Naira Crash: UK Varsity Orders Defaulting Nigerian Students to Leave

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

Nigerian students at a UK university have said they are devastated after some were thrown off their course and ordered to leave the country when they got behind on their fees because of a currency crash.

Teesside University withdrew students who missed their fee instalments and informed the Home Office, after some students’ savings were wiped out when the value of Nigeria’s naira crashed, The Guardian UK reported. President Bola Tinubu, when he assumed office in May last year, started implementing a policy to float Nigeria’s local currency, the Naira, leading to a massive devaluation of the legal tender.

Coupled with the scrapping of fuel subsidy, the collapsing of multiple foreign exchange windows into the single Importer and Exporter, or I&E window, drastically depreciated the naira’s value by 98 per cent, a report by PwC said in February.

This has made it difficult for the students of Nigerian origin to pay their fees, because their accounts had been wiped out by the devaluation, thereby putting them at loggerheads with the school authorities.

But the students, some who say they have been contacted by debt collection agencies, protested outside the campus on Tuesday, accusing the university of being “heartless”.

The university said it had “no choice” as failure to pay was a breach of visa sponsorship rules. It said it had made every effort to help the affected students, including with bespoke payment plans, The Guardian report added.

The BBC said a group of 60 students asked the university for help after they defaulted on their fees when their savings were wiped out.

Adenike Ibrahim, one of the affected students, told the BBC that she was close to handing in her dissertation when she was kicked off her course because she was unable to make a payment.

Despite having now paid her fees in full, she will have to leave the UK with her young son and cannot re-enrol, the report stressed.

“I did default (on payments), but I’d already paid 90 per cent of my tuition fees and I went to all of my classes,” she told the broadcaster. “I called them and asked to reach an agreement, but they do not care what happens to their students,” she stressed.

Nigeria is facing a severe economic crisis after the value of its currency dropped sharply amid reforms introduced by the president, who came into office a year ago, aimed at balancing its economy.

 It is experiencing over 30 per cent inflation, with the price of some key goods, such as rice, more than doubling in less than a year.

Many Nigerians are sharing pictures and videos online showing them reducing portion sizes and eating food that would normally be fed to livestock, in order to get by, the report stated.

A university spokesperson said: “Teesside University is proud to be a global institution with a diverse student population but is also very aware of its obligations regarding visa issuance and compliance.

“These strict external regulations ensure that the university fully supports a robust immigration system and is outside of the university’s control.”

The Home Office said a decision to offer or withdraw visa sponsorship rested with the sponsoring institution. It said when a visa was shortened or cancelled, individuals should “take steps to regularise their stay or make arrangements to leave the UK”.

In a letter, the Home Office told the students they did not have a right to appeal, the Guardian UK report added.

Related Articles