• Friday, September 29, 2023
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Japa turns luxury on naira freefall

Ever growing japa

Temisan Adeola has always dreamed of studying medicine at Liverpool John Moores University, United Kingdom.

She has worked hard to get good grades, hoping to be among the next batch of Nigerians on the “japa” wave, the Yoruba word for run or flee that has become the shorthand for the exodus out of Nigeria for greener pastures overseas.

“I had high hopes of japa-ing and leaving the country because of the opportunities that are available to me abroad but the falling value of the naira shows my dream is slipping away,” Adeola told BusinessDay.

Jumoke and Femi Ogundele had always dreamed of sending their son, Akin, to study medicine in the United Kingdom. But with the naira losing value, they can no longer afford it.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Femi Ogundele. “We’ve worked hard all our lives to give our children the best possible education. But now, it looks like Akin will have to go to school here in Nigeria.”

The Ogundeles are not alone in their predicament. Many Nigerian families are facing the same challenge.

For many of them, Proof of Funds (PoF) is the most problematic part of their application process now.

Read also: Shun ‘japa’ syndrome, LUTH CMD advises young doctors

“PoF has almost doubled. This is likely to affect the number of people applying for UK study Visas now because if you were planning N15 million initially and now you need about N8 million extra if you don’t have it, you will just have to wait until you get it,” Dolapo Oyebode, a Lagos based educational consultant told BusinessDay.

The UK is one of the destinations of choice for many Nigerians as 128,770 Nigerian students enrolled in universities in the United Kingdom between 2015 and 2022 according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency of the UK.

According to the CBN, study-related foreign exchange outflow to the UK rose to $2.5bn in 2022. Nigerian students and their dependants in the United Kingdom contribute about £1.9bn annually to the UK economy, according to an analysis by SBM Intelligence.

Many of these students may now struggle to pay the balance of their tuition due to the sharp decline in the value of the naira.

“This FX issue is affecting those of us here and even intending students. My sibling has had to forfeit her admission because of this naira freefall,” Mercy Uzordike, a Nigerian student in Hull City said.

“Many students have fallen victim to online scammers just because they want to buy pounds, a friend of mine, for example, was a victim of third-party purchase as the banks at home are not dependable,” she added.

Another Nigerian student studying in Leeds explained that the major challenge was that many kept their tuition fees in their naira account at the former rate.

The student said, “Now they have to start looking for more money because the rate has gone up. If the official rate is not different from street rate, so what’s the essence of waiting for several weeks for your bank when you can just get it from a third-party platform. It has only put more pressure on the students to look for more money.”

The student added, “If you put N5m in your account in March when the rate was around N560/£, that means it will pay around £9k tuition fee, but by July, the N5m will only be able to pay around £5k since the rate is now around 1k/£, so that’s where the real problem is. You need to start looking for an additional £4k. That’s the challenges many students are facing.”

Read also: Only over 9,000 doctors left in Nigeria on surging ‘japa’ pressure – NARD

BusinessDay’s findings showed the application fee for Harvard University of $75 means a 27.5 percent increase for most Nigerians to N71,250 using the current exchange rate (N950), compared to N55,875 (previous exchange rate of N745) paid three months ago.

Harvard’s tuition fee for the 2023-2024 academic year is $54,269 amounting to N51.56 million in the current rate, a 27.6 percent increase from N40.4 million at the previous parallel rate of N745/$.

The University of Saskatchewan also currently has an application fee of $85, amounting to N80,750, which is a 27.5 percent increase from N63,335 at the previous parallel rate.

Minnesota State University’s application fee of $40 is N38,000, which is a 27.5 percent increase from N29,800 at the previous parallel rate.

Further findings showed that an economy class ticket from Lagos to London and Lagos to France and most European countries which cost around N1.5 million a month ago, now cost an average of N1.9million to N2.2million depending airline.

For instance, a Lagos to France economy class ticket on British Airways cost about $2,500, using the N770 exchange rate to a dollar, this cost about N1.92 million.

Lagos to London economy class ticket on British Airways cost about $2,800 which amounts to about N2.15 million.

Lagos to London economy class ticket on Qatar Airways cost around $2,900, which amounts to about N2.23million