FG Declares The Academic Year 2023–2024 as Start of The Implementation of Student Loans

The Federal Ministry of Education has announced that the implementation of the students loans scheme is scheduled to commence during the 2023/2024 academic session.

The announcement was made by David Adejo, the permanent secretary of the ministry, during a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Students Loans.

Adejo also dispelled rumours that the signing of the Students Loan Act had prompted several federal universities to increase their charges.

He emphasized that President Bola Tinubu had directed the completion of necessary work on the modalities for the students’ loan implementation, with a target start date of September 2023.

Adejo further stated that the president had established a coordinating committee, with the Chief of Staff serving as chairman, adding that the committee comprised key entities such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, Federal Budget Office, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, and others.

He noted that the committee had additionally established a technical team tasked with establishing a solid framework for initiating the programme and addressing any legal obstacles that could hinder Nigerians’ access to the loan.

While saying the recent increase in charges by federal universities in the country was unfortunate, Adejo explained that no federal university in the country was allowed to collect tuition fees from students.

He said: “What they collect is charges to cover the cost of accommodation, ICT, and power, among others. It is the governing councils of the universities that have the power to approve such charges for them.

“The only university that increased charges after the signing of the student loans act is the University of Lagos. They came to the Ministry with a proposal to Increase their charges because all governing councils were dissolved and we gave them approval.

“Immediately that was done, there was a resolution from the House stopping the increase of fees and the president also gave a directive stopping any increase in fees and that is where it is, even though several others have brought their proposal.”

The permanent secretary further explained that the charges collected by the institutions were used by them to pay for some of their services, including electricity bills.

While justifying why the universities were demanding an increase in the charges they collect, he said that in spite of the charges, the universities had not been able to meet up with some of their expenses.

He said, “For example, we had to bail out Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria with about N1 billion to pay its electricity bill. The school just resumed academic session because they were in darkness.

“They were supposed to build theatres and we told them, you cannot build theatre when you are in the dark because you need power to operate.”

The director of Legal Services of the Central Bank of Nigeria who represented the Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Kofo Salami Alada said the student loan was being designed to be technology driven.

He said it was being designed in such a way that would eliminate physical contact and movement of papers, while the students would be expected to apply for the loan from the comfort of their homes.

He said they would work with the various tertiary institutions that would be assigned unique codes, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board and other bodies involved in tertiary education in the country to make the process much easier.

He said the CBN would not be responsible for the funding of the exercise, adding that its responsibility would be the bankers to the fund as the funds would be provided solely by the government.

Alada, however, said that the technical committee was working on how to avoid a constitutional crisis later when states would go to court to challenge funds being drawn from the federation account to implement the scheme.

According to him, while the current law provided for 1 per cent of internally generated revenue, they were working on having an acceptable source either from the Federation Account or from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

He said since all government activities run on a budget, the National Assembly might have to put in place a budget for the take-off of the scheme

Alada said the technical design for accessing the loan had been completed, adding that vendors were being invited to commence work on the design.

The chairman of the committee, Teseer Ugbor said the students’ loan was part of the palliatives by the federal government to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians and ensure access to higher education by interested Nigerians.

He, however, expressed concern about the disbursement process, the recovery of the funds from beneficiaries as well as the possibility of some students not being able to access the loan.

Speaking on the issue of a possible constitutional crisis raised by the CBN, he said, “There is the possibility that students from state-owned tertiary institutions would not be able to access the loan because if the states would not contribute to the funds, it would mean that students from state universities would not be able to participate in the scheme.”