On Wednesday, the Federal Government provided additional information regarding the Student Loan Scheme.
Subject to the Inter-Ministerial Committee’s completion of work on the programme and President Bola Tinubu’s approval, the government stated that the programme would begin in the September/October 2023 academic session.
Students from private, public universities would benefit from the loan, the government said.
David Adejo, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, provided this information during a briefing in Abuja.
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 denied rumours that the federal government intended to impose tuition fees in tertiary institutions as a result 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.
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 further reassured Nigerians that the loan programme would not be politicised, stating that the Federal Government has done everything in its power to limit politicians’ influence over the programme.