9 Nigerians Talk About Being Overworked And Underpaid

January 21, 2021

Job satisfaction should be a big deal. However, a lot of Nigerians are in jobs they don’t like very much. More often than not, this is a consequence of how much work they’re expected to do for little pay. This is something a lot of people relate to, so we asked 9 young Nigerians to talk about their experiences.

Mide, 25

I was offered a business development role at a company in 2019. They sold me this crazy idea that I’d be paid a commission on every new deal I got for them, but I’d start with a basic salary of ₦100k. This was supposed to be increased at the end of the first month. On my first day, my boss told me to draft a contract because they knew I studied law. I was like: “Wetin dey occur?” Anyway, I did it. From that day, they added legal work to my day-to-day tasks. 

It took three weeks before I got my offer letter. When they eventually sent it to me, my salary had changed to ₦80k. I brought it up and they said the company had fallen into hard times. They, however, promised to give me a raise within three months. At the end of the month, I was paid ₦60k, instead of the ₦80k that was in my offer letter. Yet I was made to take on roles I wasn’t hired for — legal compliance, operations, and business development. And my workdays included weekends. Throughout the time I spent with the company, the raise they talked about never came. When my supervisor started taking credits for the deals I brought in, I realised that they were only using me. It only took me four months but I did the right thing for myself. I quit. 

Alice, 24

I applied to a front desk representative job in July 2019, and they offered me ₦30k. I should have guessed what I was in for when he asked me if I could interview people and how good I was with social media. Anyway, I took the job and started working immediately. 

I found myself handling all the social media accounts for the company. I was also my boss’s personal assistant and office assistant — there was always an errand to run. The working hours were 8 am – 5 pm, but I had to be at work by 7 am. My boss was very toxic and liked to remind me that he was doing me a favour. Before I accepted the job, we agreed that my salary would be increased to ₦50k after my 3-month probation period. Six months later, this hadn’t happened. When I reminded him about the deal and requested a pay raise, he fired me. 

Oyinkan, 25

I work as a Quality Control Analyst for a manufacturing company. It’s supposed to be a lucrative gig, but my gross salary is ₦45k. By the time pension and tax are deducted, I’m left with ₦39k. I work from Monday to Saturday, and there’s hardly any break. After my first year, I asked for leave but the HR guy called me aside and told me that the management wouldn’t approve it. He advised me to take the leave bonus instead or risk losing both.

I don’t mind the work but I need a break. If the pay was good, the long hours would probably be worth it. There was a time I fell ill and had to leave work to go to the hospital. The doctor said I had chronic fatigue and advised me to take a day off. She even wrote me a note to that effect. When I showed them the note at work, the response was “You don’t look sick. What work are you even doing that you have fatigue?” Oh, they deducted 2-days worth of work from my salary even though I showed up on both days. 

It’s difficult to find a new job because there’s no time to attend interviews or take tests. I’m perpetually tired and fantasize about my workplace blowing up every single night. The guy that I supposedly work with earns over ₦1 million every month because he’s an expatriate. But I do all the work. He only remembers his lab coat when NAFDAC is coming.

Tobi, 27

A law firm hired me to take charge of their social media. The pay was actually low — ₦70k gross, ₦63k net— but it was Ibadan, and I thought I could do with it. After I started, they told me that I had to handle the socials for their two sister companies. It didn’t end here: they bought a camera, and I became the official photographer too. They kept giving me work that was unrelated to the company and expected me to do them without asking questions. There’s something else I found unacceptable: we couldn’t go home if the boss was still in the office, even if we had nothing to do. 

I knew it was time to leave when they restructured the office and moved me to the reception. I didn’t sign up for that, so I left. They didn’t even hire a new person to fill my post. They just gave the responsibilities to one of the guys that were working there already.

Tokunbo, 23

Last year, I was in a tough spot, and I reached out to a friend. The company where her fiance worked was looking from a designer, and she asked me to apply for the job. I did, and I got it. The pay was ₦30k, but I took it because it came with a laptop and I could work from school.

I thought I wouldn’t do a lot since I wasn’t paid a lot. I was wrong. When schools closed because of the pandemic, they asked me to come to Lagos and put me in the company’s apartment. My cost of living skyrocketed, the workload got higher, but my salary remained the same. While I was there, I singlehandedly designed three live apps, four websites, 10 credit cards, redesigned the company’s logo, designed banners, books and directed an ad campaign and much more on a ₦30k salary. I left after nine months. But here’s the thing, my contract states that I can’t add the work I did for them to my portfolio. And for the one or two I can use, I have to ask for their permission first. 

Tolulope, 23

When I started working at this company, I was the HR Generalist and was put on a ₦150k salary. But the more I spent there, the more I got roles that weren’t part of my job description. I became the receptionist, customer relations officer, and worked in business development. 

