From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu has assured that for equity and inclusivity in the management of the Nigeria Education Loan Fund (NELFUND), “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.”

He has, therefore, directed the management of NELFUND to expand its focus area by extending interest-free loans to Nigerian students interested in skill-development programmes.

According to a statement issued by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, he gave directive at the State House yesterday after a briefing from the Executive Secretary of NELFUND, Akintunde Sawyerr, on the build-up to the launch of the programme later in the month.

The President said it was important for the scheme to accommodate those who might 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.

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In his presentation to the President, Sawyerr, said the loan application process would 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. Our students will be catered for in a way that bypasses human interference through the full utilisation of available technological platforms, in adherence to Your Excellency’s stated objectives,” he said.

He also said 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, the Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Zacch Adedeji, said funding sources 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 for 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.