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Public Institutions to Have Pilot Scheme by FG

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Announced on Wednesday by the Nigerian Education Loan Fund is the upcoming commencement of a pilot phase targeted towards students from public tertiary institutions including federal and state universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education.

As part of its executive management team, the Fund anticipates the appointment of a chairperson, a Managing Director, and two Executive Directors, with President Bola Tinubu expected to make these selections imminently.

In a statement to the press, Mr. Nasir Ayitogo, the Fund’s spokesperson, confirmed these developments, referencing the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2024, recently signed into law by Tinubu.

Ayitogo highlighted the need for the President to inaugurate the scheme post the appointment of qualified individuals as mandated by the new legislation.

Deliberated separately by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the executive bill titled “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 and Enact the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Bill, 2004 to Establish the Nigerian Education Loan Fund as a Body Corporate to Receive, Manage and Invest Funds to Provide Loans to Nigerians for Higher Education, Vocational Training and Skills Acquisition and for Related matters” was signed amidst the presence of legislative leadership, ministers, and key stakeholders in the education sector.

With provisions for a Chairperson, Managing Director, and two Executive Directors each for Finance and Operations, the Act stipulates a five-year tenure for the appointees.

The freshly-enacted legislation confers corporate status upon the loan fund, granting it the authority to engage in contractual agreements, such as loan contracts with applicants, and pursue enforcement actions for loan recovery from beneficiaries; functions it was previously devoid of.

“Following the President’s approval of the new bill, it signifies the establishment of a new management structure. There will be a managing director instead of the prior role of an Executive Secretary. Additionally, there will be two executive directors,” Ayitogo explained.

He continued, “Hence, the initiation of any actions is dependent on the President making these fresh appointments. The implementation phase necessitates the fulfillment of these appointments.

“A Chairperson designated by the President is imperative,” Ayitogo added.

When asked about the coverage of the new provision for students in public and private institutions, Ayitogo responded, “Initially, the pilot scheme only encompasses public institutions.”

Regarding the scope of the pilot phase involving public institutions, he clarified, “This initial phase targets students from federal and state universities, as well as federal and state polytechnics and colleges of education. Any eligible individual may apply for the loan.

“Submit an application if you require financial assistance, and upon meeting the criteria, your application will be considered.

However, a specific launch date for the program has not been determined.

Upon signing the new law on Wednesday, Tinubu expressed gratitude to the National Assembly for swiftly handling the legislation, reiterating his administration’s dedication to enhancing the skill levels of working-age Nigerians.

He stated, “I have just signed a bill proclaiming the student loan effectively. First of all, I must thank members of the National Assembly for their expeditious handling of this bill considering the children of Nigeria, that education is the tool to fight against poverty effectively.

“We are determined to ensure that education is given the proper attention necessary for the country including skills development programmes.

“This is to ensure that no one, no matter how poor their background is, is excluded from quality education and the opportunity to build their future.”

Concluding his remarks, the President addressed the room attendees, noting, “We are here because we are all educated and were helped.

“In the past, we have seen a lot of our children drop out of colleges and give up the opportunity.

“That is no more, the standard and the control is there for you to apply no matter who you are as long as you are a Nigerian citizen.”

Back in June 2023, Tinubu signed the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023, establishing interest-free loan accessibility for underprivileged students pursuing their tertiary education in Nigerian institutions.

The initiative fulfilled a pledge to broaden education funding made by Tinubu’s Presidential Strategy Team member, Dele Alake.

Dubbed the Students Loan Law, the Act also laid the groundwork for the Nigerian Education Loan Fund to oversee loan requests, allocations, disbursements, and recoveries.

Although the scheme was initially set for launch in September, its commencement faced delays leading to an indefinite postponement early in March.

Attributing the delay to Tinubu’s directive to expand the scope of the scheme to include vocational skills loans, the Presidency halted the program.

After receiving updates on January 22 from the NELFUND team, led by Dr. Yusuf Sununu, the Minister of State for Education, Tinubu directed the Fund to offer interest-free loans to students interested in skill-enhancement pursuits.

The decision to include vocational skills was grounded in recognizing the importance of catering to individuals not inclined towards traditional university education, emphasizing the significance of acquiring vocational skills in addition to formal academic qualifications.

“This opportunity is not restricted; it is open to all young people of Nigeria. Nigerian youth exhibit diverse talents.

“This is not limited to aspiring doctors, lawyers, or accountants; it also embraces those who aspire to contribute to the nation through their technical expertise.

“Therefore, I have instructed NELFUND to explore avenues for integrating skill-development programs since not all individuals opt for a complete university education,” cited Tinubu.

Echoing this sentiment, Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, emphasized that the new law not only facilitates educational opportunities but equips aspiring candidates with vocational skills essential for economic sustenance.

“We extend our gratitude to Mr. President for his empathy and commitment to the less privileged, who are the primary beneficiaries of this scheme.

“Henceforth, students will no longer struggle to self-finance their academic pursuits, whether at the tertiary level or in pursuit of vocational skills development. This marks a momentous occasion for the nation,” remarked Mamman.

Simultaneously, Lucky Emonefe, President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, lauded President Tinubu for actualizing his pledge of education opportunities for Nigeria’s youth through the student loan initiative.

“This is commendable. Nigerian students, represented here, are elated with Mr. President’s commitment to educational development. Today, the entire education sector celebrates; Nigerian students, especially, rejoice in the acknowledgment that even underprivileged children can access quality education.

“Mr. President’s dedication during the bill signing signifies his role as the torchbearer of modern education in Nigeria and the architect behind this initiative.

“We observe Mr. President’s commitment to the education system, ensuring that no Nigerian student is deprived of education due to financial constraints,” expressed Emonefe.

In attendance at the brief signing ceremony at the State House were figures such as Senate President Godswill Akpabio, Deputy Senate President Jibrin Barau, Chief of Staff Femi Gbajabiamila, Minister of State for Education Yusuf Sununu, and Minister of State for Youth Development Ayodele Olawande.

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