Reject President Tinubu’s student loan, ERC tells Nigerians

Education Rights Campaign, ERC, a non-governmental organization, NGO, has called on Nigerians including students, parents, civil society organisations, education workers unions and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to reject the Student Loan Act and the plan to introduce tuition fee.

The group made the call during a press conference organized in Lagos lamenting that President Bola Tinubu’s students loan (Access to Higher Education) Act 2023”: is a smokescreen to take higher education out of the reach of the poor.

In a joint by the Deputy National Coordinator and National Mobilization Officer, Ogunjimi Isaac, and Adaramoye Michael Lenin respectively, it was revealed that, those who have applauded the Act are either ignorant of the real consequences or they are anti-poor and pro-capitalist elements who do not believe that education ought to be an inalienable right and not a privilege.

That the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act 2023 is the work of con-artists whose aim is to hoodwink the mass of Nigerian people, including students, youth, parents and workers into thinking that it expands access to higher education whereas what it does is to shut the door more firmly against the majority of Nigerians seeking higher education. Indeed it is a smokescreen to take higher education out of the reach of the poor.

Explaining their stance, ERC disclosed that, “The Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act 2023 is a fraudulent piece of legislation that on the one hand claims to open access to higher education through students loans but on the other hand puts up innumerable restrictions and hurdles to ensure that only a fraction of poor and indigent students who need support actually gets this loan.

“That the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act 2023 is a market fundamentalist and anti-poor piece of legislation aimed at full commercialization of public education while legitimizing the Tinubu government’s shameful abdication of its role in funding public education.

‘Section 16, subsection 4 of the Act clearly states that “disbursement will only be on availability of funds”. This means many indigent students may have to wait endlessly for months and years with the likely consequence that they lose their admission or are forced to drop out.

‘Section 18 (1) of the Act says that “Any beneficiary of the loan to which this Act refers shall commence repayment two years after completion of the National Youth Service Corps programme”. This means that it does not matter whether or not the beneficiaries have succeeded in getting a job or not, they must start paying

“Its ultimate goal is to turn tertiary education into a commodity to be bought on a willing buyer, willing seller principle. If truly the Tinubu government wants to help poor and indigent students who are in millions, then it would recover trillions of naira being stolen legally and illegally from public coffers by big businesses and politicians in order to ensure that there is adequate government funding for public education.

“That the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act 2023 is a fraudulent contrivance by elements who have no interest of the poor and indigent at heart and whose only real achievements would be increase in the cost of education through introduction of tuition fee and subjection of loan beneficiaries to lifelong indebtedness and misery.

Their arguments include the rationale of disbursing the loan and the payback modules by the students. “Since the prospective loan beneficiaries are indigent, how will they pay the sundry fees which in many higher institutions run into tens of thousands of Naira? If an indigent student pays tuition fee through loan but has no money to pay for acceptance fee or library fee or development levy, will they be admitted?

“Will they be able to attend lectures, sit for tests, examinations and graduate? In that sense, how are beneficiaries’ access to higher education enhanced by this loan which may only take care of not more than 25 percent of the total cost of education while leaving them to scrounge for the rest?

ERC however, cautioned the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), to look inwards by becoming the voice of the students instead of pouring encomium on President Tinubu for signing the bill.

“ERC, we believe that Nigeria is rich enough not only to fund public education but to provide free, functional and democratically-managed public education at all levels. The only obstacle is corruption and capitalism”, they said.