President Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday 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 skill development programmes.
The president gave the directive at the State House, Abuja, after a briefing from Mr Akintunde Sawyerr, Executive Secretary of NELFUND, on the build-up to the launch of the programme later in the month.
He said it was important for the scheme to accommodate those who may not want to pursue 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 in a statement by his spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale.
Tinubu emphasized the need for equity and inclusivity in the management of the programme, stating that “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. Sawyerr, said the loan application process will be technology-driven, limiting human interface and “eliminating any possibility of maladministration in the programme.”
“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.”
Speaking on the funding mechanism of the programme, Dr Zacch Adedeji, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), said funding sources have 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.