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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Nigerian government says application process is free of human interference

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The Executive Secretary of the Student Loans Board, Akintunde Sawyerr, has said that the soon-to-be-launched student loan application will be free of human interference.

Sawyerr spoke about the “imminent launch of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund” to state house correspondents on Monday.

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He said the intention behind the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023 was to ensure that lack of funding is not a reason for any Nigerian not to progress in their education at the tertiary level.

“This law seeks to close the gap between the desire to study and the ability to go further. It seeks to close that gap, created by the lack of funding, the lack of funding,” he said.

He added that the plan would seek to support those most in need in the first instance.

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Sawyer noted that the student application portal has been developed to ensure a seamless application.

Application processes

The official added that during the application, students will simply enter their personal details including their National Identification Number (NIN) and admission number.

He said once approved, school fees will be disbursed directly to schools and not to students’ personal accounts.

“In applying and applying for this loan, there is no human intervention. In other words, there is an application. The applicant will access a portal and interact with that application. They will have to enter certain information that made them eligible: their JAMB number and of course their date of birth,” he said.

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“Other data includes things like their national identity number, NIN, which confirms that they are Nigerians. “This loan scheme is paid for by Nigerian taxpayers, so it is for Nigerians, and the NIN helps verify and qualify them as such.”

The official acknowledged that many students have difficulties paying their tuition and that there is a very high dropout rate.

“So it is one thing to enter tertiary institutions and another to stay there for four or three years.

“This plan seeks to help people access and stay until they qualify or graduate,” Sawyerr said.

The president of FIRS speaks

The Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Zacch Adedeji, also stated that the education tax would form part of the funding sources for the student loan fund.

He said: “This is one of the schemes that the education tax we will collect will be applied to. So, this is a way of being accountable to the taxpayer. Because the essence of the education tax is to consolidate and restore the integrity and quality of education, and in compliance with that part of the Law.

“That is why the education tax fund is one of the sources of funding and by the grace of God, we will execute this laudable program.”

student loan

President Bola Tinubu signed the Access to Higher Education Act of 2023 into law, weeks after being sworn in, in a bid to fulfill one of his campaign promises.

The Act, popularly known as the Student Loans Act, seeks to provide loans to indigent Nigerian students to pay fees at any Nigerian tertiary institution.

The Act establishes the Nigerian Education Loan Fund, which is expected to handle all loan applications, grants, disbursements and recoveries.

The Fund, according to the law, will be financed from multiple sources and will be dedicated to other productive activities.

Its funding sources as dictated by the Law include; one percent of all federal government profits from oil and other minerals; one percent of taxes, levies and duties due to the federal government from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS); educational bonds and educational endowment fund schemes.

The government also said that the fund will also be financed through donations, gifts, grants, donations and income that the fund receives from any other source, according to the law.

The government initially said it would come into force in September, but it did not. President Tinubu later announced that implementation would begin in January. He proposed N50 billion for its take-off in the 2024 budget which he presented to the National Assembly.

A PREMIUM TIMES review of the conditions for accessing the loans revealed some strict measures that may make it difficult for many Nigerian students to benefit.

For example, applicants must present at least two guarantors, each of whom must be a public official of at least level 12; a lawyer with at least 10 years of post-call experience, or a judicial officer, or a justice of the peace. Furthermore, only applicants whose household income is less than N500,000 per annum are eligible to apply for the loan.

But last July, Tinubu ordered the removal of all restrictions on accessing student loans, although it had not yet taken off at that time. It is unclear if the suspension remains in effect.

Qosim Suleiman is a reporter for Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which pairs local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the world.

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