N'Assembly Passes Student Loan Bill, Proposes Jail for Defaulters

Repayment of loans will commence once the beneficiary is employed in any capacity...
Bill Passed
Bill PassedGraphic Online

The National Assembly, on Wednesday, passed the 2024 Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill.

The bill was passed following separate considerations of the report of the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In a letter addressed to the Senate last Thursday, President Bola Tinubu called for the repeal of the current law and the introduction of a new bill for consideration.

This request, which would provide students of tertiary institutions with access to interest-free loans to complete their studies was made a day after the announcement of a temporary suspension of the commencement of the student loan scheme.

In June 2023, Tinubu signed the Student Loan Bill into law, allowing Nigerian students to access loans at interest-free rates.

The Senate then proceeded to pass a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Students Loan and Access to Higher Education Act 2023 and introduce the Student Loans Access to Higher Education Bill 2024 for second reading.

The student loan scheme was supposed to launch last Thursday, but the Presidency opted to make some amendments to the bill before implementation, which the Senate promptly considered in plenary.

According to an explanatory memorandum shared with reporters, President Bola Tinubu's proposed amendments to the Act aim to eliminate the family income threshold as a prerequisite for the student loan applications.

It also eliminated the need for a guarantor, allowing students to apply for and receive loans based on the Fund's application, identity verification guidelines and student applicants can no longer be disqualified based on their parent’s loan history.

A justice and fairness provision was established, requiring the board to guarantee a minimum national spread of loans approved and disbursed in each financial year.

The bill stated that repayment of loans will commence once the beneficiary is employed in any capacity and as mentioned in the brief, the Fund is prohibited from initiating loan recovery efforts until two years after the completion of the National Youth Service Corps programme.

It is emphasized that any person who submits a false statement to the Fund under this section will be charged with a felony and could face three years of imprisonment.

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