Senate Approves Bill to Establish Financial Aid Scheme for Students

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A bill seeking to provide for the establishment of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme scaled second reading in the Senate yesterday.

The bill sponsored by Senator Umar Sulieman (APC, Kwara North), seeks to provide a realistic framework for the success of education financing.

Suleiman, in his lead debate on the principles of the bill, said same provides for the management, governance and administration of the scheme.

According to him, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, upon its establishment, would grant interest free loans and bursaries to eligible students at higher Institutions.

He added that it would also ensure the well-structured administration of such loans and bursaries and their recovery.

He recalled that the Nigeria Students Loan Board which was established in 1982, to help students finance undergraduate and graduate studies within and outside Nigeria, provided loans between 1972 and 1991 totaling N46 million to help students finance their education.

He disclosed that out of the sum, the Board faced the challenge of recovering outstanding loans of over N40 million, which led to the suspension of the scheme in 1992.

He stated that the Students Loans Boards was replaced in 1993 by the Nigerian Education Bank.

He explained that the Education Bank serves as a major intermediary in education credit market financing, and designed to harness private sector resources for funding education.

The lawmaker, noted that the bill to establish the National Students Financial Aid Scheme, also seeks to repeal the existing Nigerian Education Bank.

The bill after consideration was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND for further inputs.

Meanwhile, the Senate has directed the Federal Ministry of Justice to ensure the prosecution of any official of the Correctional Service found complicit in the unjustified incarceration of minors.

It also directed its Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; and Interior to investigate the circumstances surrounding the admission of each inmate of the Borstal facilities and come up with appropriate recommendations to the Senate.

The chamber, directed the relevant authorities to ensure the implementation of the Child Rights Act 2003; while urging State Assemblies across the country on its domestication.

These were resolutions reached by the Senate on Wednesday, after it considered a motion on, “The need to investigate admission of inmates and operations of Borstal facilities across Nigeria.”

The motion was sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central).

The lawmaker, noted the Borstal Institutions’ attempt to keep delinquents out of prison and away from adult offenders, to avoid molestation and negative influence that could make them become repeat offenders.

According to her, there are only three borstal facilities in Nigeria, situated in Kaduna, Abeokuta and Ilorin.

Tinubu observed that these Borstal facilities were established to admit only male juvenile delinquents between ages sixteen and twenty-one as at the day of conviction.

She further observed that, “Clause 9 of the Borstal Institutions and Remand Centres Act – Subsidiary Legislation, 1962 provides that Delinquents are to be admitted into the institution with a warrant from the court, committing them to a sentence of borstal training; and provides for three months observation period of the inmates.”

The lawmaker, added that, “Clause 123 of the Subsidiary Legislation also provides that Courts of competent jurisdiction may pending determination of suitability for Borstal training, order remand or detention in a Remand Centre or Borstal, provided that persons are not less than sixteen years but under twenty-one years of age.”

Citing a publication titled, ‘Inside Ilorin Borstal Home where deviant children learn life lesson the hard way’, authored by Temitope Mustapha, and published by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in September 2020, Tinubu stated that the report alluded to young persons being held at the facility without any conviction or directive of the courts.

She expressed concern that the Publication also alluded to a statement by officials of the institute stating that none of the said minors and young persons were ‘in conflict with the law.

According to her, “some of these young persons were said to have been admitted to the facility when they were younger than sixteen, the minimum age prescribed by law.”

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