The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR,  last Monday, in Abuja, signed the Student Loan Bill into law.

The signing of the bill was in “fulfillment of one of his campaign promises to liberalise funding of education,” a member of the Presidential Strategic Team, Mr. Dele Alake, disclosed this to State House Correspondents.

The Students Loan Act becomes President Tinubu’s second piece of legislation signed since he assumed office two weeks ago.

The bill would enable indigent students to access loans at interest-free rates.

It would be recalled that the piece of legislation was sponsored by the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila and passed the third reading at the House on May 25, 2023.

According to Mr. Alake, who was accompanied by other members of the media team, including Mr. Tunde Rahman and Mr. Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Andrew David Adejoh, the new law mandates prospective beneficiaries to show proof of their origins.

“We’re very happy to announce to you that today the President, His Excellency, Bola Tinubu, signed into law the Student Loans Bill.

“This is a promise made during the presidential campaign by the then candidate, His Excellency Bola Tinubu, that he will bring back the student loans issue onto the front burner.

“And today, that promise he made has been kept. He has just signed that bill into law, which henceforth would allow or enable our indigent students to access Federal Government’s loans to fund the educational pursuit or career,” Mr. Alake said.

The Presidential Aide said the move was in sync with standard practice in developed climes globally and would ease access to education.

“This is how it’s done in other developed climes. So this is a boost to our youths and students nationwide.

“Of course, there are prescribed qualification parameters. And that is the proof of indigenship of whoever is to be a beneficiary.

“Of course, there are committees to be set up. The members of committees will be drawn from various bodies to superintend over the efficient and proficient disbursement of this facility,” he added.

Also said although the bill would commence immediately, the procedures for application would be worked out by the committees to superintend the process.

On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education (FME), Mr. David Andrew Adejoh, said by implication, the current scholarship board of the Federal Government should become a loan board capable of offering educational credit facilities to qualified applicants.

“Today, what the President has done goes beyond the symbolism. It is a demonstration of intent in terms of how he wants to handle education as he progresses in his presidency. Once the bill has been signed, that is the most important thing. A bill tells you what should be done. The how is what we are going  to put together.

“What we have now is that nobody shall say money did not allow him to go to school,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Government-owned universities on Wednesday hailed the President, Bola Tinubu, over the student loan act which he assented to on June 12, 2023.

The committee, during its 99th regular meeting at its secretariat also constituted a committee to look into the thematic area of university autonomy. According to a report the meeting brought together Pro-Chancellors from 50 federal universities.

In a statement issued by the Committee on Wednesday night, some of the issues discussed pertained to the; “state of affairs and well-being of the Nigerian University System (NUS), strategies for sustaining the proper conduct of academic activities in Nigerian universities.”

However, reacting, the Academic Staff Union of Universities described the loan bill as discriminatory between the children of the rich and the poor.

Meanwhile the National President, ASUU, Professor. Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview with  newsmen, said, “The union will react soon but everyone knows our position on student loans because you will end up encumbering the children of the poor with loans and debt after graduating. This is discriminatory.

If what I read online is correct, it said it is only for children whose parents earn less than N500,000 per annum. That means if your father earns more, you won’t benefit.”

Similarly, the National President, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, said, “I have not studied the bill and we don’t want to react on the surface. But I have seen one area that will not be practicable.

“It says that students should refund the money two years after NYSC. But what is the provision for someone who is not working after NYSC?  And will they all get jobs immediately after NYSC?”

Also, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) described the student loan bill as a “way forward” in the country’s education system.

In its own statement made available to newsmen, the Coordinator,  NANS, Zone D, Mr. Adejuwon Emmanuel, however, faulted the repayment terms.

“Without saying much, student loan bill is a way forward to the educational system in Nigeria, because it will assist student whose parent cannot afford to pay tuition fee to be able to pay with the loan.”