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Loan Act: Many students will leave school – ASUU

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said the Student Loan Bill, which President Bola Tinubu signed into law is capable of sending many…

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said the Student Loan Bill, which President Bola Tinubu signed into law is capable of sending many students out of school.

On Monday, the president signed the bill saying it is a fulfillment of one of his campaign promises.

Many, including critics of his government, had hailed him for matching his words with action.

But in a chat with Daily Trust, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, ASUU President, said the law might have an adverse effect on millions of prospective students who rely on tuition-free higher institutions of learning to acquire knowledge.

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He said: “A country where more than 133 million are living below the poverty line and you want to introduce tuition fees? It will be counterproductive.

“Every Nigerian should know what is going to happen next and there may likely be another bill waiting for signature that will introduce tuition fees. If the bill indicated that the loan is to pay tuition fees and there are no tuition fees in Nigerian universities, then what is your next approach?”

Osodeke said the bill is not new, revealing how the union rejected it when former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration brought it up.

He, however, noted that the union is yet to have access to the accurate copy of the law signed by Tinubu, adding that there was need to get and study it.

“We have said long ago, in 2017, to President Buhari when they came up with the issue of tuition fees, that every student will pay N1 million and we said you cannot put that in our agreement and you cannot use that to negotiate with us and with the nature of the country we have today, there is no way that will work.”

“What will happen is that the majority of students whose parents cannot afford it will pull out of school in anger and you know what that means, they will fight the society back. But let us get the correct information first before knowing the next steps,” he added.

A professor at the University of Abuja, Ben Ugwoke, said going by the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, no public institution pays tuition fees. That is, all public institutions in Nigeria are tuition-free.

“However, due to underfunding, the governing councils or boards of these public institutions are permitted by the laws establishing the institutions to determine appropriate charges and levies that students should pay to cover specific costs.

“The bill signed into law does not abrogate the various acts of the National Assembly establishing the public institutions which enable them to levy students appropriately. The new students’ loan act did not in any way abolish the current or future regime of charges students of public institutions in Nigeria currently pay.

“Let me hazard a guess that the new act has laid a formal basis for the various governing organs of the public institutions in Nigeria to levy higher charges on students,” he said.

According to him, “To the naive, it means relief but to my mind, I think it means higher charges are on the horizon for students.”

For Professor Nasiru Medugu Idris of Nasarawa State University Keffi, “Tuition fees will remain the same or even higher. This is because the students’ loan will strictly be for the purpose of tuition fees. So no abolition of tuition fees in Nigerian universities.”

He said parents might think that it is a kind of relief for them but actually this is not because students’ living expenses per semester are very huge.

“School’s tuition fee maybe 10 to 20 per cent of students’ expenditure per semester. Therefore parents and students should not celebrate the signing of the act for now until they have accessed the loan first,” he said.

Meanwhile, when Daily Trust contacted the Federal Ministry of Education to clarify clause 3 of the act, via a text message to the Permanent Secretary, David Adejo, through the Director of Press, Bem Ben Goong, the director said the ministry will address a press conference on Wednesday to clarify all issues and as such had no comment.

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