The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has cautioned against the condemnation of the Student Loan Bank being proposed by through the Student Loan Bill that has been passed by the National Assembly on the basis that previous attempts failed.
In a statement issued Wednesday night by the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, said critical stakeholders in the education sector expressed support for the return of the student loan scheme for students of tertiary education in Nigeria.
The statement was titled, ‘Education Summit: Gbajabiamila Cautions Against Cynicism on Proposed Students Loan Bank…as Initiative Excites Stakeholders.’
Gbajabiamila was quoted to have to have spoken in Abuja on Wednesday at the second day of the National Summit of Tertiary Education organised by his office stated that “the future of the teeming young people in the country should be of concern to all considering the prevailing state of tertiary education in the country.”
According to him, cynicism against the bill runs counter to proffering solutions to the challenges of funding confronting Nigerian students in public tertiary institutions who will have their dreams and aspirations truncated due to lack of access to tertiary education.
Gbajabiamila was reacting to the assertion made by the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, that the university lecturers would not support the proposed Student Loan Bank as proposed by the Student Loan Bill, sponsored by the Speaker because the previous attempt failed.
“It is time for us to start thinking outside the box. It is time for us to start looking at international best practices. Nigeria is not isolated from the rest of the world. We borrow ideas from the rest of the world, just like they can borrow from Nigeria as well. And then, we tweak those ideas to suit our peculiarities in our country. At the end of the day, we achieve more or less the same result,” the Speaker was quoted as saying
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“Like they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. There are several ways to get to the final destination, and I believe this is what the Student Loan Bill is about. I don’t want us to go away from here with a cynical approach or defeatist attitude, that something happened some time way back, under a totally different kind of regime, not under a democratic setting and, therefore, if it happened many years ago, then the chances are that nine times out of 10, it will happen again. I don’t buy into that school of thought.
“I believe that you learned from the past. If something fails before, you look at the reasons why it failed, and then you try and perfect those reasons so that you get a better result. That is what it is all about. That is what democracy is all about.”
According to Gbajabiamila, the bill addressed issues of accountability, transparency and other administrative bottlenecks that might want to negate the essence of the initiative.
The bill also provides for a moratorium of two years after completion of the mandatory National Youth Service Corps before repayment commences
According to the Speaker, as contained in the bill, the beneficiary is also expected to have a civil servant as a guarantor who is at least 12 years in service or a lawyer with at least 10 years of experience.
In addition, the sponsor of the bill said another provision embedded in it to guarantee transparency and accountability was that a loan, once approved, would be disbursed directly to the university and not in cash to the beneficiary to avoid it being used for purposes it was not meant for.
The application must be processed within 30 days of its submission to eliminate being compromised, Gbajabiamila noted, adding that beneficiaries that had been convicted by the court or those that previous loan default had been established against them would not be eligible for the loan.
According to the statement, panelists at the summit commended the initiative of the Speaker that would ensure that access to tertiary education was made available to every Nigerian child.
The panellist included Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos; Prof. Conrad Omonhinmin of the Covenant University; Oluwole Adeosun, President, Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers; and Dr. Idowu Chiazor, Centre Director, Brightpath International Academy among others, applauded the Bill.
Their submission was that the bourgeoning size of the Nigerian population has made full funding of tertiary education more difficult while an Education Loan bank provides the solution to the challenge of denying Nigerian children access to tertiary education due to lack of means.
They also stated that means of productively engaging the beneficiaries once their studies are over to eliminate the issue of unwitting default must be put in place.