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Lola Gani-Yusuf: 5 Reasons Why Nigerians Find it Hard to Disclose Their Income

Lola Gani-Yusuf



About this time last year, I was relocating back to Nigeria, having been offered a job. The next phase of the recruitment process was negotiating my salary. It was during this process that I realised that being successful at an interview was just as important as negotiating a fair salary for the job you are being offered. This part of the process (i.e. salary negotiation) can somewhat become a tad difficult, especially if you are clueless about the dynamics of the Nigeria labour market.

I say this because at the time, I was coming from a country where you got paid based on the fixed salary structure that was put in the initial job advertisement for the position you have been shortlisted for. In Nigeria, most job opportunities tell you to put in your salary expectations. Hence, you are left in a state of confusion as you try to figure out what to ask for without you being perceived as arrogant, shrewd or unrealistic.

The realisation that Nigerians generally do not like to disclose their salary (even if it is for a similar role in the same organisation or sector) still beats my comprehension. You would ask (in good faith I might add) how much a person makes on the job that you are considering applying for, and people just keep going around in circles or dropping hints and bits of information. They make it look like they are answering your question, but they are vague enough for you to get the drift that you are better off coming up with your own salary expectations.

The default response I got (and still get) when I ask trusted colleagues or friends about the salary for a position, usually leaves me confused rather than confident of what I should be asking for. It is also not helpful to people who are planning to relocate back to the country.

In my quest to understand why Nigerians are particularly dismissive when it comes to disclosing their salary, people I spoke to attributed this behaviour to the reasons below:

Living a Double Standard Life
So, I have been told that keeping one’s mouth shut when it comes to your earnings is the beginning of wisdom in Nigeria – especially if you live a double life. That is if you are a student/professional by day and an aristo/pimp/escort by night.
Such extra-professional activities often come with maintaining a certain lifestyle which could make people easily suspicious when they realise that your pay cheque doesn’t justify your lifestyle.

A status quo thing
I gathered that people would also let you assume they make more than you think, and would live above their means (just to prove this point) in order for them to be seen as a ‘big-class chic/babe’. So, they live in houses they can’t afford, drive cars that are on lease or wear the latest designer clothes… just to cling to this status quo and live in the false affluent world that they have created for themselves.

Fear of being ‘jazzed’
There is a Yoruba proverb that says ‘ti isu eni ba ta, a a dowo bo je ni’. Translation: If one’s yam is well-formed, it should be consumed under wraps. Meaning, sharing your news of prosperity can turn your good fortune to bad luck. I actually didn’t think people still believed this sort of ideology, until a millennial shared with me how she was advised by an older colleague not to tell anyone how much she makes –
as this could make her an easy target for witches and wizards. In light of ongoing events in the country, I think the senior colleague may just be right.

Fear of being perceived as ‘too rich’
Add this perception with the principle of giving, and you sort of becoming the person everyone comes to for help. Not that I am saying you shouldn’t give to a worthy cause or lend a helping hand financially if you have the means to do so. However, bear in mind that you may be called too many times to make more contribution or become the go-to-lender within your family or social network if this perception sticks. It gets harder if you are the type who can’t say ‘No’ and often times, saying ‘No’ may be construed as you being arrogant.

Employees benchmarking salaries
Also why do employers like to benchmark the salary they think you are worth, with where you are coming from? I don’t ‘gerrit’! As a result, people are not too confident to disclose their salary due to the fear that future employers could use it against them. So we do all we can to hype and increase our pay cheque, until we are asked to bring our last payslip (which I personally think is too invasive of my financial privacy).

Have you ever found yourself in this kind of dilemma? What other reasons do you think could be responsible for this tight-lipped behaviour especially among millennials? Please share your experience in the comment section.

Photo Credit:Andrey Popov

Lola Gani-Yusuf is a Child Rights Advocate, Campaigner and a Communication for Development Specialist. She is an avid reader with a curious mind about life. She writes to silence the ramblings in her head. You can find more of her musings on Instagram: Chattymind


  1. Ezinne o.

    June 6, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Lola, everybody will expect you to borrow them Money, they’ll never agree that you are broke. When you need their help, they’ll refuse because they feel you’re better off than they’re. When you now refuse to give, you’ll be called pompous, and stingy. So keep your salary to yourself.

  2. Baymax

    June 6, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I don’t disclose my salary because;
    1. I don’t want people to assess me as “rich” or “poor”. They treat you differently after they know your salary.
    2. The “Jazz” thing is real o. This is Naija.

  3. o

    June 6, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Your last point. I know someone who got a job in a bank. He had lied about his previous pay in the former bank he was. They asked for his payslip about 6-8 months after he started the new job. That was how he lost the job. Most ppl just trying to keep up appearances and I honestly wonder why!

  4. Akara Pancake

    June 6, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    The problem with Nigerian is that there is no form of national salary index which gives a structure to the salary an individual should be earning based on his experience, education, industry or location.

    Experience itself is broken into different tracts (also dependent on the field). For most business related/legal roles: Entry level is 0-3 years, experienced is 4-10 years, anything above 15 years goes into the expert territory.

    Then next is your education level. Some companies pay you a bit more if on top of your degree, you have a Masters or have amassed certifications. On the flip side, some fields are based mainly on experience with a high school education sufficing. In fields like this, your Masters Degree from Cock and Bull University in East London is no good here.

    Location is next. The major cities like New York, London, Chicago, Houston, Toronto pay more than places like Hull, Kansas, Tampa, Middlesborough etc, The standard of living is higher, and this is reflected in the pay package. So if you decide to settle in a hamlet in North England, your salary will reflect that fact.

    Industry is crucial. Obviously the energy industries pay wella The majors (Shell, Chevron, Total, BP etc.) pay better than the oil services one (Halliburton, Technip, Baker Hughes.)
    The Big 4 Consulting firm (EY, Deloitte, Accenture etc.) pay good and have wonderful perks, though your social life pays for it. Specialist roles in Healthcare and IT are lucrative. Federal Govt agencies pay okay, but you have the opportunity to earn a pension, as well as have ample holidays.

    When all these are combined, everyone has an idea of what he (or she or it), are worth. Apps like Glassdoor can help you calculate your worth.

    For example, a Contracts Specialist in a decently sized energy company, in the Houston area, with at least 5-10 years of experience should expect to earn somewhere between $85,000 to $100,00 p/a.

    However in Nigeria, factors such as “man know man”, or “runs girlism” or “federal character” or “push me I push you” makes it hard to calculate compensation figures. So Segi who does the same work as you do in your department may be earning a “bonus” which even dwarfs your base salary. They dont call it a “bonus” for nothing. Pronounce as you spell (bone-us). Go figure.

    • Dolly

      June 6, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      Heyy i just wanna holla….your write -up is an article itself, good insight and detailed 100%

  5. yummymummycumchick

    June 7, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    i understate my salary to pple that might want to help me ooo. sense is needed. i dontwanna b a super hero to anybody………..and i cant tell specifically how much i earn, y d pokenose , r u d one doing work for me……lol

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