Nigerian students abroad groan over naira free fall - PUNCH
FEBRUARY 02, 2024
BY Gbenga Oloniniran, Uthman Salami, Temitope Aina and Johnson Idowu
Parents and many Nigerian students studying abroad have groaned over the rising tuition fees following the free fall of naira against foreign currencies, including dollar and pounds.
For potential students trying to travel abroad for their studies, the exchange rates of naira to dollar and naira to pounds are taking a toll on them and their guardians who have to pay for ticketing and school fees.
In June 2023, the Nigerian government removed the rate cap in its official foreign exchange market, allowing market forces to determine the actual value of the naira.
This led to the devaluation of the naira. In July 2023 (about a month after the move), the national currency fell from 471/dollar to 750/dollar and 589.4/pound to 957.2/pound. As of January 24, the currency had further plunged to 887/dollar and 1133/pound.
At the parallel market, where most people meet their forex needs, the local currency exchanged 1,420/dollar on Friday.
As of Wednesday, the value stood at N1,455/$ on the Investor and Exporter Window.
The price of everything associated with relocation, including school fees, visa fees, and more has surged due to the significant depreciation of the naira.
Some students who spoke with our correspondents lamented their ordeals following the falling naira against foreign currencies.
A Nigerian student in the UK, Moyosore Salami, said he knew several persons who had returned to Nigeria over the exchange rate.
Salami said, “I have a lot of people that have gone back home due to the dollar rate. It’s really crazy. My first week in the UK, pounds was around N680 as today the pound is around N1,970.”
A Nigerian student in Canada, Seth Akande, while lamenting, said, “Well, the devaluation of naira and how it’s affecting me simply means whatever amount I need from Nigeria, it’s never enough. Every day the rates keep going up. Now you can’t plan for how much you will be converting or you are likely to pay with the steady increase in rate.
“Just months ago, I still changed the Canadian dollar to about N780 and as of this morning, 1 CAD is N1,169. Now, I can’t budget for how much I will be needing from Nigeria to pay fees, as it is only when you have the money available then you can say this is how much I am paying.
“As an international student, this even makes it worse because you pay 1.5 or two twice of what the citizens of the country pay, but that’s not the problem, the main problem is that the rate continues to increase.”
A Sokoto State indigene studying in Malaysia, Aisha Umar, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said when the naira got devalued, “our money becomes worthless compared to other currencies. So things like tuition fees and school expenses have become more expensive for us studying in Malaysia.”
A Nigerian student who was processing admission into a Canadian university noted that his admission was halted over the exchange rate debacle.
The student, Confidence Chujor, said, “The devaluation of naira has really affected me in the sense that the money I kept for my schooling is no longer enough for me. The price of everything has gone higher than the way it used to be. I now sleep in fear, praying and hoping that the rate goes down.”
“I have never in my life experienced this level of naira devaluation,” he said, adding “I can’t pay my tuition fee, I can’t afford to pay for flight. Medical (fee) which used to be N46,000 has got to N73,000. It would really be nice if I wake up one morning to hear that the rate of the dollar has gone down. I’m hoping for a miracle.”
A parent, Mrs. Nwachukwu Mary, said the exchange rate “is finishing us”
Speaking on Thursday with one of our correspondents, Nwachukwu said, “This exchange rate is finishing us, paying for this semester’s fee was mentally draining. No form A, we had to buy from ‘Abokis’. The banks are hoarding dollars. Sending money to my kid is taxing because when they change it, it amounts to nothing, it’s even affecting us in Nigeria, everything is so hard, the cost of living is increasing crazily and the standard of living is decreasing, this economy is making things very hard.”
Another parent, who gave his name simply as Mr Smith, said he was aware that his son was to pay $17,000 for tuition in the US.
“But now when the dollar is around N1,500, where will we get over N25m? It is even better to invest the money in something else than to do this under pressure.”
A travel agent, who works at Adopas Dedicated Services, David Adamu, said some Nigerians were selling properties to “japa” while some students abroad had also dropped out.
“When the economy is bad just like the current trend of naira devaluation, Nigerians would want to do everything possible to leave the country and escape. That is what we are currently experiencing. Some sell their properties all in the bid to escape. More people have become desperate to leave the country,” he said.
He noted there had not been much increase in processing fees at their company, saying, “It is just N10,000 increase. And ours is one of the cheapest. Some students have dropped out of school because of the inability to pay tuition fees due to the naira issues. We have been hearing rumours that the Form A which is the CBN payment portal is beginning to come back alive. Some students have dropped out over time because of the access to funds. While others are grinding on and ensuring that they stay the course.”
A travel consultant, Otun Sidally, who works at SIMSID Nigeria Enterprise, said the situation was funny, “and seriously, we are in a sorry state.”
Speaking on the cost of schooling, Otun said, “Definitely, the cost of processing will go up because the means of transaction too (dollars) keeps going up. Take for instance if the cost of a flight ticket to the UK two years ago is $300 at N500 to $1 and today the same dollar is exchanged for N1,500 to the same $1, that will be three times the actual cost two years ago.”
A source at the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria who works closely with international airlines, said the fees for travellers varied from airline to airline.
She said as of June, 2023, the cost of a flight to the UK was around £850. She could not give an actual rate but she noted the price had been fluctuating and at the moment due to the exchange rates adding “it’s not looking any good.”
The President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, Susan Akporiaye, believed that there was still a huge demand for international travel from Nigerians despite the rising cost due to falling naira.
Akporiaye earlier told The PUNCH, “If you compare the school fees of $10,000 from early last year to what you will pay now, there is a 300 per cent increase, and yet the demand for education abroad has not reduced; it keeps increasing despite the high costs.”
The PUNCH however gatheted that aside from the cost of fees, airfares have skyrocketed. Flight costs to London from Lagos are now hovering above N1m.
One travel agent, Tolu Omolade, told The PUNCH, “Depending on the airline, it is from N1m and above. You could travel with less than N1m before.”
Another agent, who gave his name simply as Chimaobi, in an earlier interview with The PUNCH, noted that the reliance on the black market for currency exchange because of the scarcity of FX in the official market had further exacerbated the costs of the various aspects of international travel, from visa fees to hotel bookings and airfares.
He said, “It has been quite tumultuous lately, given the fact that people are opting for the black market.”