The Federal Government on Wednesday gave more details about the Student Loan Scheme.
The government said the scheme would kick – off in the 2023 September/ October academic session subject to the conclusion of work on the scheme by an Inter-Ministerial Committee approved by President Bola Tinubu.
Students from private, public universities would benefit from the loan, the government said.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, David Adejo gave these details during a briefing in Abuja.
President Tinubu signed into law the Student Loan Bill in fulfilment of one of his campaign promises.
The student loan bill sponsored by the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, provided for interest-free loans to indigent students.
The law is to provide easy access to higher education for indigent Nigerians through interest-free loans from the Nigerian Education Loan Fund.
Adejo told journalists that the directive of President Tinubu was for the Inter – Ministerial Committee to ensure that the first batch of eligible students are able to access the loan in September.
The permanent secretary dispelled insinuation that the Federal Government has planned to introduce tuition fees in tertiary institutions because of the new law.
Adejo explained that the government had been working on granting financial autonomy to universities before now.
The permanent secretary also disclosed that the gazetted Act would be made public when it was transmitted from the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The permanent secretary said the federal government could no longer foot the bills of university education alone.
He said that was why the Federal Government was mulling a public – private partnership.
The permanent secretary added that the government, over the years, had wanted to provide an opportunity for every Nigerian child to go to school and live a life of dignity.
Adejo recalled the Student Loan Board that was defunct and after that there was Nigeria Education Bank that became defunct too, disclosing that a number of issues led to their collapse, including leakages, people getting the loan and not paying and in some cases, the loan did not get to the people it was created for.
“The bill is to make sure that every Nigerian has access to higher education through what we called the Higher Education Nigerian Bank.
“Learning from past mistakes, the bank is not going to be the type that will sit down and be collecting applications for loans, it will also perform normal banking functions and make sure loans are given because we had cases of loan recovery in the past.
“The Act as it is tells us the process but as I speak with you today, the president has approved the committee made up of the Ministries and agencies and their inaugural meeting will come up on 20th of June.
“The President has also directed that by September to October this 2023/2024 academic session, he wants to see recipients of these loans. So it is a very serious marching order for us. So between now and then we have to fine-tune the process for people to get the loan.”
While disclosing that a tracking system would be put in place, the permanent secretary noted that all applications would be submitted in the individual applicant’s school before getting to the bank for processing.
Adejo said a specialised bank would be created to handle the loan applications.
He said in the past “it was like it’s a government thing, come and take and there were more defaulters,” adding that this time applicants would start the process from school.
He also assured Nigerians that the loan scheme would not be politicised, saying the Federal Government had tried as much as possible to reduce the influence of politicians from the scheme.
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