Access To Student Loan Too Stringent – NANS President

Barambu

The President National Association of Nigerian Students, Usman Barambu has called on the House of Representatives to amend the Student Loan Act to allow all Nigerian Students who desire loans to have access to them. 

This is because they asked the House to include student representation on the board and capture Polytechnics and Collages of Education on the board instead of only the National University Commission (NUC) which was earlier captured. 

Speaking at the legislative summit on student loans and access to higher education held by the ad-hoc committee on Thursday in Abuja, Barambu said the criteria for access to loans in the current act was too stringent adding that the method of payment of 2years was too short but should be reviewed to at least 4 to 5years. 

He also called for the list of guarantors to access loans to be looked into, adding that most students will not be able to meet the guarantor’s requirement. 

He said “Student loan is for us and the board no student representation on the board.  The board only captured NUC sidelining the polytechnic and colleges of education, they should all be inclusive for fairness and equity. 

“Also the method of payment should be looked into as most students are not able to find their ground financially two years after graduation, it should be revised to 4 to 5 years. The act also gives no room for forgiveness in cases of death, especially for security officers, who should also be looked into. 

Also speaking at the summit,  the JAMB registrar Professor Is-haq Oloyede who was represented noted that Student loans represent a turning point in the history of higher education in Nigeria, in the 21st century.

Oloyede tasked the lawmakers with the feasibility of the loan covering other areas.

He stressed the need to review the Act to cover the cost of other things beyond school fees as students now pay more for accommodation, feeding and transportation.

JAMB also canvassed the development of a conducive environment for the repayment of the loan even as it noted that the Act should be calibrated to factor in market instability, inflation pandemics and force major.

Another recommendation by JAMB was that the the loan should not be one amount at all times adding that guarantees should be inserted so that it will be above inflation.

JAMB however urged parliament to develop an accountability framework for the loan and called for measures that would guarantee its sustanance.

On its part, the Chairman of, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Muhammad Nami said that the FIRS is committed to working with the parliament on the student loans project.

The revenue collection body maintained that as soon as the mandate is given, the funding will be made available.

The body however expressed concern about the 1% federal government revenue meant for the funding and suggested that instead of federal allocation only the parliament should seek amendments that will allow the funding to be drawn from a federation account where all states can contribute too.

Speaking earlier on behalf of the Speaker of the House, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, the Deputy Speaker, Rep Benjamin Kalu said that the summit which was aimed at addressing the issues emanating from the Student Loan Act 2023 – a law that promotes more equitable access to quality higher education for our children.

Kalu further noted that education is integral to the development of any nation, and no country can afford to toy with the future of its young people. 

“The legislature, as you know, plays a crucial role in providing access to quality education in the country. Our role in this regard is multifaceted. It involves enacting laws and policies that govern education, allocating resources, and overseeing the implementation of these policies and laws as well as the utilization of appropriated funds.

“Through these actions, the legislature contributes significantly to creating an enabling environment for quality education and ensuring that the right to education is upheld for all Nigerians. In this respect, the Student Loan Act is a transformational piece of legislation.

“This is quite critical given that education is considered a fundamental right in Nigeria. The legislature as custodians and defenders of citizens’ rights, play an essential role in safeguarding this right. This informed the initiation and passage of the Student Loan Act by the 9th House of Representatives. 

“The purpose was to create seamless access to credit facilities for quality higher education. The legislation finds its relevance in the recognition that one of the key barriers to accessing higher education is the high cost associated with tuition fees, accommodation, textbooks, and other educational expenses. 

“Many talented and deserving students are unable to afford these costs, leading to a significant disparity in educational opportunities. As a result, we are witnessing a situation where only a privileged few can access quality higher education while the majority struggle to make ends meet contrarily, we cannot afford to have the majority of our citizens uneducated.

“The Student Loan Act is a legislative framework designed to address the financial challenges faced by young Nigerians to accessing higher-quality education. By accessing credit facilities, the Act aims to ensure that deserving students are not denied educational opportunities due to financial constraints.

He said however, concerns have been raised about the conditions for accessing the loan as contained in the Act, hence the need for a review.

“It is feared that these conditions might hamper the good intentions of the legislature, which is to create access for as many Nigerians as possible who desire quality higher education. It is due to this fact that the summit was convened to harness the opinions of stakeholders and experts on the improvement of the Act,” he added. 

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