Nigerian students in higher institutions of learning stand to gain more access to financial assistance as the two chambers of the National Assembly have passed the Students Loan Bill sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila.
The draft legislation has as its short title, the ‘Students Loan (Access to Higher Education) Bill, 2019,’ While its long title is ‘A Bill for an Act to provide for easy access to higher education for Nigerians through interest-free loans from the Nigerian Education Bank established in this Act with a view to providing education for all Nigerians and for other purposes connected thereto.’
The House had passed the bill earlier this year and forwarded it to the Senate for concurrence and the Red Chamber has also passed it.
With the Senate’s concurrence on the Bill, a clean copy will be produced and transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. Once it is signed into law, Nigerian students could begin accessing the loans.
The Bill seeks the establishment of the Nigerian Education Bank, which shall have powers to supervise, coordinate, administer, and monitor the management of student loans in Nigeria and receive applications for students loan through higher institutions in Nigeria on behalf of the applicants, screen the applications to ensure that all requirements for the grant of students’ loan under the Act are satisfied.
The bank shall also have the powers to approve and disburse the loan to qualified applicants; control and monitor and coordinate the students’ loan account/fund and ensure compliance in respect of disbursement; monitor academic records of grantees of the loan to obtain information on their year of graduation, national service, employment to ensure that grantees of the loan commence repayment of the loan as at when due, among other functions.
The Bill provides that notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in other enactments, all students seeking higher education in any public institution of higher learning in Nigeria shall have an equal right to access the loan under this Act without any discrimination arising from gender, religion, tribe, position or disability of any kind.
“The loan referred to in this Act shall be granted to students only for the payment of Tuition fees. The grant of the loan to any student under this Act shall be subject to the students/applicant(s) satisfying the requirements and conditions set out under this Act.”
Gbajabiamila had argued in the Bill that the hardship being faced by the unemployed and low-income earners coupled with the very high cost of living in Nigeria over the years has made access to quality higher education difficult, stressful and in some cases impossible for many Nigerians.
He also noted that a well-educated citizenry is critical to National development and the Nation’s ability to compete in the Global Economy, arguing that higher education should be regarded as a public good benefiting the entire country rather than a commodity solely benefiting the individual recipients.
“In tandem with the Federal government’s interest and quest in ensuring access to higher education, the National Assembly has agreed to prescribe a legislation that will guarantee access to quality higher education by qualified Nigerians,” he said during the debate on the Bill.