Yiaga Africa Calls for a Complete Review of the Students Loan Act

Yiaga Africa has recommended that the Students Loan (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 be amended due to ambiguity and numerous challenges posed by the act. The call was made during the one-day Legislative Summit on the Students Loans and Access to Higher Education Act, organized by the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee with support from Yiaga Africa and the European Union. The aim of the summit was to receive input on how to make the student loan scheme effective from citizens and relevant stakeholders, and also find out ways to increase access to quality higher education in Nigeria.

This was enclosed in the closing remarks, Dr. Sam Oguche, Coordinator of the Centre for Legislative Engagement, who expressed that there were many challenges and areas of ambiguity that the Students Loan Act posed.  Noting the importance of such an act to Nigerian citizens, he highlighted a few of the challenges observed by the organization such as if the loan is a one-off loan or can be taken multiple times in the duration of study by a student, and suggested that the act be completely reviewed and amended. 

“One of the challenges with the act is the frequency; is the loan a one off? Can you apply in your 100 level and then again later? This is an issue that the act should address.”  

He added, “We are also saying that almost all sections of this act need amendments so Yiaga Africa will recommend that this act should be reviewed taking into account all the comments that have been made today.”

Dr Sam Oguche, Coordinator, Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Excellence

The Summit had been declared open by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Benjamin Kalu who welcomed the participants at the summit and stated the importance of summits like this as an opportunity for citizens to be directly involved in shaping legislation that will impact their lives.

Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Benjamin Kalu

In his opening remarks, the Chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Student Loans and Access to Higher Education, Hon Terseer Ugbor emphasised the importance of student loans and how they can be instrumental to increasing access to higher education. He also highlighted the importance of the summit which is to collate input from the public on the scheme, and encouraged participants to not hold back on their thoughts and ideas on the scheme.

Chair, Ad-Hoc Committee on Student Loans and Access to Higher Education, Hon Terseer Ugbor

Many of the stakeholders and citizens in attendance shared the sentiments of Yiaga Africa as they expressed some of the challenges that they observed with the act. Among them was the President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Usman Barambu, who expressed some of the solutions that the association came up with in response to the challenges that they noticed.  “We demand a representative of students be added to the board to ensure that the needs of the students are met,” Barambu said while explaining his points.

NANS President, Usman Umar Barambu

The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board also expressed their hopes for the successful implementation of the act. A representative from the board described the act as a “turning point in the history of higher education in Nigeria” while speaking about the importance of the act. Additionally, he suggested that the act be amended to cover the cost of things other than tuition because students now pay higher fees for accommodation and feeding due to inflation.

Representative of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB)

Similarly, the Federal Inland Revenue Service expressed their support for the act by affirming their commitment to working with the Ad-Hoc committee and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that act is implemented smoothly. A representative from FIRS highlighted a few of their solutions to some of the challenges that they found with the act; among other things he said “I propose that instead of the 1% being provided by the Federal Government, why not make it a national thing and have all the states contribute something to the loan.”

Representative of the Federal Inland Revenue Service

The National Youth Service Corps also had some comments to make regarding the Student Loans Act. The representative from the scheme explained that the act is important for ensuring the future of quality education; however, he also said that there are many things that could be misunderstood about the act. He therefore suggested that there should be proper education about the act before so that students can reap the benefits effectively. 

“We submit that counseling should be done for these students to enable them to understand the process better,” he said.

Representative of the National Youth Service Corps

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the biggest trade union in the university sector, voiced some of its concerns about the act and recommendations through a representative. He said “we suggest that instead of a loan, the board should convert it to a grant to achieve its goal of alleviating hardship amongst Nigerian students.” 

Representative of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)

Speaking on the importance of an event like the summit the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee of Youths in Parliament, Hon. Olamijuwonlo Alao-Akala, expressed the need to have more summits in the future; he said “this (the summit) shouldn’t be a one off, there should be a continuity whereby the students and all those involved will be able to ask questions and make contributions when necessary.”

Yiaga Africa’s support to the Summit in partnership with the European Union is part of its support to legislatures and strengthening engagement between legislatures and citizens in Nigeria.