I can’t say when the students’ loan scheme will be launched – official

THE Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFund), Akintunde Sawyer, has said he cannot give a date for the rollout of the student education loan scheme, initially expected to be launched this Thursday, March 14.

Sawyer said this on Tuesday, March 12, at Arise TV station, blaming the postponement on undisclosed issues.

The federal government has created a back-and-forth for the rollout of the scheme.

On March 7, The ICIR reported that the government clarified it was launching the scheme this month, and yesterday, March 11, a statement by the president’s aide, Ajuri Ngelale, stated that the President, Bola Tinubu, was to unveil the scheme this Thursday.

Conversely,on Arise TV on Tuesday, March 12, Sawyer said, “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to commit to a specific date,” promising that all stakeholders would be carried along to roll the scheme out meaningfully.

President Bola Tinubu had, on June 12, 2023, signed the Access to Higher Education Bill to enable students in need to access interest-free loans to pursue their education in any tertiary institution in the country.

NELFund was set up to support students in public tertiary institutions from all the states of the Federation who wish to apply for a loan on the scheme. The objective was to cover the total cost of their institutional fees.


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According to Sawyer, the amount to be made available for each applicant would be 100 per cent of whatever course the student is studying.

He also said that each applicant would be required to start paying back the loan two years after their National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to be conditioned on whether the applicant has a job or started earning income.

If any applicant does not have a job or earn income post-NYSC years, then the applicant cannot pay.

Although that was different from what NELFund was pushing to achieve, he said those who could pay earlier, not minding the two-year moratorium, were advised to do so.

While also explaining the condition to be attached to the income level of the guardians of applicants to qualify for the scheme, Sawyer said that could be difficult to determine.

He said that guardians who earn above N500,000 per annum would not be eligible and could not be in a reasonable position given the current economic climate in the country.

He stressed further that the NELFund examined the fate of those earning above and below N500,000 to provide proper guidelines.

Sawyer hinted that the Nigerian government intends to fund the scheme through contributions from various government agencies.

He asserted that agencies like the FIRS, Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs Service would directly set aside one per cent of their revenues to the funding as provided in the law. However, Sawyer did not quote the specific law.

“There is also some revenue that can be recognised from the share of profits from oil.




     

     

    “The exciting thing about this is that it is not limited to government contributions. There is room for high-networth individuals, corporations, non-government organisations, philanthropists, and general donors to contribute to this fund,” the NELFund boss said.

    He believes the scheme could yield a lot of goodwill if adequately managed.

    In response to Nigeria’s need to meet the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Sawyer recommended a 15 per cent allocation in the budget to education. At the same time, UNESCO seeks global best practices in the education sector, and Nigeria has to look at its peculiar problems.

    “The commitment there is that education funding is on the rise, and I think that is good news,” he submitted.

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