Recently, the Students’ Loan Bill was signed into law by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu after his inauguration in accordance with his promise for easy access to tertiary institution in Nigeria. Dele Alake, the President’s spokesman, stated that the new initiative will help Nigerian students to gain easy access to loans at interest-free rates. He affirmed that students must provide an indigent proof in order to enjoy the facility provided by the Nigerian Education Fund, while ensuring that the loan will enhance educational pursuit for all Nigerian youths.
Based on the reaction towards the Students’ Loan Law, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) condemned the established initiative. Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, the president of ASUU, said that the bill is a discrimination between the rich and the poor, leaving poor graduates to deal with accrued debt. In the same vein, Anderson Ezeibe, the president of ASUP, quoted that the law, in any form, is not feasible. He related this to the unemployment situation and the method of repayment for the graduates.
Introducing a financial programme amidst incessant strike actions?
Education in Nigeria suffers insufficient functionality of policymakers that evaluate investment in education from the aspect of social investment. Resultantly, the educational system needs proper funding in Nigeria. Nelson Mandela, a former freedom fighter and first post-apartheid President of South Africa, said that education is a strong weapon which is efficient enough to change or transform the world. It is impractical to introduce students loan in tertiary institutions that have dilapidated infrastructure, poor learning environment, lack of basic amenities and recurring industrial strike actions.
Therefore, it is expected that the President’s administration revitalises universities based on the agreement with ASUU as a medium to ensure a quality development of Nigerian universities in their learning as well as colleges of education and polytechnics. Nigerian tertiary institutions, which were formerly liked by foreign students has been condemned, making Nigerians migrate overseas to countries in other continents for quality education. According to a report, Nigerians studying in Ukraine were evacuated back to Nigeria due to the Russian invasion. The federal government spent $1.2 million to hire buses for this.
1 percent of federal government profits will fund the initiative.
Furthermore, the record of past Nigerian students loan initiative called “Nigerian Students Loan Board” in 1972 has proven that this is not the first attempt. However, poor loan repayment system was responsible for the dismissal of the initiative in 1991. The latest loan (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 was initiated by the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila. He noted that the funding will be taken as a charge of 1 percent from profits collected from minerals, taxes, levies and duties, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Nigerian Immigration Service education bonds, education endowment funds schemes, grants, donations and oil.
Today in Nigeria, unemployment status is estimated to 33 percent by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report in 2021 contrary to 1991 statistics which was estimated to be 3.2 percent. In the United Kingdom, one of the big four accounting organizations, KPMG, also known as a multinational professional services network, asserted that the status of unemployment in Nigeria has risen to 37.7 percent with a prediction that by the end of the year, the status will be estimated to 40 percent. This system of new education fund is apparently not sustainable, considering the country’s economic instability and status of unemployment.
Provision of job opportunities should be considered.
According to ASUP and ASUU, the education loan will hamper the future of the younger generation, particularly the poor ones. Reportedly, the United States of America is currently battling critical student loan recovery challenges. Statistics of the Education Data Initiative affirmed that the average borrower of such loans takes 20 years to pay back. This makes the US Supreme Court, on the Biden administration, rule on debt relief action for student loan. Currently, Nigeria’s debt is unresolved. It was advised that the programme also provides job opportunities for all students to repay their borrowed financial assistance and go on with their normal life.