To be honest, I blame myself. I always had something to say in meetings when they asked for ideas. Then my boss would go “Customer service, work with Tolu on this project.” I didn’t learn my lesson until I was dragged into every department. When the work became too much, and I got frustrated, I took it up with the Deputy Managing Director. The only thing baba said was “You’re really good, let them steal your brain.”

At the next meeting, he made me the team lead for admin/HR. I was so happy. Then I asked for a follow-up meeting to discuss a raise, but they were like “Oh, you’re still relatively new, so we can’t give you a raise at the moment.” The raise never came until they made most of the staff redundant when the pandemic first hit. And they still owe me three months salary.

Dotun, 27

I joined a social/market research consulting firm as an intern in October 2017 and was offered ₦50k. After six months, my pay was increased to ₦75k. In July 2018, I started working as a project lead for Ghana and Nigeria, training field teams. I also did some work for international research agencies, which brought close to $100k for the company. But no, they didn’t think to increase my salary.

Out of frustration, I asked for a raise in December 2018, but they didn’t get to it until 2019. And that was only because I dropped hints of resigning. The raise was only ₦30k, by the way. My salary has been ₦105k since that time. They promised that things would get better in 2020, but the coronavirus has provided a perfect decoy for the company to not increase salaries. At this point, I shouldn’t be earning anything less than ₦250k, but here we are. Sometimes, I feel like I played myself. I refused offers in the banking industry and shipping companies because of the passion I have for research.

Chidera, 24

I work as an admin officer/secretary at a construction company in Abuja. I’ve been here for over a year, and my salary has been ₦55k. When I joined the company, the deal was that I’d be confirmed in six months and receive a raise. But whenever bring it up now, it’s always something about how the company doesn’t have enough money. This doesn’t make sense because I see all the receipts. I see the big deals the company gets and the exorbitant expenses my boss incurs. They can definitely pay me more. They just don’t want to. 

Jude 26

I got a job as a legal practitioner at a Law Firm in Enugu State in 2016. They offered me a ₦20k basic salary, accommodation, and appearance fees every time I went to court. I worked from 8 am to 6 pm on Mondays to Fridays, and 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays. At the end of each day, the firm would gather all the lawyers for a briefing that usually ran into the night.

It was tedious. I went to court almost every day. And I was also required to turn in at least 100 pages of solid legal drafting. It was a lot of late nights and early mornings. Luckily, I spent only 62 days at the job. I got a better offer from a different law firm. There wasn’t a lot to think about — I packed my stuff, said my goodbyes and didn’t back.

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

March 30, 2020

What’s your biggest fear? Snakes? Death? His biggest fear is not a person or people, it’s a system, a culture. What’s your oldest memory of money? My mummy took me and my brother to this park, which was close to where we lived. After riding one of their motors, I wanted to go again and […]

June 24, 2021

As told to Toheeb When I was five months old, my mum fell ill. She complained of body pains but the drugs she used didn’t work. Each day got tougher as the pain got worse. My family had never seen anything like it, so they thought it was a spiritual attack.  When the pain became […]


Now on Zikoko

January 18, 2022

Apart from not being able to find shoes their size, tall Nigerian women often deal with comments like “you are too tall for that dress” or questions like “will you marry a short man?” In this article, Chigozie talks about how to be a tall girl in Nigeria. 
Read here:

Recommended Quizzes

how tall are you
March 11, 2020

Did your parents give you enough beans when you were growing up? If they did, then you’re probably around 6’0″ and above. Either way, we created a quiz that can guess your current height (pretty accurately, if we do say so ourselves). Take to see if we nailed it:

October 10, 2019

2019 is certainly Burna Boy’s year, but, if we are being honest, so was 2018. Since his transcendent mixtape, Outside, the afro-fusion star has refused to get his foot of our necks — dropping a string of fantastic singles and then capping it all off with his career-best album, African Giant.  So, in a bid […]

June 14, 2020

Have you ever been with someone so horrible that you swore to never date again? Yes? Well, do you know that one or more of your exes probably feels the same way about you? You never thought about that, huh? Thankfully, this quiz is here to let you know just how much of a hassle […]

November 11, 2019

Everyone has something to say about what kind of person they are. But how well do we truthfully evaluate these things? Not that much, I can assure you. The average person is always lying to themselves to make sure they look good. But you know what and who doesn’t lie? Zikoko quizzes that’s what. Take […]

November 14, 2019

The fourth season of Big Brother Naija came to an end over a month ago, but the conversation surrounding the housemates is far from over. So, in a bid to keep the fire burning, we decided to create a quiz that tells you which famous member of the ‘Pepper Dem’ gang is your soulmate. Take […]

More from Money

January 3, 2022

To kick off 2021, we compiled a list of #NairaLife stories you should consider reading twice. From the politician who lives on donations to the investment analyst who quadrupled her income in two years, these are 10 must-read stories from the series.


Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.