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Tinubu to unveil the students’ loan scheme

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Interest-free loans will reduce financial burdens on Nigerian families.

President Bola Tinubu is set to unveil the Student Loan Scheme during an event scheduled for March 14, 2024. The announcement was made by Mr. Ajuri Ngelale, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, during an appearance on TVC’s Politics on Sunday. Ngelale showcased President Tinubu’s reform efforts on the show ‘Counting the Cost of Presidents Tinubu’s Reforms,’ emphasising the ongoing welfare initiatives. He announced, the President will introduce the groundbreaking National Student Loan Program.

He emphasised that providing access to interest-free loans for education is a crucial step in easing financial burdens on Nigerian families and youth during tough times. Tinubu’s signing of the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023, on June 12, 2023, marks a significant milestone in ensuring that underprivileged students have the opportunity to pursue higher education in Nigerian universities without the burden of high-interest rates. Dele Alake, a member of the Presidential Strategy Team, explained that the decision was made to honour a campaign pledge to increase funding for education.

A sum of ₦50bn has been allocated for the project.

The Citizens’ Education Aid Act, commonly referred to as the Students Loan Law, introduced the Nigerian Education Loan Fund, which is responsible for managing loan applications, awards, distribution, and repayment. Although the government aimed for a September launch, it was postponed. Nevertheless, Tinubu remained optimistic that the program would be operational by January 2024. The President officially inaugurated the 29th session of the yearly Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja on October 23, 2023. During the opening ceremony, he announced that the new Students Loan Programme is set to begin by January 2024.

Furthermore, a firm stance is being taken against strikes for the sake of children’s and students’ futures. ₦50bn has been allocated for the project’s start in the 2024 budget, as revealed by the proposal presented to the National Assembly in November. Dr Akintunde Sawyerr, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Education Loan Fund, announced on February 7 that the anticipated program will officially begin on February 21 at the State House in Abuja, where President Tinubu will unveil it. Nevertheless, the kick-off was postponed as Sawyerr, along with sources from the Presidency, clarified that the delay was necessary to allow for the Fund to broaden its scope to accommodate students looking for loans for skills training, following the President’s directive.

It is accessible to those in skill training or university education.

On January 22, the President was briefed by the NELFUND team, headed by Dr. Yusuf Sununu, the Minister of State for Education. As a result, the President instructed the Fund to provide it interest-free to Nigerian students pursuing skill-development programs. His decision was driven by recognising the importance of the scheme being inclusive of individuals who may prefer alternatives to pursuing a traditional university education. He emphasised the significance of acquiring skills alongside academic qualifications at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

This program is inclusive and open to all young individuals, including the talented young Nigerians with diverse skills. It is not limited to those pursuing professions like doctors, lawyers, and accountants but also welcomes those who have a passion for using their hands to contribute to the development of our nation. He explained that he had directed NELFUND to investigate different options for implementing skill-building programs, as not everyone is interested in pursuing a traditional university education.

Related Article: Students Loan Scheme set to start this month

Mr. Bayo Onanuga, the President’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, mentioned that the President had suggested during their previous meeting that they broaden their scope to encompass individuals interested in learning vocational skills. This expansion of their mandate could possibly explain the delay in implementing the directive. Sawyerr further mentioned that the delay was caused by incomplete backend systems needed for the application process, as the scheme relies heavily on technology. He explained that the agency needed more time to ensure all required measures were in place before launching the scheme, which is entirely technology-driven.

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