Osodeke emphasized that providing grants to economically disadvantaged students would be a more appropriate approach than offering loans.
ASUU, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, has urged President Bola Tinubu to modify the newly passed Students Loans Act into an education grant specifically aimed at financially disadvantaged students. Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, the National President of ASUU, expressed this request during an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics program. According to Osodeke, the stringent requirements for accessing and repaying the loan would make it inaccessible to over 90% of students.
Osodeke emphasized that providing grants to economically disadvantaged students would be a more appropriate approach than offering loans. He argued that since the funds are derived from the Federation Account, it should be considered a grant rather than a loan. He also expressed concerns about the potential consequences for students who are unable to repay the loans within two years, such as facing imprisonment. Osodeke advocated for a collective bargaining approach to address these issues, ensuring that all perspectives are considered.
It is worth noting that President Tinubu signed the Students Loans Bill into law on Monday, fulfilling a campaign promise. The bill, sponsored by former Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the current Chief of Staff, aims to provide interest-free loans to financially disadvantaged Nigerian students.
However, the ASUU President argued that the loan scheme is not feasible or sustainable. Osodeke highlighted the history of previous student loan initiatives in Nigeria, where borrowers failed to repay their loans, leading to their disappearance. He also pointed out that the loan program’s current conditions are impracticable and that the stringent requirements would prevent over 90% of students from qualifying and repaying the loans.
Osodeke further supported his argument by referencing cases of suicide among loan beneficiaries in other countries and mentioned President Joe Biden’s efforts to alleviate bank loan burdens for some borrowers in the United States. He concluded that it would be more sensible to explore alternative methods of funding education rather than burdening students from families earning N30,000 per month with loans.