This followed a briefing from the Executive Secretary of NELFUND, Mr Akintunde Sawyerr, on the build-up to the launch of the programme later in the month.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, revealed this in a statement he signed on Monday titled, ‘President Tinubu directs expansion of the student-loan programme to include skill development.’

Tinubu based his decision on the need for the scheme to accommodate those who may not want to pursue a university education, noting that skill acquisition is as important as obtaining undergraduate and graduate academic qualifications.

“This is not an exclusive programme. It is catering to all of our young people. Young Nigerians are gifted in different areas.

“This is not only for those who want to be doctors, lawyers, and accountants. It is also for those who aspire to use their skilled and trained hands to build our nation.

“In accordance with this, I have instructed NELFUND to explore all opportunities to inculcate skill-development programmes because not everybody wants to go through a full university education,” he said.

On June 12, 2023, President Bola Tinubu signed the Student Loan Bill into law. The move was in “fulfilment of one of his campaign promises to liberalise funding of education,” a member of the then Presidential Strategy Team, Dele Alake, told journalists. The law enables indigent students to access loans at interest-free rates

Declaring the 29th session of the annual Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja open on October 23, 2023, the President said, “By January 2024, the new Students Loan Programme must commence. To the future of our children and students, we’re saying no more strikes!”

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However, with January nearing its penultimate week, concerns continue to simmer over the speedy implementation of the policy.

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Speaking on Monday, President Tinubu emphasised the need for equity and inclusivity in the management of the programme, stating: “No matter how economically challenged you are, accredited and qualified students will and must have access to this loan to advance their education in higher institutions.

“There is no compromise in our commitment to the disadvantaged citizens of this nation.”

In his presentation to the President, the Executive Secretary of the Fund, Mr Akintunde Sawyerr, said the loan application process will be technology-driven, limiting human interface and “eliminating any possibility of maladministration in the programme.”

He said, “By design, this is a perpetual programme and will not terminate. The funds, earmarked for bonafide Nigerian students, will be disbursed directly to the institutions in the initial phase through electronic transfer.

“Our students will be catered to in a way that bypasses human interference through the full utilization of available technological platforms, in adherence to Your Excellency’s stated objectives.”

Sawyerr also said NELFUND had developed a robust risk-mitigation mechanism to address potential risks that may arise from the programme.

Speaking on the funding mechanism of the programme, Dr Zacch Adedeji, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, said funding sources such as the Education Tax Fund had been made available to ensure the smooth take-off and sustenance of the programme.

“Mr President is permanently solving the problem of funding for education in Nigeria. By the directive of the President, the Education Tax Fund is being reviewed to additionally cater to the needs of our university students across all local government areas in the country as they seek to access vocational and traditional university education. Funding for the programme will be adequately covered,” he said.

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