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.

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