Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM




As Nigerian students receive the news of another postponement of the student loan policy this time indefinitely, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to stop the shenanigan and national deceit forthwith and instead focus on utilizing Nigeria’s resources to fund public education adequately. This postponement makes it nothing less than the fifth time the students loan policy signed into law on June 12 last year has been postponed.

The reason adduced for the latest postponement is that the Federal Government needed to fine-tune the policy. In the words of the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr Bayo Onanuga, “There’ll be a new date to launch the student loan scheme, it’s not forgotten. There are some things that need to be rearranged so that it can be launched properly” (Vanguard 13 March 2024).

To start with, it is nothing short of a national embarrassment that a Federal Government had spent millions promoting a policy since June last year as the silver bullet to the challenges plaguing public education only to realize several months after that this policy needs to be rearranged and fine-tuned before it can be implemented. So what was the basis for the government’s optimism and positive review of the policy in the first place? Shall we say President Tinubu had been lying all along?

For us in the ERC, this tongue-in-cheek explanation of why the scheme had to be indefinitely postponed confirms our opinion on the students’ loan policy which is that it is an ill-thought scheme, a product of poor legislative draftsmanship, a work of a con artist and a cleverly packaged scam that promises to provide access to University education whereas what it is meant to do is to block access to same by introducing tuition and increasing the cost of education for indigent students. Mind you, our opinion is not a product of kneejerk opposition or sensationalism. Rather it is an outcome of diligent research into the Students Loan (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 itself, experience of the students’ loan policy in Nigeria in the 1970s and the experiences of students’ loans in many countries across the world. In December last year, we produced a pamphlet titled “Ten Reasons why Tinubu’s Students Loan is a Scam” – a compendium of the most relevant findings about the students’ loan scheme and why it is unworkable.

Through our research, we found that the onerous conditionalities of the loan, the thoughtless repayment plan which makes no room for those graduates unfortunate enough to be unemployed or poorly paid, the ruthless provision for punishment for those who default, the targeting of the loan at payment of tuition whereas the Federal Government no-tuition policy subsists, the lack of provision for students living cost and accommodation, and the fact that the loan can only benefit only about 10% of the total population of indigent undergraduate students all make out the students loan scheme as a badly thought, ill-conceived and fundamentally unworkable policy.

We also found that it is not true that a student loan is inevitable because Nigeria could no more fund public tertiary education. Through our research, we identified multiple areas through which the government could cut the cost of governance, including the humongous salaries and allowances of political office holders, the massive security vote, the huge feeding cost and maintenance of the President, Vice President and their families, thereby raising an extra sum of N1.7 trillion annually as part of intervention funds to address the crisis facing public education. This amount dwarfs the miniscule 50 billion voted for the students’ loan in the 2024 budget. We also found that if the government truly want to help indigent undergraduates, the best way is to turn the students’ loan scheme into a grant to support students living cost while declaring a halt to fee hike and committing resources towards funding public education by increasing subventions to public tertiary institutions.

The above have been our findings and argument since last year but the Federal Government turned a deaf ear as it is not accustomed to listening to the voice of reason. Infact as far back as August last year, stakeholders and activists presented position papers at a legislative summit organized by the House of Representatives Adhoc committee on Students loan arguing in the same spirit as the ERC findings and arguments above but these were equally ignored. Instead the government launched out with propaganda to try to force through a policy that was clearly fraudulent and unworkable. And at what cost? All the while President Tinubu stuck with this policy despite ample evidence that it was unworkable, fees soared on campuses nationwide as University administrators began to increase fees in anticipation of the loan scheme.

What happens now to undergraduate students struggling to pay the newly increased fees now that the students’ loan widely advertised as a silver bullet to the soaring cost of education has been indefinitely postponed? At the moment, there is hardly any public tertiary institution whose fees has not been increased by at least 300% within the last 9 months in anticipation of the implementation of the Students Loan. For instance at the College of Nursing of the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTHC), Ile Ife, Osun state, fees were increased in December last year from N140, 00 to N840, 000 practically ending the educational dreams of majority of its students.

The new fee increases have thrown many indigent undergraduate students who cannot afford them into depression as they face the option of dropping out of school while those seeking admission are already abandoning their educational ambitions as a result of the new fees. Consequently suicide rate has increased on campuses. Just few weeks ago, the ERC helped to save a final year undergraduate student of the University of Abuja, Ada Amazu, from committing suicide due to her inability to pay her newly increased fees. How many more undergraduate students have to commit suicide on account of the neoliberal and anti-poor educational policies of President Tinubu’s government?

That even while announcing the indefinite postponement of the policy, not a single sympathetic thought was expressed about the conditions of undergraduate students grappling with the new regime of fees which were increased by Shylock University administrators in anticipation of the students loan is another sign of the cluelessness of the Federal Government and the fact that President Tinubu and his kitchen cabinet are out of touch with reality. We in the ERC hereby demand the immediate and unconditional reversal of all hiked fees. This should be the least this government should do to at least try to assuage the national calamity its thoughtless adventure with the students’ loan policy has brought on Nigerian students.

Above all, now that the government has embarrassed itself for the umpteenth time with this fraudulent and unworkable policy, we ask President Bola Ahmed Tinubu not to further waste the time of the nation with the thought of re-introducing the student loan shenanigan at any later date and instead focus on utilizing Nigeria’s huge resources to fund public education adequately. To this extent, we demand the conversion of the Students Loan into a grant to support students’ living cost. As we have amply demonstrated, Nigeria has enough resources to fund public education adequately and at all levels. What needs to be done is to end greed and capitalism – two interrelated evils that have held back the prospect of Nigeria’s huge material wealth translating into a better live for its citizens. With public ownership of the key sectors of Nigeria’s economy under democratic workers control and management as well as a socialist programme of economic reconstruction, not only would adequate funding of public education be possible, the provision of free and functional public education at all levels would become attainable even with three times the current population of Nigeria.

Hassan Taiwo Soweto

National Coordinator

Michael Lenin

National Mobilization Officer

Email: [email protected]