The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has asked President Bola Tinubu to change the newly assented Students Loans Act to grant for indigent students.
“This would have been better if we are giving it to those set of students who are very poor, it should be called a grant, not a loan,” ASUU National President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke said on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics programme today.
“It should be called a grant since it is coming from the Federation Account and not that (after) these people have access it and when they are graduating, they have heavy loads behind them and within two years, if they don’t pay, they go to jail. That’s why we’re talking about collective bargaining, you have views from all the sides.”
On Monday, Tinubu signed into law the Students Loans Bill in fulfilment of a promise he made during his campaign. The bill was sponsored by the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who is now the President’s Chief of Staff. Now an Act, the law provides for interest-free loans to poor Nigerian students.
However, the ASUU President said the loan is impracticable. He said the loan is “not sustainable”.
Osodeke said, “The idea of student loan came in 1972 and it was in a bank established. People who took loans never paid, you can go and investigate. In 1994, 1993, the military enacted Decree 50 also set up a Students’ Loan Board. The National Assembly domesticated it in 2004 and within a year, it went off. The money disappeared. We want to see how this one will be different.”
According to him, there are more than one million students in Nigerian public universities and the loan cannot adequately cater for students’ tuition.
The ASUU President said the conditions for the loan are “not practicable”, adding that more than 90% of students won’t meet the “stringent requirements” to access and repay the loan.
“We, as a union also did research of countries all over the world, of people who have benefited from this loan, they were committing suicide. Recently, (President Joe) Biden is trying to pay back the bank loans of some who borrowed in the US,” he said.
“It is better to look for alternative means of funding education than to encumbering students whose parents earn N30,000 a month with a loan.”