By Ajisafe Olayiwola
- says repayment should be 4-5 years
The President, National Association of Nigerian Students, Usman Barambu has called on the House of Representatives to amend the Student Loan Act to ease its access by Nigerian students.
He made the statement at the legislative summit on student loans and access to higher education organised by the ad-hoc committee on Thursday in Abuja.
The national students’ leader noted the absence of student members on the board of the Students’ Loan, adding that the polytechnics and colleges of education should be equally represented, in addition to the National Universities Commission.
As contained in the Act, students are required to repay their loans two years after completion of the compulsory National Youth Service Corps.
However, Barambu questioned the deadline by saying that “it should be revised to 4 to 5 years,” adding that the Act made no provision of “forgiveness” in case a defaulter dies.
He said, “Student loan is for us, and in 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. That should also be looked into.”
He also requested that the list of guarantors to access loans be looked into, noting that most students will not be able to meet the guarantor requirement.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, who was represented by his deputy, Rep. Benjamin Kalu, described the Student Loan Act as a “transformational piece of legislation.”
He said the legislature has a multifaceted responsibility, from providing quality education to enacting laws and policies and ensuring that such policies come into fruition.
Kalu said, “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 utilisation 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.”
The deputy speaker added that the Act was initiated and passed, owing to the significance of education in the country.
“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 a 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.”
Kalu stressed that the intention of the legislature is to create more opportunities for Nigerians who desire to have quality education.
He added that the summit was convened to seek the opinions of stakeholders and experts on the loan act.
” 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.