Students’ Loan Act: Matters Arising

The planned introduction of tuition fees in federal universities, polytechnics and other tertiary institutions soon after the signing into law of the Students’ Loan Bill by President Bola Tinubu has rightly generated misgivings amongst concerned citizens. It would seem the Federal Government plans to take away with the left hand more than the gift it had given with the right hand.

Considered against the current harsh economic situation in the country, worsened by the recent removal of fuel subsidy in the absence of impactful palliatives and the attendant skyrocketing inflation, we cannot but express sincere concern. That is more so given the negative impact the new fees would have on the students from poor backgrounds.

With the implementation of student loan to commence in September, 2023, it has become necessary to understand that since our political independence in 1960, tuition fees have remained free, especially in government schools – at both national and state levels. Students pay for all manner of items save tuition.

Disturbing are the moral-cum-constitutional implications of the proposed introduction of tuition fees. For instance, Clause 3 of the Students’ Loan Act clearly states that “The loans referred to in this Act shall be granted to students only for the payment of tuition fees.” This clause contravenes the existing policy on free tuition in public institutions. It equally runs contrary to the spirit and letter of Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution.

Section 18 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides that: “18. (1) Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels. (2) Government shall promote science and technology. (3) Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end Government shall as and when practicable provide – (a) free, compulsory and universal primary education; (b) free secondary education; (c) free university education; and (d) free adult literacy programme.”

The Act establishing the student loan ostensibly aims at providing easy access to higher education through the Nigerian Education Loan with students having “equal right to access the loans under this Act without any discrimination arising from gender, religion, tribe, position or disability of any kind”.

However, to be eligible, an applicant’s income or family income must be less than N500,000 per annum. Students must also provide at least two guarantors, each of whom must either be a civil servant of at least Level 12, a lawyer with at least 10 years post-call experience, or a judicial officer, or a justice of peace.

In addition, Section 15 of that Act states that a student will be disqualified from taking the loan if they have been found guilty of examination malpractice by any school authority, or convicted of a felony or any offence involving dishonesty or fraud.

The Act states that the repayment of the loan begins exactly two years after the completion of the participation in the NYSC programme. A beneficiary shall remit 10 per cent of their income to the Fund at the end of every month. For self-employed individuals, 10 per cent of their total monthly profit shall be remitted as part of the repayment plans. Meanwhile, defaulters risk a N500,000 fine, two years jail term or both.

There are germane questions. Currently, school fees vary from one institution to another in public tertiary schools. Who determines the ceiling on tuition fees? How can exploitation of students be prevented? How do we curb corruption that permeates the higher institutions of learning, which will inevitably lead to prohibitive tuition fees? How easy is it for indigent students to secure guarantors in a society that is trust-deficit, especially when any monetary intervention is seen as a national cake to be shared by all? How can we hold lecturers accountable, like their counterparts in private institutions, such that the government can get value for its investments in public education? Above all, when shall the Nigerian state (fully) comply with Section 18 of the 1999 Constitution?

While we recognize the zeal of the new administration to right the several wrongs of the past and improve the lot of the masses, there is the need for more consultation on the Students’ Loan Act. Decisions should reflect the dreams and desires of the people; to bring them out of the pit of poverty instead of leading them headlong into it. A review of the Act by the National Assembly is imperative.


Adadainfo is an online newspaper reporting Nigerian news. Email: Phone: 08071790941

Leave a Reply