The recent Student Loan Bill passed into law by the National Assembly continues to receive critics and condemnation as majority laments on the penalization order attached to it. Initially, the bill was enacted to provide provision and address challenges faced by students in the tertiary institutions in the country. However, it further recommended two years imprisonment or N500, 000 or both for students who fail to repay the loan or anyone found aiding the defaulters. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, cautioned against the condemnation of the Student Loan Bank proposed through the Student Loan Bill.
Sponsored by Gbajabiamila, the bill was titled ‘A Bill for an Act to provide for easy access to higher education for Nigerians through an interest-free loan from the Nigerian Education Bank established in this Act to provide education for Nigerians and other purposes connected thereto.’ The bill urges the establishment of the Nigerian Education Bank, which will be authorized to administer, coordinate, supervise and monitor the management of student loans in the country. It will also be charged with receiving applications for student loans through higher institutions in Nigeria on behalf of the applicants.
Repayment shall be by direct deduction on the beneficiaries’ salary.
Furthermore, the bank will screen the applications to make sure all requirements to grant the loans under the Act are met. It will also have the authority to approve and disburse to qualified applicants while ensuring compliance in respect of disbursement. Subsequently, academic records of grantees will be access to obtain information on their year of graduation, national service, and employment to guarantee that grantees of the loan commence repayment as at when due, among other functions. Under the Act, all students seeking higher education in public institutions of higher learning in Nigeria shall have an equal right to access the loan without any form of discrimination in terms of religion, gender, tribe, position or disability.
While in terms of the loan repayment structure, the bill recommends that any beneficiary of the loan to which this Act refers shall commence repayment two years after completion of the National Youth Service Corps programme. Repayment shall be by direct deduction of 10 percent of the beneficiaries’ salary at source by the employer and credited to the students’ loan account to be prescribed by the bank. In a situation where the beneficiary is self-employed, he/she shall remit 10 percent of the total profit earned monthly to the student loan account to be stated by the bank.
No work available in the country making graduates jobless.
However, for the purpose of sub-section 3 above, a self-employed beneficiary shall within 60 days of assuming that status, submit all information such as the name of business, address and location, registration documents, registered, name of bankers, names of partners, name of directors and shareholders to the Commission. Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Federal University of Technology, Minna chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Gbolahan Bolarin, portrays the law as “dead on arrival.
He stated that Nigeria has issues trying to imitate foreign countries’ policies without considering the country’s situation. Bolarin contends that there is no work available in the country making graduates from over 20 years ago jobless and what makes the scheme work is the repayment to enable others to get access to the loan. He explains that while the scheme will provide N1 Million annually, for a student studying for five years will make it N5 million. He decried that there is no guarantee that such a student will secure a job that will enable the student to repay the loan with the minimum wage fixed at N30, 000.
Such a law cannot be effective, sustainable in Nigeria.
According to Bolarin initially ASUU is not in support of the scheme because of such issues. He asserts that it is of no doubt that the scheme will not be sustainable. Similarly, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, an education activist, expressed concern over the loan repayment plan noting that such a law cannot be effective in Nigeria. She pointed out that it is hard for graduates to secure a job and also Nigeria conditions are not favourable for business to thrive.