Gloria Essien, Abuja
Nigerian students in tertiary institutions have greater access to financial aid as both Houses of the National Assembly passed the Student Loans Bill sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Gbajabiamila.
The bill has the short title of the “Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Bill, 2019”, while its long title is “A Bill for an Act to facilitate access to higher education for Nigerians through interest-free loans”. the Nigerian Education Bank established under this Act for the purpose of providing education to all Nigerians and for other related purposes.
The House passed the bill earlier this year and sent it to the Senate for approval and the Red Chamber also passed it.
With Senate approval on the bill, a clean copy will be produced and forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval. Once the law is signed, Nigerian students could start accessing the loans.
The bill seeks to establish the Nigerian Education Bank, which will have the power to supervise, coordinate, administer and monitor the management of student loans in Nigeria and to receive student loan applications through tertiary institutions in Nigeria on behalf of applicants, to screen applications to ensure that all conditions for the granting of a student loan under the Act are met.
The bank will also have the authority to approve and disburse the loan to qualified applicants; control, monitor and coordinate the student loan account/fund and ensure compliance with respect to disbursements; monitor the academic records of loan recipients for information on their year of graduation, national service, employment to ensure that loan recipients begin repaying the loan when due, among other duties .
The Bill provides that, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in other pieces of legislation, all students pursuing higher education at any public institution of higher learning in Nigeria shall have an equal right to access the loan under the this law without any discrimination based on sex, religion, tribe, position or disability of any kind.
“The loan covered by this law is only granted to students for the payment of tuition fees. The granting of the loan to a student under this law is subject to the fulfillment by the students/applicants of the requirements and conditions set out in this law. »
Gbajabiamila had argued in the bill that the difficulties faced by unemployed and low-income people, coupled with the very high cost of living in Nigeria over the years, has made access to quality higher education difficult, stressful and in some cases impossible for many Nigerians. .
He also noted that a well-educated population is essential for national development and the nation’s ability to compete in the global economy, arguing that higher education should be seen as a public good benefiting the whole world. country rather than a commodity benefiting only individual beneficiaries.
“In parallel with the interest and quest of the Federal Government to ensure access to higher education, the National Assembly has agreed to prescribe legislation which will ensure access to quality higher education for qualified Nigerians “, he said during the debate on the bill.