8 Nigerians Share Their Black Tax Stories

January 14, 2021

It’s safe to say that the culture of black tax has caught on. More than ever, young Nigerians are expected to support their families from whatever they earn. It’s a tricky situation to navigate, so we asked 8 Nigerians who’re paying a form of black tax to talk about their experiences. 

Black tax

Kathy, 25

My dad died in 2008, leaving behind a stay-at-home mum and five children. I’m the eldest child. My black tax situation started from my time at the university. I always sent something home from the allowance I got from the relatives I was living with. When I finished university and got a job, the black tax skyrocketed. I earn about ₦300k per month, and almost 90% of it goes to my family. What my mother makes from her shop couldn’t possibly sustain the family. See, I love my family but God, I resent them sometimes. I can’t save, invest, travel or buy things for myself because there’s always rent or school fees to pay. 

Recently, I had to clear out my savings to help my mum get goods and pay for her shop rent. Don’t get me started on the loans I’m still paying off. My last sibling is still in SS1, so I’m not getting out of this any time soon. Things got so bad one time I contemplated suicide, and the ONLY thing that stopped me was “who will take care of my family?” 

It’s fine, though. You know how they say John the Baptist was born to pave the way for Jesus? Yeah, I was born to take care of people. That is truly my mission in life. I even make jokes out of it now — I tell my close friends I’m short because I’m carrying my family on my head. 

The idea of marriage and children doesn’t appeal to me anymore. It feels like another form of black tax. When my siblings have grown up and no longer need my help, I want to enjoy my life and do things I couldn’t do as a young adult. I will have deserved it.

Jinmi, 28

The universe has always set me up. First, I wasn’t born into a wealthy family. And when things began to look up, my dad passed away when I was 17. Then it was just me, my mum, and three siblings. My siblings had to stay out of school for some time to ensure I finished university. After that, it was all about me getting a great job and helping the family. 

I got my first job in 2017. Since that time, I’ve got another job, and my salary has been reviewed several times. I currently earn above a quarter million naira, which is 3x what I started with. I’m earning more than most people my age, but my finances are in shambles. Most of my income goes into helping out the family. 

There was a time I got paid, and I started making money transfers to each member of my family on the spot. When I was done, 60% of my salary was gone. Another time, I wanted to write a professional exam to improve my prospects of getting a better paying job. I could afford the exam, but my brother needed money for his tuition, and I had to give up the exam. Not that I regret it — they made the same sacrifices for me when I was in university. I would never abandon them, and nothing beats the joy of being able to help out. But the thing is, I’ve now realised that I might not get far in life if things don’t improve. 

Dami, 23

I didn’t sign up for this. I was pushed out of the womb and became obligated as the first daughter to take care of everybody. When I started working at my first job, I was earning six-figures, and although my parents weren’t aware of the actual amount, they expected me to take up some responsibilities. My mother would make snide remarks when I didn’t pay or offer to pay for some household items. It was confusing at first. I had plans for myself, like getting my own place, purchasing gadgets for work, and at least flexing baby girl lifestyle. But I was getting things like “Your sister is going back to school, shey you won’t give her something? Or buy provisions” and I would be like “Am I the mother?”.

At first, they were thankful that I was helping out. Now it seems like one of the things they expect, and when it happens, they’re like “You’re being responsible. Oh cool. May God keep providing for you.” My mother makes decisions without informing me and expects me to pay for it. In December, she paid for something worth ₦100k+, and she casually told me what she did and how she’s sorry that I have to reimburse her, even though she knew I was still setting up my apartment. 

I don’t think I’ll ever have a definite say on my finances as anything can come up from my family’s end. It doesn’t matter how important a MacBook is, my family will always come first. The smiles on their faces are satisfactory sometimes.

Deji, 30

I had just returned from NYSC in 2014 when my mum hit me with this: “Oh, you know you’re the first child. You can’t abandon the family. We’re barely surviving and need you.” 

