The Federal Ministry of Education has announced that the student loan program's implementation will start during the 2023–2024 academic year.
David Adejo, the ministry's permanent secretary, revealed this information to the House of Representatives Committee on Student Loans during a meeting.
Adejo also denied rumors that the passage of the Student Loan Act had led to price increases at several federal universities.
He emphasized that President Bola Tinubu has directed the completion of necessary work on the modalities for the students’ loan implementation, with a target start date of September 2023.
Adejo further stated that the president has established a coordinating committee, with the Chief of Staff serving as the chairman, adding that the committee comprises key entities such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Federal Budget Office, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance, and others.
He noted that the committee has additionally established a technical team tasked with establishing a solid framework for initiating the program and addressing any legal obstacles that could hinder Nigerians’ access to the loan.
While saying the recent increase in charges by federal universities in the country was unfortunate, Adejo explained that no federal University in the country was allowed to collect tuition fees from students.
He said, “What they collect are charges to cover the cost of accommodation, ICT, and power, among others. It is the Governing Councils of the Universities that have the power to approve such charges for them.
“The only university that increased charges after the signing of the Student Loan Act is the University of Lagos. They came to the Ministry with a proposal to Increase their charges because all Governing Councils were dissolved, and we gave them our approval.
Immediately after that was done, there was a resolution from the House stopping the increase in fees, and the president also gave a directive stopping any increase in fees, and that is where it is, even though several others have brought their proposals.
The permanent secretary further explained that the charges collected by the institutions are used by them to pay for some of their services, including electricity bills.
While justifying why the universities are demanding an increase in the charges they collect, he said that in spite of the charges, the universities have not been able to meet some of their expenses.
He said, “For example, we had to bail out Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, with about N1 billion to pay its electricity bill. The school just resumed academic sessions because they were in darkness.
“They were supposed to build theaters, and we told them, You cannot build theater when you are in the dark because you need power to operate.”
The director of Legal Services of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who represented the Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Kofo Salami Alada, said the student loan was being designed to be technology-driven.
He said it was being designed in such a way that it would eliminate physical contact and the movement of papers, while the students would be expected to apply for the loan from the comfort of their homes.
He said they will work with the various tertiary institutions that will be assigned unique codes, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, and other bodies involved in tertiary education in the country to make the process much easier.
He said the CBN will not be responsible for the funding of the exercise, adding that its responsibility will be the bankers to the fund as the funds will be provided solely by the government.
Alada, however, said that the technical committee was working on how to avoid a constitutional crisis later, when states will go to court to challenge funds being drawn from the federation account to implement the scheme.
According to him, while the current law provides for 1 percent of internally generated revenue, they are working on having an acceptable source either from the Federations Account or from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
He said since all government activities run on a budget, the National Assembly may have to put in place a budget for the takeoff of the scheme
Alada said the technical design for accessing the loan has been completed, adding that vendors are being invited to commence work on the design.
The chairman of the committee, Teseer Ugbor, said the students’ loan was part of the palliatives provided by the federal government to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians and ensure access to higher education for interested Nigerians.
He, however, expressed concern about the disbursement process, the recovery of the funds from beneficiaries, and the possibility of some students not being able to access the loan.
Speaking on the issue of a possible constitutional crisis raised by the CBN, he said, “There is the possibility that students from state-owned tertiary institutions will not be able to access the loan because if the states will not contribute to the funds, it would mean that students from state universities will not be able to participate in the scheme.”