The Nigerian Education Bank Bill0
The Nigerian Education Bank Bill which has passed second reading at the Federal House of Representatives, as explained by the initiator, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila proposes to establish the Nigerian Education Bank, with the primary duty of granting interest-free loans to poor students seeking higher education in Nigeria.
The Bill seeks to make available to each benefiting student, a sum of five hundred thousand Naira (N500,000) repayable in two years after graduation. The repayment, according to the proponents would take the form of direct deduction of ten percent monthly deductions at source from salaries of beneficiaries or from the profits in the case of self employed graduates until the loan is liquidated. According to the provisions of the Bill, “applicants must have secured admission into any Nigerian Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of education or any vocational school established by the Federal Government or the Government of the States of the Federation.”
THE NIGERIAN OBSERVER commends the initiators and promoters of the Bill, which we consider progressive in a country where more than 70 percent of its population live below the I USD per day poverty line. For most Nigerians who have had to go through hell to obtain higher education, this is a watershed Bill not only welcomed by the poor, but groups marginalised by society such as orphans, physically challenged persons among others who do not have anywhere to turn to for higher education.
It is not much of news that students of tertiary school-Universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of Agriculture and Colleges of education and others have gone through untold difficulties over the years to pass through such institutions. We are glad that the Bill is currently being considered by the lawmakers.
IT is equally heartwarming to note that, with the proposed law, Nigeria is on the right track to join the rest of the world in subsidizing education for the poor. It is important to note that Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have developed sound qualitative education and almost tuition-free higher education from cradle to grave. In fact, in Denmark, the tuition is free and, in fact, international students also enjoy free tuition provided they could show evidence of $6,000 feeding and upkeep fee per annum.
Although tuition in Australia is not free, there are a lot of grants, scholarships and bursaries instituted for both the brilliant and poor students. These are best practices that this bill seeks to emulate.
We recognise that schooling anywhere in the world is not easy and hardly cheap, it is against this backdrop that we welcome the move by the Federal House of Representatives to introduce a law that would take such a load off parents’ shoulders. We equally wish to call on the upper legislative chamber, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to con1ir the Bill as soon as it is passed by the lower house so that it can become a law in Nigeria.
Our support for the bill notwithstanding, we are of the opinion that Section 22 of the bill must be re-couched to read that “beneficiaries should be made to pay back the loan as soon as they are employed”, not the two years contained in the bill, given the high rate of unemployment in the country.
In our view, Sub-section 4 of the bill which stipulates punishments for offenders of the law in a case of default also requires a review to avoid the culture of impunity among young Nigerians who would take undue advantage of the benefits derivable from the law. Two years imprisonment or an option of fine of N500,000 being the same amount benefited by the beneficiary is not sufficient deterrence. We recommend five years imprisonment for offenders or a fine of N700,000 instead.
WE believe the Bill also throws up the need for government at all levels to take urgent steps to improve the employment market in Nigeria to absorb the army of unemployed persons roaming the streets in search of jobs. Government should redouble efforts towards guaranteeing constant electricity supply, potable water supply, roads, railway system and other infrastructure needed to boost the nation’s industrialization, as a major way of making the law work efficiently when it eventually passed and assented to by the President.
Source: The Nigerian Observer