Gift Joseph Okpakorese
Irrespective of the terrible depletion of foreign exchange (forex), education outside the country has continued to sift the nation’s reserve, as explained by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele who disclosed that not less than $80 million was being allotted on weekly basis for private travel allowances or expenditure of school fees outside the shores of the country. These numbers when collated come to $960 million yearly. This amount is sent regularly to banks within the country to enable Nigerians meet their forex responsibilities.
This observation was made after a recent report by Matthew Page, a U.S. intelligence community expert on Nigeria, revealed how politically exposed persons (PEPs) in West Africa have wasted unjustified wealth in the UK education sector.
Moreover, a recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), a global foreign-policy think tank, reveals that Nigerians in the UK provide £30 million annually to the economy of the UK through the education sector. According to them, this amount, which does not include the expense of occupancy in the foreign country and additional school-related expenditures, is about 16 percent of the Federal Government’s 2021 education appropriation. The report also showed that, while Nigerians spend £30 million (about N20 billion) yearly in purchasing tuition in the UK, its country’s education system wrestles with the crisis of poor income, crude and obsolete technical teaching facilities, and lack of good financial support.
Nigerians are being persuaded not to panic over dollar scarcity as parents bemoan the hesitation by banks to pay tuition for foreign schools. The apex bank chief has stated that; “Part of the measures that we have adopted is that weekly, the CBN disburses not less than $80 million to the banks either for personal travel allowances or payment of school fees.
However, in a twist of events, the CEIP journal examined how studies abroad have evolved as a likely source of money laundering by renowned politically exposed persons (PEPs) and political leaders who had earlier been indicted of fraud.
“It is not easy to estimate the overall value of this flow, yet it likely exceeds £30 million annually. Most of these funds emanate from Nigeria and, to a lesser extent, Ghana. Compared with these two countries, only a handful of students from elsewhere in West Africa seek education in British schools.
“All of Nigeria’s presidents and vice presidents, for example, during that period had done so. Likewise, roughly 40 percent of Nigeria’s current and former state governors have educated their children in the United Kingdom.”
He raised questions on how Nigerians, particularly government officials who can afford the high tuition fees for their children overseas become “inexplicably wealthy”, whereas the public service rules prohibit them from running private businesses.
As a result, of the recent discovery, the study has beckoned on officials of the UK to perform more examination on the circumstances under which kids of politicians are recruited into British schools, contending that this would assist in the realization of the UK’s global anti-corruption objectives and “close a troublesome anti-money laundering loophole.”
Furthermore, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju, BUT Pro-Chancellor, Chrisland University, has remarked that tuition tourism is just one of several forms of tourism for which Nigerians are famous. While medical tourism takes Nigerians to foreign hospitals in India, Europe, North America, and elsewhere for all manner of serious and fanciful medical problems. The renowned professor bemoaned the reality that some parents/guardians send their wards to any foreign country, irrespective of the academic criteria and financial implications of the country embodied. He further added that;
“The underlying reason is that many Nigerian-trained professionals look down on Nigerian institutions, partly because of the crippling strikes, the exodus of some of the best brains from these institutions, and their lack of competitiveness in terms of the global ranking.
“Educational tourism results in capital flight at a time that we cannot afford it and we are not getting a reciprocal inflow of capital. To be fair, sponsors of these children are exercising their right to spend their money but it is harmful when considered in economic terms. Nigeria is seriously hemorrhaging, and that flow is not sustainable. It makes us economic and cultural appendages of the foreign recipients of our capital exports,” Olukoju added.
The worrying fact about this whole development according to the former vice-chancellor is the negative capital impacts on the nation’s economy and how it indirectly deprives educational institutions within the federation opportunities of financial support that could have come from a private endowment such as scholarships, types of equipment and special grants to institutions and scholars.
Another bitter lesson this situation has exposed to everyone is the reality of the government’s negligence of education as well as citizen’s lack of access to higher and quality education which, in the opinion of Prof Ayodeji, is being cloaked by the alternative to foreign institutions, which act as a safety valve.
He said: “Either way, the neglect of our tertiary institutions is a direct consequence of this educational tourism. Stakeholders can afford to ignore the plight of Nigerian institutions because there are offshore alternatives to them. Nigerian tertiary institutions continue to stagnate, if not decline further, under the weight of poor funding; low staff morale (arising from overwork and scandalously low wages); mismatch between student enrolment and staff and equipment carrying capacity; inadequate teaching (physical and virtual/online), laboratory and library facilities; societal apathy, bordering on resentment towards the universities; and incessant crises, occasioned by avoidable industrial action and governance issues.
“If our currency exchange regime is stable and reasonable; if our fees are competitive with those charged by foreign institutions with similar facilities; if we maintain good staff and student exchanges; if the universities build and sustain a reputation for high-quality research and teaching, transparency, meritocracy, and good governance; if Diaspora returnees and guest researchers are guaranteed short and long-term positions in our universities; and if our power supply and ICT infrastructure can guarantee the level of reliable supply and services available on counterpart campuses in advanced countries, then we can make our institutions so attractive that politically exposed persons and the rich will patronize home institutions the way they now do foreign ones,” Olukoju added.
Contributing to the discussion, Ago Iwoye, an Economist, and Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, Professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OAU), accused successive administrators of intentionally crumbling the nation’s educational system through underfunding and Tella marveled at why foreign governments are going after graduates from the medical profession if the country’s universities are not good enough.
“Note also that Nigerians with first degree here find it easy to cope with postgraduate studies abroad. Each university knows how much they earn from requests for transcripts annually. This implies that our graduates are not as bad as we think,” he stated.
Also, a professor of economics at Babcock University, Segun Ajibola, said the population of Nigerians seeking admission abroad is embarrassingly high. He, however, noted that some Nigerians genuinely do this from the proceeds of their labor to ensure their children are well prepared for the highly competitive global labor market but insisted on the fact that it is now taking its toll on, the country’s foreign earnings.
The only solution to this problem in his opinion is for the country to overturn the trend with a more practical, current, and globally competitive educational curriculum, and proceed to fund it with improved facilities, especially for public schools, with more qualified, competent, and motivated staff members.