• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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Japa: Nigerians sell properties to afford fares to US, Europe

Economic struggles and hope: ‘Sapa’ from ‘Japa’ Phenomenon

For David Ademola, selling his poultry farm was never part of the plans in his quest to relocate his family to the United Kingdom for greener pastures. He has built the business for seven years.

Three years ago, Ademola started saving up to japa — a colloquial word for migration. He wants to relocate to Manchester after his friend hinted him of opportunities in the UK State. Ademola drew out a budget of N1.5million as ticket fare for himself, his wife and his three kids at a cost of N300 thousand per ticket.

He also channelled efforts towards saving for other expenditures such as visa, accommodation, feeding and miscellaneous expenses.

Ademola had made plans to put his younger brother in charge of the poultry business in Nigeria and had put in efforts to ensure the business kept running smoothly in his absence, with intention to still earn daily income from the business.

However, this plan has been shattered as Ademola’s projected N1.5 million ticket fare could not cover the cost. The father of three had to cough out N7.5million as against N1.5million projected two years ago as each ticket has increased from N300,000 to N1.5million in a space of two years.

In a bid to ensure he meets up with the resumption date at his new place of work in Manchester, Ademola was left with no option but to sell his poultry, which for him was his ‘Plan B’ in case things didn’t work out for him in Manchester.

“I feel so sad that I have to sell my poultry for a sum of N5 million just to afford airfare for myself and my family. It is so disheartening. My younger brother has been out of job for four years now. The poultry was his only hope for survival whenever I relocate. Currently, there is no hope of him managing the poultry any more,” Ademola told BusinessDay.

Ademola’s story may be one among several others who have had to sell out the majority of their properties just to afford air fares to the United States and UK.

Kelechi Ifediorah, another Nigerian who intends to travel with his family to Canada in September told BusinessDay that he recently sold his three Toyota Sienna vehicles he uses to convey passengers on the Nigeria –Ghana route to afford airfares to Canada.

“I honestly never intended to sell my vehicles to travel out but with the increase in fares, I am left with no option. I have secured visas for myself and my family to travel to Canada since February this year and have been waiting for fares to reduce but I observe that the more I wait, the more fares increase. So I had to sell three of my vehicles at a sum of N3 million each just to afford the fares,” Ifediorah said.

According to him, fares to the United States which cost about N500 thousand last two years have increased to almost N2 million.

He said he has to sell the vehicles to afford the additional N9 million for air fares for his four children, his wife and himself.

“Imagine working with a budget of N3 million for six of us at the rate of N500 thousand per ticket, only to find out recently that the same ticket has increased to almost N2 million. This means I will have to incur an additional cost of N9 million. This is outrageous and really sad,” Ifediorah added.

Cost of air fares from Nigeria to various destinations have seen a sharp rise since exchange rate for ticket pricing hit over N760/$.

The development came a few weeks after the Central Bank of Nigeria floated the naira and directed commercial banks to sell foreign exchange at market-determined rates.

The CBN said all forex windows should be collapsed into the Investors & Exporters Window.

Days after the decision, the exchange rate has since fluctuated on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) platform from 663.04/$ to now N770/$. Since then air fares have been dependent on rates in the I and E window which have risen to as high as N803/$.

Some Nigerian travellers have quickly had to respond to the increase in fares by suspending their travel plans to Europe and the United States.

Also, the airlines’ trapped funds has continued to worsen the situation as airlines since block the low inventories (low fares) in Nigeria while these low fares are available in other African ticket selling platforms in a bid to reduce the amount of trapped funds in the country.

Last month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) disclosed that Nigeria owes $812.2 million out of $2.27 billion trapped funds, making it the country with the highest trapped funds globally.

The top five countries that account for 68.0 percent of blocked funds include Nigeria ($812.2 million), Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million), Pakistan ($188.2 million) and Lebanon ($141.2 million).

While backlogs of funds from their previous ticket sales remain trapped, BusinessDay’s investigations show that some airlines have been able to repatriate funds from recently sold tickets, an indication that the unification of exchange rates is yielding some positive results.

“Never has tickets been sold so expensive in Nigeria before. How can I buy a Lagos to United States ticket for over N2 million? This is more than just a rise. It is exorbitant and I’m sure the average traveller can’t afford this at this time when we have economic downturn,” Philip Onuh told BusinessDay.

Onuh said he had plans to visit his family next month in New York but he has had to suspend his travel plans as a result of the rise in tickets.

“I could not afford to pay tickets for my family to come over to Nigeria for summer because airlines had blocked all their low ticket prices on their websites, making the cost of fares high. So I planned to go and see them instead to reduce the expenditure on travel. However, to my greatest surprise, when I was ready to book my ticket, I found out that the ticket has again risen to N2.4million in the United States. So I just have to suspend plans to travel for now,” he explained.

For travellers who cannot afford to cancel or suspend their travel plans, have to source for money to travel out.

An intending traveller, who would not want his name mentioned, told BusinessDay that he has put up the only house his father gave him as an inheritance for sale just to afford fares for his family to the United States.

He said he had serious concerns about taking this decision but he and his family had to reach this decision because relocating is the best option for them at the moment.