The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has warned against condemning or dismissing the Student Loan Bank proposed by the Student Loan Bill that was passed by the National Assembly on the grounds that previous attempts had failed.
The Senate passed the Students Loan Bill on Tuesday, which was sponsored by Gbajabiamila and previously passed by the green chambers in 2019.
Gbajabiamila stated on Wednesday, the second day of the National Summit of Tertiary Education summit organized by his office, that the future of the country’s teeming young people should be of concern to all, given the country’s current state of tertiary education.
Gbajabiamila’s stance followed the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declaring that the union will not support the proposed Student Loan Bank as proposed by the Speaker’s Student Loan Bill because the previous attempt failed.
He stated that the focus of all well-meaning Nigerians should be on how to make the law a success after the President signs it into law to ensure that the purpose it was intended to serve is not defeated.
Gbajabiamila said, “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.
“Like they say there’s 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’s what it’s all about. That’s what democracy is all about.”
The bill calls for a two-year moratorium on repayment after completion of the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
According to him, the beneficiary is also required by the Bill to have a civil servant with at least 12 years of service or a lawyer with at least 10 years of experience as a guarantor.
Furthermore, the Bill’s sponsor stated that another provision included in it to ensure transparency and accountability is that the loan, once approved, is disbursed directly to the university rather than in cash to the beneficiary to avoid it being used for purposes it was not intended for.
Gbajabiamila stated that the application must be processed within 30 days of submission to avoid being compromised, and that beneficiaries who have been convicted by the court or who have a previous loan default established against them will not be eligible for the loan.