NIGERIA’S President, Bola Tinubu, has signed the Students Loan Bill into law.
Dele Alake, who was Director of Strategic Communications of Tinubu’s Presidential Campaign Council, disclosed this to journalists on Monday, June 12.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had sponsored the Student Loan bill to provide interest-free loans to indigent students in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.
The bill also provides for the establishment of an Education Bank, which shall have powers to supervise, coordinate and administer student loans in Nigeria.
Alake said the funds would be domiciled within the Ministry of Education.
“Today, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has just signed the Student Loan Act. This is just in fulfilment of his promise during the electioneering campaigns, where he promised that students would access loans to go to school,” he said.
The Act provides that repayment of the loan would commence following a two-year grace after completion of the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) before repayment commences.
It also proposes a two-year jail term, a fine of N500,000 or both for students who default in repayment.
The bill had earlier been passed by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate, where it also sailed through in November 2022.
It attracted criticisms from many Nigerians, including members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), who described it as unnecessary.
The union also described the bill as an attempt by the government to systematically abandon funding of education in public universities.
ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, said lecturers would not support the proposed bill due to the high unemployment rate of graduates in Nigeria.
“We should not also pretend not to know that such loan would have matured in about 10 years up to more than double of the principal amount. And so if those students don’t get a job – since getting a job is not an automatic thing – how would such a graduate pay back, or his or her father, who is earning about N30,000 monthly as salary, help in paying back such a loan?
“So, I think we should all be realistic and not deceive ourselves any longer in Nigeria as this policy cannot work, at least, for now and also not in near future in our country,” he said.
However, Gbajabiamila said criticism of the bill was contrary to attempts to resolve education challenges confronting students in Nigerian universities.
Tinubu had also promised during his presidential campaign to pass the bill into law.
The contacted Osodeke over the new law. The ASUU president, however, declined to comment until the union has received the official document.