National Assembly Passes Student Loan Bill, Proposes Jail For Defaulters.

The National Assembly, on 20th March, passed the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2024.

This occurs subsequent to distinct deliberations conducted by the Senate and the House of Representatives regarding the Committee on Tertiary Institutions report and TETFund.

In a letter to the Senate, President Bola Tinubu requested the repeal of the current law and introduced a new bill for enactment.

This appeal was made one day following the declaration of a provisional halt to the implementation of the student loan program, which had been designed to grant tertiary institution students interest-free loans for the purpose of financing their academic pursuits.

Tinubu ratified the Student Loan Bill into law in June 2023, thereby facilitating interest-free loan access for Nigerian students.

Following that, 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 was approved by the Senate in second reading.

The Senate expeditiously deliberated on amendments to the bill that the Presidency decided to make prior to the implementation of the student loan program, which was originally scheduled to begin 14th March.

During plenary, the report was presented by Senator Muntari Dandutse (APC, Katsina South), who served as the committee chairman.

Godswill Akpabio, the president of the Senate, referred the measure to the committee of Dandutse for additional legislative work and a one-week report last week.

The explanatory memorandum provided to reporters indicates that President Bola Tinubu proposed amendments to the Act, one of which involved the elimination of the family income threshold requirement for student loan applications.

Additionally, the guarantor requirement was eliminated, allowing students to apply for and obtain loans in accordance with the Fund’s application and identity verification guidelines.

Furthermore, it is no longer permissible to disqualify student applicants on the basis of their parents’ loan history.

A justice and impartiality provision was incorporated, which required the board to guarantee a minimum distribution of approved and disbursed loans across the nation during each fiscal year.

The measure stipulated that loan repayment would commence promptly upon the beneficiary obtaining employment in any capacity.

As per the directive, the Fund is prohibited from commencing loan recovery activities for a period of two years following the conclusion of the National Youth Service Corps program.

The document stipulated that in order to petition the fund for an extension of enforcement action, the beneficiary must furnish a sworn affidavit attesting to their unemployed status and lack of income.

It was specified that individuals who deliver a fraudulent statement to the Fund in violation of this provision face a three-year prison sentence and are convicted of a felony.

Additionally, it includes provisions for loan absolution in cases where repayment is rendered impossible due to death or acts of God.

Source: Punch