The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has cautioned against condemnation or skepticism against the Student Loan Bank being proposed by the Student Loan Bill that has been passed by the National Assembly on the basis that previous attempts failed.
The Students Loan Bill passed on Tuesday by the Senate was sponsored by Gbajabiamila and previously passed by the green chambers in 2019.
Gbajabiamila, who spoke on Wednesday, the second day of the National Summit of Tertiary Education summit organised by his office, noted that the future of the teeming young people in the country should be of concern to all considering the prevailing state of tertiary education in the country.
Gbajabiamila’s position followed the assertion of the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that the union will not support the proposed Student Loan Bank as proposed by the Student Loan Bill, sponsored by the Speaker because the previous attempt failed.
He said how to make a success of the law when signed into law by the President to ensure that the purpose it was intended to serve would not be defeated should be the focus of all well-meaning Nigerians.
Gbajabiamila said, “It is time for us to start thinking outside the box. It is time for us to start looking at international best practices.
“Nigeria is not isolated from the rest of the world, we borrow ideas from the rest of the world, just like they can borrow from Nigeria as well. And then we tweak those ideas to suit our peculiarities in our country. At the end of the day, we achieve more or less the same result.
“Like they say there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there are several ways to get to the final destination. And I believe this is what the Student Loan Bill is about.
“I don’t want us to go away from here with a cynical approach or defeatist attitude, that something happened some time way back, under a totally different kind of regime, not under a democratic setting, and therefore, if it happened many years ago, then the chances are that nine times out of 10, it will happen again, I don’t buy into that school of thought.
“I believe that you learned from the past. If something fails before, you look at the reasons why it failed, and then you try and perfect those reasons so that you get a better result. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what democracy is all about.”
The bill provides for a moratorium of two years after completion of the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) before repayment commences
According to him, as contained in the Bill, the beneficiary is also expected to have a civil servant as a guarantor who is at least 12 years in service or a lawyer with at least 10 years of experience, added.
In addition, the sponsor of the Bill said another provision embedded in it to guarantee transparency and accountability is that the loan, once approved is disbursed directly to the university and not in cash to the beneficiary to avoid it being used for purposes it was not meant for.
The application must be processed within 30 days of its submission to eliminate being compromised, Gbajabiamila noted while adding that beneficiaries that have been convicted by the court or those that previous loan default has been established against them would not be eligible for the loan.