Student loan: FG finalises repayment plans ahead Feb 21 launch

Ahead of the official launch of the Student Loan Scheme on February 21, 2024, the Nigeria Education Loan Fund said it is finalising repayment modalities.

Although it confirmed that the 10 per cent direct deduction from the beneficiaries’ salaries still stands, applicants can pay higher percentages or 100 per cent upfront if they choose.

However, persons confirmed to be dead, terminally ill, and incapable of earning a living through work will be granted waivers, a source close to the board’s activities told Sunday PUNCH.

“First and foremost, the modality for loan recovery will be done by the employers, which is what we are putting in place at the moment. The loan is N500,000 per year. So, in four years of schooling, that adds up to N2m. And it is interest-free, which means you are not paying more.

“You will pay the baseline 10 per cent. But if you so wish, you can ask your employer to increase your recuperation rate.

“If you don’t want to be encumbered by any debt, you can give a standing order that you want your employer to take away 15 or 20 per cent of your salary every month, or you can choose to clear it up all at once. If you do your business and you can make enough money, you can clear it up,” the source disclosed.

Asked if the rates would be prorated according to the remuneration package of beneficiaries, the source replied, “Everyone will pay a flat rate.”

On Wednesday, February 7, the Executive Secretary of NELFund, Dr Akintunde Sawyerr, confirmed to our correspondent that the much-awaited scheme would go live on February 21, when President Bola Tinubu launches it at the State House, Abuja.

“Yes, it is confirmed. It is confirmed. It will be launched on February 21,” Sawyerr confirmed to our correspondent exclusively.

On June 12, 2023, President Tinubu signed the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023 into law to enable indigent students to access interest-free loans for their educational pursuits in any Nigerian tertiary institution.

The move was in “fulfillment of one of his campaign promises to liberalise funding of education,” a member of the then Presidential Strategy Team, Dele Alake, said.

The Act, popularly known as the Students Loan Law, also established the Nigerian Education Loan Fund, which is expected to handle all loan requests, grants, disbursement, and recovery.

The source further explained that beneficiaries will get a two-year “grace period” after completing the one-year National Youth Service.

“The moment they (beneficiaries) finish NYSC, they have two years of grace, almost like a moratorium, after which they will commence repayment.

“So, the idea is we are hoping a lot of them will get jobs. And those who don’t get jobs will run their businesses. That is why, in the beginning, when you apply for a loan, you must submit your National Identity Number and Bank Verification Number.

“If you are in private business, you will tell the loan board how you want to repay, either in the 10 per cent model or any other percentage you want,” the source added.

However, beneficiaries who cannot find employment within two years will periodically report their employment status to the board.

Speaking exclusively to our correspondent, the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr Bayo Onanuga, explained the delay, saying, “Don’t forget, the last time they met the President, he asked them to expand their mandate to include those who want to learn vocational skills. That could be the reason why the whole thing was delayed because they had to increase the scope.”

Meanwhile, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Lucky Emonefe, has expressed concern over their (NANS) non-involvement in the implementation of the loan disbursement.

In an interview with one of our correspondents, Emonefe said, “On the student loan, we have some worries. Fine, the president has good intentions but I don’t think those given the responsibility to do it are serious.

“In the first place, when they wanted to sign these student loans, we recalled that NANS was invited by Mr President but as I speak now, they want to kick-start it but we have not been informed. We have not seen the guidelines on how students can access it.

“If they include private schools, while the students at UNIBEN pay N120,000 and those at Idahosa University pay N1m, it may lead to a situation where UNIBEN will increase their school fees. So, this is our worry.”

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