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Nigeria Postpones Student Loan Scheme Launch Indefinitely

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to commit to a specific date,” Sawyer said of the promised student loan.

The launch of the Nigerian Student Loan Scheme which was set to take place on Thursday has been postponed till further notice by the Nigerian government.

This was revealed by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND), Akintunde Sawyer, in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Tuesday.

Sawyer, during the interview, said that the launch had been postponed as there are some corrections that are being made around the launch itself.

He, however, did not give a new date for the launch, saying, “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to commit to a specific date. We are sort of waiting to ensure that all the stakeholders are aligned to make sure that nobody is blindsided, then we can actually roll this out in a meaningful, comprehensive, wholesome and sustainable way.

“One thing that I will commit to is that this is a well-intended project. The president, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu means well around this and absolutely wants this rolled out as fast as possible, and we’re working very hard to help realise that.”

Sawyer then expatiated on the student loan scheme and its purposes, saying, “It’s supposed to be for institutional fees. So, there are lots of fees that get charged once a student is in a tertiary institution. In terms of the amount available, it would be a hundred percent of whatever the course that they are studying is. So, this is for public tertiary institutions, and the objective is to be able to cover the cost of their institutional fees in total.”

Then, addressing the situation of the determination of income levels to determine who is eligible for a student loan, Sawyer said that income levels are not easy to determine. He said,  “What we’re doing is actually putting this out, and allowing those who want to apply to apply. Those whose income levels we can determine, we, of course, will. But there are still a lot of families there whose incomes are inconsistent, irregular.”

He went on to say, “The law itself says families who earn above N500,000 per annum would not be eligible. Now clearly, that is not a reasonable proposition given the current climate. So, we’re looking very closely at that to ensure that we can actually capture, in the process, those who earn more than that but are still in very difficult situations when it comes to paying institutional fees at tertiary level.

“So, even if we’re able to determine who is earning less than half a million naira, and those who are earning above that, it is still a net that isn’t fully finalised. And we are looking at that very closely to ensure that through guidelines, regulations, and possible amendments to the law itself, we can make this a more comprehensive, wide coverage law.”

Sawyer then said, “What we look to expect from this is the opportunity for students, the applicants, sometime this month to begin to put in their applications to be able to access the loan, which then gives them access if they are successful to tertiary institutions in Nigeria to go and study the courses of their choice which they have been accepted for.”

The initiation of the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023, signed into law by President Tinubu on June 12, 2023, marked a significant step forward in the provision of interest-free loans for underprivileged students in Nigerian tertiary institutions.

According to Dele Alake, a member of the then Presidential Strategy Team, this move was made in fulfilment of one of Tinubu’s campaigns promises to liberalize funding for education.

Initially slated to take effect in September, the implementation of the scheme was delayed. Nonetheless, President Tinubu remained resolute, asserting that the program would launch in January 2024.

The presidency then eventually announced that the scheme will be introduced on Thursday, the 14th of March, which has now been postponed.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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