I am going to talk about surviving as a Nigerian employee but first, let’s check the statistics. According to an article published by Nairametrics, Nigeria’s unemployment rate as of the second quarter of 2020 is 27.1%, indicating that about 21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians remain unemployed. The article also states that of the 35.5 million Nigerians fully employed, 28.8 million of them never attended school (6.29 million) or did not have a tertiary education. 

I honestly don’t know why I have decided to quote these statistics. Maybe to remind you of how lucky you are to have a job or to remind you of how messed up the nation is. I know that you have plans, plans to leave, and never return. Maybe you plan to replace the last ‘e’ in employee with an ‘r.’ Entrepreneurship is fantastic, but remember to always check your blood pressure. If at the time of reading this guide, you happen to be a Nigerian employee like me, I wrote this for you.

This guide highlights specific survival skills for the difficulties most Nigerian employees face on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis. Some of them you’ll find relatable, and the others that seem far-fetched for your present reality can be considered gospel to live by when tribulation arises. So let’s see what surviving as a Nigerian employee entails.



The Role of your HR while Surviving as a Nigerian Employee

HR: “Everyone is excited to have you on the team. We pay salaries at the end of every month—anytime between 24th and 31st. But here’s the thing, most times, the accounting department takes a little while to process everyone’s salary. So, there are usually months when salaries are not paid until the first week of the new month. But rest assured, you’ll get paid before the 16th of every new month.”


You need to calm down; it’s not the 16th of the new month yet. Miracles can still happen. Do you remember that HR explicitly told you that the guys at the accounting department are not reliable. They haven’t been for over five years. Why do you need to fix a system that’s not broken anyway? At least, the previous month’s salary came on the 29th, why didn’t you save enough? Why are you worried about the one that hasn’t paid? What if you get fired? Aren’t you supposed to have cash saved for up to 3 months?

Anyway, this isn’t about your saving culture. Let’s talk about your unpaid salary. I know that no one at the office is talking about it, which makes it annoying. 

So, here are a few ways to remind your colleagues and the HR guys about unpaid salary. 

In the Common room/lounge

You need to be very intentional about this. Make sure everyone isn’t too busy on their phones or plugged in when you speak. Identify the loudest colleague: the one that throws bants, trolls everyone, and cannot help but yell whenever they talk. You can take advantage of your lunch break. Don’t speak at the beginning of the lunch break. People are usually too hungry to care about what you have to say. They would have just begun digging into their meal; you don’t want to ruin that experience for them. Wait till it’s the ‘Toothpick’ period.

This is when people make jokes and laugh. A satisfied belly is usually a recipe for lame and loud talks. This is your window to strike. Pay close attention to the following set of instructions: Move closer to the center of the room while you pretend to be occupied with your phone. Please, don’t smile. Wear a look that has a touch of sadness mixed with anger. Remember that lousy colleague? Call his name and say something like: 

Uche, what bank do you use? I haven’t been receiving alerts for the past five days, and I can’t seem to make transactions either.”

Uche, with his unbridled tongue, will probably make a joke out of your pseudo dilemma, but whatever happens, take it as your opportunity to say something about the unpaid salary. Don’t miss it.

Follow up by saying something like, “ This is annoying because I don’t even know if they’ve paid your salary or not.” Trust me, someone who is as angry as you are about late payment will angrily tell you that they haven’t. Sit back and watch every other person vocalize their frustrations. If a member of the HR/accounting team is present, they’ll take it to their bosses. It’s a win-win for you. You’ve managed to talk about unpaid salary without appearing broke. Since everyone is surviving as a Nigerian employee, this tip would help.

Talk about banks, money, ATM, every time

This is easy. At every given opportunity, lament about poor banking services in Nigeria. Makeup stories about going to the bank the previous week for a failed transaction that is yet to be fixed. Talk about how you spent last month’s salary within a week because you had lots of commitments. Rant about how once you ‘remove’ 100 Naira from 1000 naira, the money becomes useless. Rant, rant, and rant.

Nigerians love to compare struggles. Nobody will console you. They’ll compete with you, try to show you that they have it worse. They might make up stories too. Don’t be surprised; you’re also lying, aren’t you? Once you’ve managed to grab their attention and they’re engaged in the battle of who has it worse, ask about your salary like you don’t care about the salary: “When are they even paying this month’s salary?”

Sit back and watch every other person vocalize their frustrations.

Request for a loan while surviving as a Nigerian employee

You should only consider this as a last resort. It should be your shameless way of pushing for salary payment. It is deemed to be risky by people that have used it in the past. Does the benefit outweigh the risk? That’s your call to make. See, what I’m saying is that you could even get fired. As a Nigerian employee, you are not that special. What are the chances that you’ll get fired for no reason at all? 100%.

Suppose there’s a reason that doesn’t warrant getting fired for, all the best trying to appeal. Do you know what you can also do? Take your employer to court. Are you aware of our labor laws? Have you read them? Don’t be bothered about the HR of the company. They care more about you than the employer. Only that they can also be fired by the employer the same way you’ve been fired. But that does not stop them from supporting you. They’ll stand by you. They ( the HR guys ) believe that the people of an organization create its success. People must be supported by the organization to nurture success.

This is why one of the easiest things to do when there is an issue that needs to be addressed in the office is to walk up to HR to lodge your complaints. If it’s your boss that’s making life hell for you, don’t fret. HR always has your back. You may get fired though but it’s nobody’s fault. HR fought for you during the decision making process. You getting fired has nothing to do with the complaints you made about your boss, no! Your performances over the past few months were reviewed, and you stopped being a good fit for the company. All of these in one month. It doesn’t take much for a round peg that has always been in a round hole to become a square peg in a round hole . Again, this had nothing to do with the complaints you made to HR about your boss.

Back to surviving as a Nigerian employee

Anyway, back to your salary. Walk up to the HR or a member of the accounting department that you seem to have a cordial relationship with. It doesn’t have to be your best buddy at work. Just someone you’ve had a few conversations with. Tell the person that you have something important to discuss with them. Tell them that it can wait till after work hours as you’d rather not disrupt their workflow. There’s a possibility that they’d want to hear what you have to say at that moment. 

Walk them to a secluded part of the office. It’s even better if you go outside the office. Don’t rush. Talk slowly and think about every word you say like it means a lot to you. Here’s a script that has worked in the past:

 “Hey Uche, I’m so sorry to have disrupted your workflow. I just really need your help. Do you know when our salary will be paid? I need a loan until we get paid. I have to settle some bills by next week Monday. But if we’ll be getting paid before then, you don’t have to loan me any money as it won’t be too late.”

No one likes to risk giving money out. If Uche doesn’t know when his salary will be paid, he’ll find a way to learn. He’ll either promise to get back to you or tell you something like: 

Oh! Don’t worry. Is that what you wanted to discuss with me? It’s fine. I know that they’ll be paying before next week, but I’ll confirm the date for you.”

It’s a win for you. But there are chances that Uche wouldn’t find it cool that you came to him and put him on the spot. So, your integrity may be at stake, depending on how complicated your workplace is, your job may also be at stake. You should start job hunting.

It is considered a breach of contract when your employer fails to pay your salary or is late to pay your salary. You may want to find out if it’s a general issue or a personal one. Ideally, your employer should inform you if there will be a delay, but mediocrity has been embraced as a norm. I hope you never find yourself in need of this guide, but if you do, use it well!