As dollar scarcity worsens in Nigeria, parents who have children schooling abroad have taken their frustrations to banks, with some of them weeping openly, as Saturday PUNCH observed.
Investigations by our correspondents revealed that the frustrations by some parents who cannot access forex to send to their children abroad have brought out their emotional sides, while affected students have been crying out for help in foreign lands.
When one of our correspondents visited some banks along Muritala Muhammed Way, Unity Road and Taiwo Road in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Wednesday and Thursday, some bank customers, who were there to buy dollars, expressed disappointments at the scarcity of the currency.
One of the customers, Alhaja Salamatu Ajibola, who practically broke down in tears, lamented that the education of her two children schooling in the United States had been threatened by the development.
She added that her children had been going without food due to her inability to send them money for their upkeep.
Ajibola said that it had been difficult for her to send her children dollars for their personal and educational needs. She said she had visited one of the banks several times, hoping to send dollars to her children, only to be told that the currency was insufficient to meet customers’ demands.
Another tearful parent, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH on the condition of anonymity, in a first generation bank in Bauchi State, said it had become impossible for him to meet the financial needs of his children schooling abroad.
She said she was seeking other ways of sending money abroad due to the difficulty she was facing in getting dollars to send to her children.
“Our children abroad are crying and we parents are also crying,” she said.
“They are confused and we are also confused because we can’t send money to them and they can’t receive. They are in misery, hunger and depression.
“They can’t even feed well because they can’t get money for their upkeep.”
She, therefore, called on the government to “create an escape route so that children will not continue to suffer.”
Also, Mr. Jimoh Abdulganiyu, whose son is studying medicine in Ukraine, said he could not get dollars, even at the black market, to send to him.
Abdulganiyu said his son was given a warning letter by the school authorities over delay in payment of accommodation fees and he risks being asked to vacate the dormitory soon.
He expressed fears of the possibility of buying fake dollars because of the pressure of getting dollars, which has been pushing parents to the parallel market.
He said, “Sometimes, I would get to the bank by 6.40am, before the official opening hour, to stand a good chance of getting dollars through the Western Union or Money Gram.
“And this does not mean that I would automatically get the dollars, I still have to lobby before I could get it. Even at that, there is a limit to the amount I can get.”
One of our correspondents, who visited two commercial banks in the Sabo, Yaba area of Lagos on Thursday, observed that there were no dollars for sale. Sabo is a black market hub for forex activities in Lagos.
There, a 65-year-old man, Mr. Obafemi Solomon, who also expressed frustration with the situation, struggled to fight back tears as he narrated his ordeal.
Solomon said he was indebted to some of his friends in the United States, where his daughter was schooling.
Solomon said his friends had had to bail him out of the financial problem because he felt it was unwise to exchange naira for dollars at the present exchange rate.
He said, “What I am doing right now is to beg my friends who are in the US to help me pay for my daughter’s tuition. It does not make any sense to change naira for dollars and send to her. There is even no dollar to buy.”
A pensioner, Mr. Olu Ajibade, who resides in Ekiti, also shared his plight, saying things had not been this tough in the past four years that his son had been in Middlesex University, London.
Calling for the liberalisation of the foreign exchange market, Ajibade said, “Now we rely on the black market and the forex rate is very high. If you don’t go to them then you are left to face the bank and they have so many rules you have to oblige to before you can get money from them.
“You will have to fill so many forms, get a letter from the school and go through so many rigorous processes. With that, it is not even guaranteed that you would get money from them. Honestly, it is not easy at all. Unfortunately, there are no other alternatives. The black market that could have been an alternative is not properly funded. The truth is that if you want to buy £3,000 in the black market, they tell you that they don’t have more than £800. For instance, we needed to pay school fees of about £10,000 but all we could do was pay half because of the scarcity of foreign currency.”
A Nigerian student studying in a US university, Adebayo Kabiru, told Saturday PUNCH that he would have gone bankrupt if not for the menial jobs he was doing.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, Kabiru said, “My parents have not been able to send me money since January. At a point, I got frustrated, but I had to do something. So now, I do some menial jobs to pay for my upkeep.”
Also, a student studying in Russia, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, said she was about to be deported because her visa had expired and her parents could not send her money to renew it.
She said, “My father has been trying to send me money for the past two weeks for me to settle my visa problem and other things, but has been unable to do so. I am about to be deported and when that happens, I will lose the opportunity of rounding off my last session here in Russia.”
Simon Uwem, a student studying for his Master’s degree at a university in Indiana, US, revealed that Nigerian students abroad have been having rough times.
He said, “I have been able to survive because I have a research position in school and I get paid very well. I was hired by the school for the job. The truth is that if you are intelligent, you will survive.
“But it has been so tough for some students here. Asking your parents for $1,000 means they need to look for N400,000. Some students don’t even get to hear from their parents any longer. They have resorted to doing menial jobs or marrying Akata (American citizens) here.
“A professor recently spoke to me about getting more foreign students from Africa and I told him that finance had become a challenge even if such students get scholarships. A textbook here costs up to $200. It has been quite tough.”