ON Monday, June 12, President Bola Tinubu signed the Students Loans Bill into Law.
The Act, having 23 sections, is also known as the Access to Higher Education Act 2023.
The law will enable indigent students in public tertiary institutions to take government loans to pay their tuition fees.
Only students in public tertiary institutions can benefit from the loans.
In this report, The ICIR’s Marcus Fatunmole highlights key issues in the Act.
Section Two of the law gives equal access to students seeking higher education in any public institution of higher learning in Nigeria to access the loan without any discrimination arising from gender, religion, tribe, position or disability.
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Section Three states clearly that the loan is only for tuition fee payment.
Section Five (1) notes that the Federal Government will establish the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (a bank) to manage and disburse the funds.
Section Five (2) gives the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) the power to manage the funds.
Section Five (3) empowers the CBN Governor to set up a Special Committee to perform the functions of the Fund.
Section Five (4): The Committee Chairman will be the CBN Governor, who shall appoint the Committee Secretary.
Section Seven: This part of the law contains the membership of the Committee, which includes: the CBN Governor as the Chairman; the Fund Secretary, who the Chairman will appoint; the Minister of Education; the Chairman of the National Universities Commission; and a representative of the Vice-Chancellors forum of all (public) universities in Nigeria.
Others are a representative of the Rectors forum of all Nigerian polytechnics and Provosts forum of all Colleges of Education in Nigeria; the Minister responsible for finance or his representative; the Auditor-General for the Federation; a representative of the Nigeria Labour Congress; a representative of the Nigeria Bar Association; and a representative of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Section 10 empowers the President to alter the Committee’s decision.
Section 12 captures the sources of the funds, which are education bonds; education endowment fund schemes; one per cent of all taxes, levels and duties accruing to the government of the federation from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Customs Service.
Others are one per cent of all profits accruing to the government of the Federation arising from oil and other minerals; all sums accruing to the Fund by way of donations, gifts, grants, endowment or otherwise; and other revenue accruing to the Fund from any other source.
Section 14 deals with the requirement for obtaining the loan. Applicants must have secured admission into any Nigerian universities, polytechnics, colleges of education or any vocational schools established by the Federal government or the government of any state in Nigeria; applicant’s income or family income must be less than N500,000 per annum; applicants must provide at least two guarantors, and each of the guarantors shall be a civil servant of at least level 12 in the service, a lawyer with at least 10 years post-call experience, a judicial officer, or a justice of the peace.
Section 15: A student is disqualified from accessing the loan if he is proven to have defaulted in respect of any previous loan granted by any organisation; he has been found guilty of examination malpractice by any school authority; he is convicted of a felony or any offence involving dishonesty or fraud; he has been convicted of drug offences; or any of the parents has defaulted in respect of students loan or any loan granted to the person.
Section 16 has to do with the method of application for the loan.
All applications must be submitted through the applicant’s bank to the Committee Chairman, accompanied by a cover letter signed by the vice-chancellor or rector or the head of the institution and the student affairs officer of the institution.
Each application shall have a copy of the student’s admission letter, and a letter by the guarantors addressed to the Committee Chairman recommending the student for the loan and stating that he accepts liability in the event of default.
Applicants will attach two passport photographs from each of the guarantors, the name of the employer and evidence of being so employed by the named organisation; and particulars of the guarantor’s business registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission or any other appropriate authority and his bankers, where the guarantor is self-employed.
The Committee shall communicate to the applicant the status of his application within 14 days of receipt, and loan disbursement to applicants will be subject to the Fund’s availability.
Section 17: Processing of any applicant’s application and disbursement shall be made within 30 days after the application gets to the Committee Chairman.
Section 18: The beneficiary of the loan will commence repayment two years after completion of the National Youth Service Corps programme.
Repayment shall be by direct deduction of 10 per cent of the beneficiaries salary at source by the employer and credited to the Fund.
Whenever he changes his job, the beneficiary will communicate the change to the Committee Chairman within 30 days of resuming with his new employer with details of the new job.
Where the beneficiary is self-employed, he will remit 10 per cent of his total profit monthly to the Fund.
A self-employed person shall, within 60 days of assuming that status, submit all information such as the name of business, address and location, registration documents if registered, name of bankers, names of partners, names of directors and shareholders to the Committee.
Anyone who defaults in complying with the above or is found to be aiding the default commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for two years or both.