My family was the average Nigerian middle-class family in the early 90s, but things got hard in the 2010s, but I didn’t realise that the situation was so bad. I went into panic mode and aggressively searched for a job. And when I got one, I started helping out with a few things around the house. Now, I’ve taken over full responsibilities from my parents for more than five years. In that time, I’ve changed jobs and gotten promotions. But with every raise I got, my family needs also evolved. 

One night, I got a call that my brother was terribly sick and had been placed on admission. I was a mess. The money I had on me was what I’d been saving to get the family a new spot. I spent more than ₦120k that night alone. Over the next few days, I kept paying for hospital stuff. My mum was also recovering from a stroke at the time, and my dad was conveniently out of town. It was a dark period. I contemplated disappearing on them so many times. I don’t know how I would have survived if my ex wasn’t there to support me.

I’m largely overwhelmed these days. Music and my occasional therapy help, but they don’t make the problems go away. 

Dasola, 21

I’ve always been independent. I liked the idea of having my own money. When my family fell on tough times, I knew it was time to start taking care of myself. At first, it was just all about myself, but I realised that I needed to include my family too. So here we are.

But sometimes, they act like I’m not doing enough even though I’m the only one doing something. One time, I split my salary into two and gave my mum one half, and she said that it was too small. By the way, I’m in my second year of uni, and I’m paying my way through it myself.

I love them to bits, but I wish I could spend some money on myself without feeling guilty, or just be like girls my age who don’t have these responsibilities. I do crying therapy at least once every week. But when I see how happy they get when I do something for them, the situation doesn’t seem so bad.

Emeka

I was just out of secondary school when my parents lost their jobs. This halted my plans to study abroad. I decided to go to a federal university and my parents couldn’t cover my tuition. So I took it up to see myself through uni. I started making some money in university, but most of it went into paying black tax. There was a limitless amount of needs. After I graduated from uni, I realised that if I didn’t do anything, my siblings won’t go to school. 

I’ve done everything to make sure they get an education — data analysis, project writing, advertising, and radio. I don’t want to be anybody’s wicked uncle. I will do my best to see them through university, and that’s it.

Also, they seem to think that I’m way better off than I am, so I’ve realised the need for boundaries. I refuse some of the things they ask from me. I don’t do ego trips. When I was at university, I lost my grandmother. Traditionally, my father was supposed to bury her with a cow or two. The reality at the time was that we couldn’t afford one, but my father tried to blackmail into buying one. I said no, and stood my ground. It caused some drama but everyone was fine eventually. I had to set boundaries or I’d just kill myself trying to meet up with their expectations. 

Zia, 19

My family’s financial situation is shit, and I’m the first child. I’m in my third year at uni, and when I started freelancing in 100 level, everyone was happy because the money I was supposed to get from them could now be diverted elsewhere. Then it got worse. If I asked my parents for anything, their reply would be “aren’t you a working-class woman?” I’m still a teen. There is literally ‘teen’ in my age. 

During the lockdown, I had to dip into my emergency funds more times than I can count. They come to me for anything we need at home, and nobody ever believes me when I say I don’t have money. Recently, my mother came into my room and asked: “they never pay you?” I told her that they hadn’t paid, although that was a lie. Then she went “when they pay you, you’re giving me ₦10k.” She didn’t even know how much the pay was, she just assumed that I could afford to cough up the money.

I’m making my peace with it. For the foreseeable future, I’m not getting out of it. I’m also setting limits. I love my family, but they don’t have limits.

Funmi, 27

I’m not even the first child. I’m the fifth out of eight kids, but I’m like the only child who currently has something going for her. Here’s the thing: I’m 27, a single mum, and deep in debt of black tax. I never run out of things to do for my parents or my siblings.  

When I made my first ₦1M, I sent ₦500k to my dad to buy a vehicle for his transport business. My mum got an additional ₦200k loan to complete the payment. Guess what happened: the car he bought was so bad that it needed more than ₦1M to set it up. Guess who had to repay the loan my mum got? Me. 

I believe I’m just here to pay bills and my mental health has taken a huge hit. To be honest, my daughter and the occasional sleeping pills are the only things getting me through this. 

You should read this too: 8 Annoying Things Every Nigerian Adult Struggling With Black Tax Can Relate To


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