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N’Assembly Passes Student Loan Bill, Proposes Jail For Defaulters

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

This comes after separate considerations by both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the report of the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund.

President Bola Tinubu in a letter written to the Senate last Thursday sought the repeal of the existing law and submitted a fresh bill to be passed into law.

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

Tinubu had in June 2023 signed the Student Loan Bill into law to enable Nigerian students to access loans at interest-free rates.

The Senate, thereafter, passed for second reading, a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Students Loan and  Access to Higher Education Act 2023 and enact the Student Loans Access to Higher Education Bill 2024.

The student loan scheme was scheduled to take off last Thursday, but the Presidency decided to make some amendments to the bill before implementation which the Senate gave expeditious consideration in plenary.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Muntari Dandutse (APC, Katsina South), presented the report during plenary.

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, had last week referred the bill to the Dandutse’s committee for further legislative work and to report back in one week.

The amendments sought to the Act by President Bola Tinubu, according to an explanatory memorandum made available to reporters, included the removal of the family income threshold as a condition for applying for the student loan.

It also removed the guarantor requirement so that students can apply for and receive loans subject to application and identity verification guidelines as provided by the Fund.

Besides, student applicants can no longer be disqualified based on their parent’s loan history.

It established a justice and fairness provision, mandating the board to ensure a minimum national spread of loans approved and disbursed in each financial year.

On repayment of loans, the bill indicated that the repayment shall begin as soon as the beneficiary becomes employed in any capacity.

According to the brief, the Fund shall not initiate loan recovery efforts until two years after the completion of the National Youth Service Corps programme.

It stated that a beneficiary may request an extension of enforcement action by the fund by providing a sworn affidavit indicating that he is not employed in any capacity and is not receiving any income.

It pointed out that any person who provides a false statement to the Fund under this section is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

It also makes provision for loan forgiveness in the event of death or acts of God causing inability to repay.

 

 

 


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