President Gbajabiamila warns against cynicism –

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Representative Femi Gbajabiamila, has warned against condemnation or skepticism of the Student Loans Bank proposal by the Student Loans Bill which was passed by the National Assembly on the grounds that previous attempts have failed.

It was then that key stakeholders in the higher education sector expressed their support for the repayment of the student loan.

The scheme is for tertiary students in Nigeria, as proposed in the Student Loans Bill passed by the Nigerian Senate on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Gbajabiamila, had already been passed by the Green Chambers in 2019.

Gbajabiamila, who spoke on Wednesday, the second day of the national higher education summit organized by his office, noted that the future of the large youth in the country should be of concern to all given the current situation. current state of higher education in the country.

According to him, the cynicism against the bill goes against offering solutions to the funding challenges faced by Nigerian students in public tertiary institutions who will see their dreams and aspirations truncated due to the lack of access to higher education.

Gbajabiamila’s position follows the assertion by the president of the Union of Academic Staff of Universities, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, that the union will not support the proposed student loan bank as proposed by the bill on student loans. student loans, sponsored by the president because the previous attempt failed.

The President said that all well-meaning Nigerians should focus on how to do the law once signed into law by the President to ensure that the purpose it was meant to serve would not be 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 as they can also borrow from Nigeria.

“And then we adapt these ideas to the particularities of our country.

“At the end of the day, we get more or less the same result.

“As they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

“There are many ways to get to the final destination.

“And I believe that is what the student loans bill is all about.

“I don’t want us to leave here with a cynical approach or a defeatist attitude.

“This something happened a long time ago, under a totally different regime, not in a democratic framework, and so if it happened many years ago, there is a good chance that nine times out of 10, it happens again.

“I don’t subscribe to that school of thought.

“I believe you are learning from the past.

“If something fails before, you look at the reasons why it failed and then you try to perfect those reasons to get a better result.

“That’s the whole story.

“That’s democracy.”

According to Gbajabiamila, the bill addresses issues of accountability, transparency and other administrative bottlenecks that might negate the essence of the initiative.

Bill provides two-year moratorium after completion of mandatory National Youth Service Corps before reimbursement begins

According to him, as provided for in the bill, the beneficiary must also have as a guarantor a civil servant with at least 12 years of service or a lawyer with at least 10 years of experience.

In addition, the sponsor of the bill said that another provision built into it to ensure transparency and accountability is that the loan, once approved, is paid directly to the university and not in cash to the beneficiary. to prevent it from being used for purposes it was not intended for.

The application must be processed within 30 days of submission to avoid being compromised, Gbajabiamila noted, while adding that beneficiaries who have been convicted by the court or those for whom a previous default has been established against them would not be eligible for the loan.

Summit panelists hailed the President’s initiative which would ensure that access to higher education is made available to every Nigerian child.

Following the presentation of a paper titled: “Considering Practical Options for a National Student Education Loan System”, by Dr. Abari, panelists expressed optimism that the loan program is capable to address the funding challenges facing Nigerian public tertiary institutions.

In his presentation, Abari noted that many countries have already adopted student loan programs. adding: “Targeted at disadvantaged groups, subsidized loan programs can lead to better access of the poor to university education, thus contributing to greater social equity.

“And loans offered on favorable terms for studies in particular fields can lead to loosening the bottlenecks of skilled labor that hinder national and social development.”

While urging Nigeria to follow global best practices, Abari noted that the loan scheme has become necessary, saying, “A student loan scheme is the solution to the annual ASUU strikes.

“The introduction of tuition fees is unavoidable due to rising infrastructure maintenance costs.

“Perhaps they could consider increasing tuition as the federal government needs to establish a student loan program for students who cannot afford the new tuition.

“Nigeria’s education system needs repositioning, which should reestablish Nigeria as the true giant of Africa.”

The panelist included Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos; Professor Conrad Omonhinmin of Covenant University; Oluwole Adeosun, President, Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers; and Dr. Idowu Chiazor, Center Director, Brightpath International Academy.

Panelists and others applauded the bill.

They said the growing size of the Nigerian population has made it more difficult to fully fund higher education, while an education loan bank provides the solution to the challenge of denying Nigerian children access to education. higher education due to lack of resources.

Adeosun said that for this to work and not follow the path of previous experience, there must be a change of direction, widespread awareness, the loan must be given to deserving students, full program supervision, a rate carefully designed interest rate, an efficient collection mechanism to minimize default by beneficiaries, in addition to a stable management team of professionals.

Professor Ogundipe said a database of students in the country is the first step in its creation, while recommending that beneficiaries should have guarantors with pensionable employment or retirement benefits.

Prof Omohinmi and Dr Chiazor stressed the need to ensure that when it goes live, it will not be hijacked by people who have no connection to the program.

They also said that ways to productively engage beneficiaries after graduation to eliminate the problem of involuntary default must be put in place.

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