Federal Govt reveals what’s delaying take off of Students’ Loan Scheme

Federal Govt reveals what’s delaying take off of Students’ Loan Scheme

The portal for accessing loans from the Nigeria Education Loan Fund (NELFund) by interested students will formally open this month, the Federal Government has assured.

The government attributed the changes in the commencement of the loan scheme to technical glitches and the need to perfect all the processes for its effective implementation.

President Bola Tinubu on June 12, 2023, signed the Access to Higher Education Bill to enable indigent students to receive interest-free loans to pursue their education in any Nigerian tertiary institution.

The scheme was slated to commence between September and October 2023, but it was deferred to January.

The Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Education Loan Fund (NELFund),

Execute Secretary of NELFund Akintunde Sawyerr announced the new takeoff period during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja yesterday.

Sawyerr, who advised eligible students to register for the scheme once the portal is opened, warned against its politicisation.

He revealed that the recovery of loans from the beneficiaries would begin two years after their participation in the national youth service.

The NELFund boss, who added that deductions would be made directly from the monthly salaries of the beneficiaries, said the loans would be granted in phases, beginning first with public university students.

He said: “The take-off date is this month (March) and the reason for the delay is that we are trying to get it right.

“This is not a political programme where we say, oh! we are just going to do it, it doesn’t matter how it works.

“This is a programme that will probably run beyond me as a human being, not even as a Secretary. This is something that we want to run adequately, so we have to get it right.

“We have decided that all applicants should be able to access this scheme regardless of where they are, who they are and who they know.

“We want this to be a process that is fair to all and we will advertise the portal widely so that applicants will be able to go to the website to fill a series of forms and answer certain questions.

“Based on the data they input and their answers to the questions, the system will be able to determine appropriately, whether they are eligible to apply or not.”

Sawyer explained that the reason for the two-year grace for repayment after national youth service was to afford the beneficiaries time to get jobs and be stable before the repayment.

“The law provides that for students who go into paid- employment, repayment will be two years after NYSC, but, that does not mean that they cannot pay back before that time.

“However, if they don’t have a job two years after national youth service, we cannot compel them to pay. Where are they going to get the money from? So, we will help them and wait for them to be able to pay.

“There will be a register of those who have taken the loan and employers will have access to that register and see who has a loan.

“Once they see who has a loan, when they are employing the individual, they will be obliged through the payroll system to refund 10 per cent of the earnings of that individual back to the fund.’’

The NELFund chief said the modalities for sending the loan repayments to the Fund were still being worked out.

“If they are yet to secure employment or if they lose their jobs they are not obliged to pay.

“We are not trying to turn applicants into criminals, we are trying to help Nigerians who need better education to get it so that they can improve their lives and the country as a whole can see improvement in its social-economic development,’’ he said.

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