs in Nigeria? There are graduates from over 20 years ago who are still jobless. Now the thing about this scheme is that as you repay, another person gets access to the loan.
“Now that the scheme will provide N1m per year, suppose a student comes to FUTMinna and stays for five years. That means you will receive N5m; what is the guarantee that you will get a job to pay it back? As of today, the minimum wage is N30,000. Is it feasible?
“From the beginning, ASUU fought against it because of these issues. There are no two ways about it; this scheme is not going to be sustainable. You can see universities hiking fees; more universities will do this because governing councils of schools are looking for ways to fund schools; before you know it, the level of enrolment in public universities will be reduced.”
Furthermore, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, an education activist interviewed in Abuja, expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of such a law in Nigeria.
She said, “I am very concerned about the repayment options. In Nigeria, graduates have issues getting jobs after graduation; we are also in a country where the conditions are not favorable for business.
“It is a good policy because it will truly allow access to university education again with the recent hike in school fees, but it may not work well in Nigeria.”