Ahead of the launch of the Nigeria Education Loan Fund (NELFUND), President Bola Tinubu has directed the expansion of its focus areas to include interest-free loans to Nigerian students interested in skill-development programmes.
He gave the directive after a briefing from NELFUND’s Executive Secretary, Akintunde Sawyerr, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.
He said it is important for the scheme to accommodate those who may not want to pursue university education, noting that skill acquisition is as important as obtaining undergraduate and graduate academic qualifications.
“This is not an exclusive programme. It is catering to all of our young people. Young Nigerians are gifted in different areas.
This is not only for those who want to be doctors, lawyers, and accountants. It is also for those who aspire to use their skilled and trained hands to build our nation.
In accordance with this, I have instructed NELFUND to explore all opportunities to inculcate skill-development programmes because not everybody wants to go through a full university education,” he said.
The President emphasised the need for equity and inclusivity in the management of the programme, stating: “No matter how economically challenged you are, accredited and qualified students will and must have access to this loan to advance their education in higher institutions. There is no compromise in our commitment to the disadvantaged citizens of this nation.”
Sawyerr had said in his presentation that the loan application process will be technology-driven, limiting the human interface and “eliminating any possibility of maladministration in the programme.
“By design, this is a perpetual programme and will not terminate. The funds, earmarked for bona fide Nigerian students, will be disbursed directly to the institutions in the initial phase through electronic transfer.
Our students will be catered to in a way that bypasses human interference through the full utilisation of available technological platforms, in adherence to Your Excellency’s stated objectives,” he said.
According to Sawyerr, NELFUND has developed a robust risk-mitigation mechanism to address potential risks that may arise from the programme.
Speaking on the funding mechanism of the programme, Dr Zacch Adedeji, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), said funding sources have been made available to ensure the smooth take-off and sustenance of the programme.
He said President Tinubu was permanently solving the problem of funding for education in Nigeria.
According to him, by the directive of the President, the Education Tax Fund is being reviewed to additionally cater to the needs of our university students across all local government areas in the country as they seek to access vocational and traditional university education. Funding for the programme will be adequately covered,” he said.
Speaking to correspondents later, Adedeji said the deployment of the education tax fund into the scheme was one way the government could be accountable to taxpayers in the country.
“This is in fulfilment of Mr. President’s promise that we will make education accessible to all. And while I have to make my own, it is because of the source of funding. This is one of the schemes that will apply the education tax that we will collect.
“So, this is a way of being accountable to the taxpayer. Because the essence of education tax is to consolidate and restore education integrity and quality.
“And in fulfilling that part of the Act, that is why the education tax fund is one of the sources of funding, by God’s grace, that we’ll actually use to execute this laudable programme,” the FIRS boss stated.