THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said the Student Loan Bill, which President Bola Tinubu signed into law is capable of sending many students out of school.
Tinubu, on Monday, signed the bill saying it is a fulfillment of one of his campaign promises.
The president of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said the law might have an adverse effect on millions of prospective students who rely on tuition-free higher institutions of learning to acquire knowledge.
He told Daily Trust, that: “A country where more than 133 million are living below the poverty line and you want to introduce tuition fees? It will be counterproductive.
“Every Nigerian should know what is going to happen next and there may likely be another bill waiting for signature that will introduce tuition fees. If the bill indicated that the loan is to pay tuition fees and there are no tuition fees in Nigerian universities, then what is your next approach?”
He said the bill is not new and that the union rejected it when former president, Muhammadu Buhari brought it up.
“In 2017, we said to President Buhari when they came up with the issue of tuition fees, that every student will pay N1 million and we said you cannot put that in our agreement and you cannot use that to negotiate with us and with the nature of the country we have today, there is no way that will work.
“Majority of students whose parents cannot afford it will pull out of school in anger and you know what that means, they will fight the society back,” he added.
A professor at the University of Abuja, Ben Ugwoke, said by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, all public institutions in Nigeria are tuition-free.
He said: “However, due to underfunding, the governing councils or boards of these public institutions are permitted by the laws establishing the institutions to determine appropriate charges and levies that students should pay to cover specific costs.
“The bill does not abrogate the various acts of the National Assembly establishing the public institutions, which enable them to levy students appropriately. The new students’ loan act did not in any way abolish the current or future regime of charges students of public institutions in Nigeria currently pay.
“The new act has laid a formal basis for the various governing organs of the public institutions in Nigeria to levy higher charges on students,” he said.
Professor Nasiru Medugu Idris of Nasarawa State University Keffi, said “the students’ loan will strictly be for the purpose of tuition fees. So no abolition of tuition fees in Nigerian universities.
“Tuition fees may be 10 per cent to 20 per cent of students’ expenditure per semester. Therefore parents and students should not celebrate the new act until they have accessed the loan first.”