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UPDATED – NELFUND: Tinubu directs inclusion of skills development in student-loan scheme

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (centre) in a Meeting with the Management Team of NELFUND in the State House, Abuja, FCT

*President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for equity and inclusivity, directs the Management of the Nigeria Education Loan Fund to expand its focus area by extending interest-free loans to Nigerian students interested in skills development programmes

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

As the Federal Government appears set to launch the youth-oriented scheme, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has directed the Management of the Nigeria Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) to expand its focus area by extending interest-free loans to Nigerian students interested in skills development programmes.

Tinubu issued this directive Monday, January 22, 2024, in the State House after a briefing from Mr. Akintunde Sawyer, Executive Secretary of NELFUND, on the build-up to the of official launch of the programme later this month.

Chief Ajuri Ngelale, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Monday disclosed in a statement that President Tinubu said it is important for the scheme to accommodate those who may not want to pursue University education.

The Nigerian leader noted 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,” Tinubu stated.

He equally emphasised the need for equity and inclusivity in the management of the programme.

The President also noted: “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, Sawyer, Executive Secretary of the Fund, said that the loan application process would be technology-driven, limiting human interface and “eliminating any possibility of maladministration in the programme.

He explained that “by design, this is a perpetual programme and will not terminate.

“The funds, earmarked for bona-fide 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 utilisation of available technological platforms, in adherence to Your Excellency’s stated objectives.”

According to Sawyerr, NELFUND has 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 (FIRS), said funding sources had been made available to ensure the smooth take-off and sustenance of the programme.

Adedeji stated: “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.”

Government to develop app for student-loan scheme application: Sawyer

Meanwhile, Akintunde Sawyer, Executive Secretary of NELFUND, has stated that the Federal Government will develop an app for applications into the student-loan scheme.

He noted this development while speaking Monday after the Board met with President Tinubu, in Abuja.

Sawyer said the move is to ensure zero human intervention in the scheme which is expected to start January this year.

Tinubu had said during the National Economic Summit 2023, that “by January 2024, the new student loan must commence. To the future of our children and students, we are saying no more strikes.”

It is recalled that Tinubu, in celebration of June 12, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, signed the student loan bill in fulfillment of the promise he made during his campaign.

The bill, sponsored by the Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who is now Chief of Staff to the President, provides easy access to higher education for indigent Nigerians through interest-free loans from the Nigerian Education Loan Fund.

The funds for the programme will be domiciled in the Ministry of Education and will only be accessed by indigent students of tertiary institutions, said the government.

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