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Just in: Tinubu signs student loan bill into law

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

As a measure to assist indigent students achieve their higher education goal, president Bola Tinubu has signed the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2024, into law.

The bill signed into law is expected to provide loan for students in tertiary institutions without the financial muscle to complete the academic task with the aim of paying back after becoming fully employed.

Tinubu appended his signature on the act on Wednesday following individual reviews by both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the report from the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund.

The loan, which was supposed to have taken effect last year, had suffered different setbacks which was reason the president approached the National Assembly for a review and it’s passage.

Speaking after signing the bill at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the President promised that his administration would ensure that education is given its pride of place and the attention necessary including skills development programmes.

He said, “I have just signed a bill proclaiming the student loan effectively. First of all, I must thank members of the National Assembly for their expeditious handling of this bill considering the children of Nigeria, that education is the tool to fight against poverty effectively.

“We are determined to ensure that education is given the proper attention necessary for the country including skills development programmes.

“This is to ensure that no one, no matter how poor their background is, is excluded from quality education and opportunity to build their future.”

The Bill sponsored by Senator representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District of Ekiti State, Bamidele Opeyemi aims to improve the execution of the Higher Education Student Loan Scheme in Nigeria by tackling issues related to the management structure of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund, applicant eligibility criteria, loan purposes, funding sources, and procedures for disbursement and repayment.

Under this Bill, the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) would be established as a legal entity with the authority to litigate and be litigated in its own name, and it would possess the power to acquire, hold, and dispose of both movable and immovable property to fulfill its functions.

In essence, the Bill enables the Fund to offer loans to eligible Nigerians for their tuition, fees, charges, and living expenses while studying in approved tertiary institutions and vocational training centers in Nigeria.

In contrast to the previous 2023 Act, which placed the Fund’s administration under a Special Committee chaired by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, this Bill proposes changes in the management structure.

Furthermore, the Bill eliminates the income-based eligibility criterion set by the existing law, which required an annual income of less than N500,000 for applicants or their families.

The Bill also broadens the scope of eligibility, allowing students from federally or state-established tertiary institutions and government-approved vocational institutions to apply, with specific criteria to be determined by the Fund.

Additionally, unlike the 2023 Act, which limited loan applications solely to tuition fees, the new Bill permits applicants to request loans to cover various institutional charges and maintenance allowances.

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