Both chambers of the National Assembly have finally passed the Students Loan Bill sponsored by Speaker Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, which aims to enable Nigerian students in higher institutions of learning have access to financial assistance.
The proposed legislation titled, ‘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. With the Senate’s concurrence, a clean copy would be produced and transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. Once it is signed into law, Nigerian students would 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 such loans under the Act were satisfied.
The bank shall also have the powers to approve and disburse the loan to qualified applicants; control, 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 also 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.
Gbajabiamila had argued in the proposed legislation 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 made access to quality higher education difficult, stressful and in some cases impossible.
He also noted that a well-educated citizenry was critical to the nation’s development and its 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.