President Bola Tinubu signed the Student Loan Bill into law on Monday in Abuja, fulfilling one of his campaigns promises to liberalize education funding, according to Dele Alake, a member of the Presidential Strategic Team.
This marks Tinubu‘s second piece of legislation since taking office two weeks ago. The bill aims to provide interest-free loans to indigent students. It passed the third reading in the House of Representatives on May 25, 2023, sponsored by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
Alake, accompanied by Tunde Rahman, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, and David Adejoh, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, stated that the new law requires prospective beneficiaries to prove their indigenship.
“We’re very happy to announce to you that today the President, His Excellency, Bola Tinubu, signed into law the Student Loans Bill.
“This is a promise made during the presidential campaign by the then candidate, His Excellency Bola Tinubu, that he will bring back the student loans issue onto the front burner.
“And today, that promise he made has been kept. He has just signed that bill into law, which henceforth would allow or enable our indigent students to access Federal Government’s loans to fund the educational pursuit or career,” Alake said.
While the bill takes immediate effect, the application procedures will be developed by the supervising committees. Adejoh, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, explained that the current scholarship board will now transform into a loan board capable of providing educational credit facilities to eligible applicants.
However, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) criticized the loan bill, considering it discriminatory between the children of the rich and the poor.
ASUU’s National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, expressed concerns that burdening economically disadvantaged students with loans and debt after graduation is unjust.
He said, “The union will react soon but everyone knows our position on student loans because you will end up encumbering the children of the poor with loans and debt after graduating. This is discriminatory.
If what I read online is correct, it said it is only for children whose parents earn at least N500,000 per annum. That means if your father earns more, you won’t benefit.”
Similarly, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, expressed reservations but refrained from reacting superficially, as he had not thoroughly examined the bill.
He raised questions regarding the provision for individuals who remain unemployed after the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program and whether all graduates will secure immediate employment.
He said, “It says that students should refund the money two years after NYSC. But what is the provision for someone who is not working after NYSC? And will they all get jobs immediately after NYSC?”
In contrast, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NAN) deemed the student loan bill a step forward in the country’s education system. The NAN Coordinator for Zone D, Adejuwon Emmanuel, acknowledged its potential to assist students who cannot afford tuition fees.
However, he criticized the repayment terms, arguing that the given ultimatum is unfeasible since many graduates struggle to find employment immediately after completing their studies. Emmanuel urged the government to provide a plan or opportunity for those who remain jobless two years after NYSC.
“Without saying much, student loan bill is a way forward to the educational system in Nigeria, because it will assist students whose parents cannot afford to pay tuition fees to be able to pay with the loan.
“But as good as this is, there are some questions that need to be answered by the government. The ultimatum for repayment is not feasible
“As we all know that there is no work anywhere and most graduates don’t get work immediately, how will they pay back? How will it work when most of our graduates do not get jobs? Is there any plan or opportunity for those that have no work two years after NYSC?” He said.
Prof. Ini Uko, a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Uyo, praised the initiative.
Uko said, “Well, this means that tuition fees will go up. The subsidy on tertiary education will be removed. Vice-chancellors will now be able to introduce tuition fees. This is a good initiative. I am a beneficiary of a student loan and, of course, the people who benefit from it will have to pay back.
“The truth is that we have to stop pretending that the government alone can continue to fund tertiary education. It is not possible.”