The new student loan bill that Bola Ahmed Tinubu signed into law has continued to draw reactions from Nigerians. The bill aims to provide funding for Nigerian students in tertiary institutions. The bill, just like every other law enacted in Nigeria, has provided a lot of bureaucratic bottlenecks for the intended beneficiaries.
In a chat with Parallel Facts, stakeholders have continued to comment on the new law. An award-winning filmmaker, Forbes Under 30 nominee, and University of Birmingham alumni, Mr Umanu Elijah, in chat, opined, “Nigeria is not mature enough for student loans.” Some people who graduated three years ago are still jobless. Imagine taking a student loan to pay back in 4 years and ASUU goes on strike, which might stretch your study to 6 years. And the 2-year jail term for loan defaulters is too harsh in a country like Nigeria, where nothing is guaranteed. Even America doesn’t do it this way.
He said further, Budgeting $1.04 trillion yearly for student loans is another organised fraud. FG should first focus on awakening our giant structures such as refineries, textile mills, Ajaokuta Steel, DSC, and others that could generate millions of jobs for us. If the system is working, the students will be fine, and then the loan might make sense.”
In a related development, a final-year student of Ahmadu Bello University, who pleaded to remain anonymous because of the nature of the subject, chided the government for putting the cart before the horse. He said, “Student loans are still one of the huge challenges the US is facing, and each successive government usually seeks ways to grant amnesty by cancelling some loans, which of course will require legislative approval.
Many Americans spend four to ten years of their lives after graduation paying back loans. While it is challenging in the US, many can still bear it because of the standard of living, the enabling environment, and the decent wage system. If the US, as a country with a better-enabled environment and a strong purchasing power in the dollar, is still having the menace of student loans as a crisis, how much more is Nigeria without the needed facility to permeate the smooth operation of the student loan system?
A netizen, Arinze Odiria, tweeted, “The USA is currently the world’s largest economy, with a GDP of over $23 trillion in 2021 and a 3.4% unemployment rate in 2023. However, Americans owe $1.78 trillion in federal and private student loan debt as of the first quarter of 2023. Nigeria has a GDP of $506.6 billion and an unemployment rate expected to hit 41% in 2023, according to KPMG. I hope this student loan initiative won’t end up being another ‘fuel subsidy’ saga that will leave the country in huge debt”.
These reactions reflect the skepticism and doubts surrounding the student loan law. Many Nigerians are questioning the government’s priorities and the feasibility of implementing an effective student loan system given the country’s current economic challenges and infrastructure limitations.