The Federal Government, on Wednesday, announced that an inter-ministerial committee had been set up to fine-tune the Student Loan bill that was signed recently by President Bola Tinubu.
The committee, which will meet on Tuesday, is expected to work together and ensure that the disbursement of the student loans starts by September 2023 for the 2023/2024 academic session.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Andrew Adejo, who disclosed these to journalists at a press conference in Abuja, said higher institutions cannot introduce tuition fees because of the introduction of the loan scheme.
According to him, the institutions are not autonomous.
“The President has approved the constitution of an inter-ministerial committee on student loans made up of the necessary ministries and agencies. The inaugural meeting will come up on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. The President has also directed that by September/October 2023/2024 academic session, he wants to see recipients of the loan. So it’s a serious business.
“Between now and then, we have to fine-tune the processes. The loan purpose is for the beneficiary to finish an education programme. The recovery doesn’t start until you get employed. The committee has been given specific terms of reference.
“Without trying to say what the committee will do, we don’t want to make it something that only people who want to go to public schools will benefit from. Anybody that is indigent can benefit. Private schools already pay tuition so you have to give somebody who wants to go to a private school the opportunity to get the loan and pay tuition,” Adejo stated.
Reacting to reports on the introduction of tuition fees, the permanent secretary noted that Federal Government-owned universities lacked the financial autonomy to introduce tuition fees at the moment.
“Government alone cannot foot the bill for education and that is why we are doing public-private partnerships. Universities are autonomous but what they don’t have yet is financial autonomy. When they get that, they will be able to answer the questions on the introduction of tuition,” he stated.
Meanwhile, a committee made up of representatives of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigerian Bar Association, Vice Chancellors Forum of Nigerian Universities, rectors of polytechnics, provosts of colleges of education, Ministries of Education, Finance, among others, will be part of the board of the Student Loan Fund.
According to the Act, which was sighted by our correspondent in Abuja, it was stated, “The committee shall consist of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as the Chairman; the Secretary of the Fund, who shall be appointed by the Chairman; the Minister responsible for Education; the Chairman, National Universities Commission; a representative of Vice-Chancellors forum of all Nigeria Universities; a representative of the Rectors forums of all Nigerian Polytechnics and Provosts forum of all Colleges of Education in Nigeria; the Minister responsible for Finance or his representative; the Auditor-General for the Federation; a representative of the Nigerian Labour Congress; a representative of the Nigerian Bar Association; and a representative of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.”
On the source of funding, it was stated that “The sources of the Fund shall consist of education bonds; education endowment fund schemes; one percent of all taxes, levels, and duties accruing to the government of the federation from Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, and Nigerian Customs Service; one percent of all profits accruing to the government of the federation arising from oil and other minerals; all sums accruing to the Fund by way of donations, gifts, grant, endowment or otherwise; and other revenue accruing to the Fund from any other source.”
The Vice-Chancellor, Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Science and Technology, Ikere Ekiti, Prof Olufemi Adeoluwa, hailed the new Students Loan Act, saying it would be a respite for students, particularly the indigent ones.
Adeoluwa said, “In some climes outside Nigeria, in the United Kingdom for example, a lot of university students run on loans, which they pay back gradually after their graduation after they have secured employment. That will go a long way to assist a lot of students.”
Parent-Teacher Association has appealed to the Federal Government not to make the signing and introduction of student loans a reason to increase tertiary tuition.
While lauding the efforts of the Federal Government for signing the student loan bill, during an interview with our correspondent, the National President, of PTA, Mr Haruna Danjuma, said parents were not in support of school fee hike, adding that the student loan bill was a great development.
“The association appreciates the FG for signing the bill, it is a welcome development. We appreciate the government for deciding to give loans to students because there are several parents and students who do not have the financial strength to pay school fees.
“The loan will help a lot of them to go to their choice of tertiary institution and we will have more educated Nigerians. We are very happy. However, we want to believe that the school fees will remain as it is without any increment.
“If the fee will be increased, we are not in support of that. It will be a greater burden on the parents and students. Government should come together and meditate very well on this so it does become a major challenge.”
On his part, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, reiterated that the union was not in support of the student loan as it might likely jerk up school fees.
He added that a lot of students may not be able to afford the cost of school fees if they were increased because of the student loan.
He, however, added that “if the parents and students are satisfied with any increment that might happen due to the student loan, then, ASUU do not have anything to do with that.”
The Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Government-owned universities on Wednesday hailed the President, Bover the student loan act which he assented to on June 12,2023.
The committee during its 99th regular meeting at its secretariat also constituted a committee to look into the thematic area of university autonomy.
The PUNCH reports that the meeting brought together pro-chancellors from 50 federal universities.
According to a statement issued by the Committee on Wednesday night, some of the issues discussed pertained to the; “state of affairs and wellbeing of the Nigerian university system, strategies for sustaining the proper conduct of academic activities in Nigerian universities.”
The statement partly reads, “The Pro-Chancellors salute the affirmation of Mr President to uphold the sanctity of university autonomy and create the right and enabling environment for teaching, learning and research. CPC looks forward to working closely with the government to sustain this vision and ensure that the existing laws in this direction are firmly upheld.
“The CPC commends Mr President for agreeing to increase funding to education. The new Students Loan Act, which was signed into Law on June 11, 2023, to create broad access for more qualified Nigerians to benefit from tertiary education is a clear testimony of this. CPC looks forward to further discussions with the Federal government to fine-tune this novel initiative.