President Bola Tinubu Enacts Bill for Interest-Free Student Loans”: In a significant development, the bill for establishing an education bank to provide interest-free loans to Nigerian students pursuing higher education has been signed into law by President Bola Tinubu. The legislation was initially introduced in 2016 by the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
According to one of President Bola Tinubu’s aides, Dele Alake, President Bola Tinubu gave his assent to the bill on Monday. The objective of the bill is to address the funding gaps within Nigeria’s tertiary education sector by offering accessible and interest-free loans to students.
The bill, titled “An Act to Provide Easy Access to Higher Education For Nigerians Through Interest-Free Loans From Nigeria Education Bank Established in this Act to Provide Education for All Nigerians and Related Matters,” was sponsored by Femi Gbajabiamila, who has now been appointed as Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu.
President Bola Tinubu had previously outlined his commitment to establishing an education bank during his presidential campaign as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress. The goal is to enhance access to quality tertiary education for all Nigerians, regardless of their backgrounds. The President emphasized that the loan program would have a maximum borrowing limit for students and flexible repayment provisions.
While basic education, spanning primary to junior secondary levels, is free and compulsory in public schools in Nigeria, the inadequacy of these institutions has compelled them to request fees from parents for necessities like desks, chalk, and infrastructure. Additionally, public tertiary institutions, although claiming to have free tuition, often introduce sundry payments to supplement government allocations.
As education falls under the concurrent list in the Nigerian constitution, several states have introduced tuition fees in their tertiary institutions, rendering education unaffordable for many students.
Insufficient funding has been identified as one of the major challenges in the Nigerian education sector, resulting in frequent strikes by education workers. The 2023 budget allocated approximately N1.08 trillion to education, which accounts for a mere 5.3% of the total N20.5 trillion budget, falling short of the UNESCO-recommended minimum of 15% for developing countries.
President Tinubu believes that the establishment of the education bank will enable Nigerian students to afford future tuition fees that may be introduced by educational institutions. By providing interest-free loans, the government aims to alleviate financial burdens and increase access to higher education qualifications for aspiring students.
In conclusion, the signing of this bill into law marks a significant step towards ensuring affordable and accessible higher education in Nigeria. The education bank will play a pivotal role in empowering students, addressing funding gaps, and fostering a more prosperous future for the nation.