Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has dismissed the recently signed Students Loan Act as impracticable and unsustainable.
President Bola Tinubu signed into law the Student Loan Bill on Monday, June 12 in fulfillment of a promise he made during his campaign.
Spokesperson for the Federal Government, Dele Alake, who made the announcement, said the funds would be domiciled in the Ministry of Education and would only be accessed by indigent students of tertiary institutions.
The bill sponsored by former Speaker, House of Representatives, and now the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, provides for interest-free loans to students.
Beneficiaries of the loan would commence repayment after two years of completing the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
But ASUU president, Emmanuel Osodeke, said the condition to access the loan was not sustainable. He said 90 per cent of Nigerian students would not be able to meet the “stringent requirements” to access and repay the loan. He warned that beneficiaries of similar initiatives in other countries were committing suicide due to debts incurred and advised that grants should be given to support indigent students rather than loans.
“Some of these sources of income are there, but we are believing that this would have been better if we are going to give it to those sets of students who are very poor. It will be called grant, not a loan. Since it is coming from the federation account, it should be called a grant so that these people can have access to ii, and not when they are graduating they will be carrying heavy loads behind them and when they don’t pay within two years, they go to jail.
“The law also says for you to have the loan, you must have two guarantors who are level 12 officers in civil service, or a lawyer of 10 years. How many people from those villages have access to the calibre of people and how many Nigerians would want to stand as guarantors if they know they go to jail if the beneficiaries do not pay?
“The idea of student loans came in 1972 and it was in a bank established. People who took loans never paid. In 1994, 1993, the military enacted Decree 50 and also set up a students’ loan board. The national assembly domesticated it in 2004 and within a year, it went off. The money disappeared. We want to see how this one will be different. We as a union also did a research of countries all over the world, of people who have benefited from this loan. They were committing suicide. Recently, President Joe Biden is trying to pay back the bank loans of some who borrowed in the US. It is better to look for alternative means of funding education than to encumber students whose parents earn N30,000 a month with a loan.”
He said with over one million students in Nigerian public universities, the loan scheme falls short of providing adequate tuition coverage.
“The idea of student loan came in 1972 and it was in a bank established. People who took loans never paid, you can go and investigate. In 1994, and 1993, the military enacted Decree 50 also set up a Students’ Loan Board. The National Assembly domesticated it in 2004 and within a year, it went off. The money disappeared. We want to see how this one will be different.”