The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is recommending that President Bola Tinubu convert the recently approved Students Loans Act into a grant for financially disadvantaged students. During an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics program, ASUU National President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, expressed the view that transforming the loan act into a grant would be more beneficial since it targets students from impoverished backgrounds. Osodeke argued that the loan requirements are impractical and that over 90% of students would fail to meet the stringent criteria for accessing and repaying the loan.
In support of his stance, Osodeke emphasized that considering the funds are sourced from the Federation Account, it would be more appropriate to classify it as a grant. He raised concerns about the burden that would be placed on graduating students who, if unable to repay the loan within two years, could face imprisonment. In light of this, he called for a collective bargaining approach, encouraging input from all parties involved.
It is worth noting that President Tinubu signed the interest-free Students Loans Bill into law on June 12, fulfilling a promise made during his campaign. The bill was originally proposed by the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who currently serves as the President’s Chief of Staff. However, ASUU’s President expressed skepticism about the practicality and sustainability of the loan program.
Osodeke cited past experiences with student loans in Nigeria, highlighting instances where borrowers failed to repay their loans despite the establishment of a bank for this purpose in 1972. He also mentioned the unsuccessful implementation of the Students’ Loan Board established by a military decree in 1994. He further emphasized the need to examine how the current loan program would differ from previous attempts.
In addition, Osodeke referenced global research conducted by ASUU, revealing cases of individuals who had taken their own lives due to the financial burden of student loans. He pointed out that even President Joe Biden of the United States is working towards relieving the bank loans of certain borrowers. Osodeke concluded by suggesting that alternative funding methods for education should be explored rather than burdening students whose parents earn a monthly income of N30,000 with loans.