If you’re only just joining our Paying Black Tax series, we welcome you with open arms. (Read previous entries HERE) You see, at the beginning of 2019, the BellaNaija Features team resolved to pay closer attention to the younger demographic of its readers. It is 2021 and we are still waxing strong. With stories and feature series that focus on young Nigerians between the ages of 25 – 35, we hope to provide a platform for young people to tell the stories that affect them – within a society that handed certain norms to them. Paying Black Tax is one of those norms. Young people across the country, and even beyond the borders of Nigeria have to send money back home. The reasons for this concept varies, but the recipients are constant – parents, siblings, cousins and sometimes, even friends.
Today, we are sharing Dami’s story. Dami is a 22-year-old lady who works as a content writer with a digital media company. She got her first job in 2018 and has been working for over three years now. She currently runs two jobs: a 9-5 that pays her in six figures and a freelancing job that pays in five-figures. Dami may be doing fine for herself, but her money isn’t always her money.
What was your family’s financial status growing up?
My family was the average Nigerian middle-class family when I was born. We lived in an estate somewhere in Ikorodu. Dad was working as one of that top workers in an insurance firm. My mum had a job also. Things were great, we had domestic helpers, a cook, a cleaner, and driver – all of that luxury. I went to the best Montessori primary school and best secondary in my area as at that time. This was before I clocked 10. But things got hard in the 2010s when my parents separated.
When they got separated, things became a bit tight financially. My dad lost his job as managing director in a top insurance company. We were living in Abuja then. My dad spent his savings relocating back to Lagos, and starting all over.
I remember when I was in the university – a private university – and things were so tight that my dad broke down right in front of me. That was when I wanted to move to 200 level. In 100 level, he comfortably paid my fees and in 200 level, it was another story entirely. Luckily, I got a scholarship that took me through school.
My mum was also trying to make ends meet but it didn’t work out.
I would say my family’s current financial/economic status is average. All I’m grateful for is that despite how tough it seems in a country like Nigeria that grocery shopping isn’t a luxury anymore, we have food, shelter over our head, and we are privileged to have the basic necessities of life. I have two siblings who are still in secondary school, it’s always an hassle at the beginning of every term and session, but we survive.
What propelled you to start supporting your family financially?
Being the firstborn and a girl child at that, there’s this natural instinct to help. There are four of them – my dad, my mum and two siblings. My siblings are still in secondary school and they stay with my dad, and it’s a whole lot of responsibility for my dad. He pays their fees, provides for food and other basic things that are needed at home. I support him financially to make things a bit light for him.
My mum has no main source of income and I have to support her too. I have no fixed figure, most times, I send what I can afford. For my dad, I help him whenever he says he doesn’t have much. I offer to pay for the Cable TV, money for provision, part payment for my siblings’ school fees, and so on. For my mum, I have a fixed figure.
Does your family know how much you earn?
No. I can’t tell them how much I earn o.
You can’t? Why?
Ah, I remember when I was earning 150k. To them, it felt like I was earning 1million naira. You know, they believe as a single lady, what are you spending 150k on? You should have more than enough and share the rest with your family. Please never divulge what you earn to your family because when you say you don’t have, they won’t believe you.
But as your finances increase, does your black tax increase?
They don’t know what I earn, and as long as they don’t know and I’m not forced to increase it, I’m good. Only for certain situations.
So how has paying black tax benefitted you?
Benefitted me? Hmmm. Prayers and blessings from my mum. Mothers are good at that. From my dad, well my siblings are all I’m after; as long as my siblings are happy, I’m happy. Again, my dad won’t guilt-trip me for only sending money to my mum.
It has helped me in every way possible. Majorly at being independent. I know I don’t have anyone to rely when I go broke and I have people relying on me, so it makes me focused on my goal.
Sounds like you’ve hacked this thing called black tax. But does it have any negative effect on you?
Yes. Nowadays, I get really anxious when I see a call from home. Imagine paying bills like house rent, paying back a debt, and your family is still asking for money. Se fe pa mi ni? There was a period I ignored my mum’s call. I get soft heart sha. The anxiety, fear of the unknown. It’s more of my emotional well-being. When I see their missed calls, I’m like “Ki lo tun de bayi”, and then I start calculating what I have in my account, and how to reply without them holding family meeting that I’m rude. Nigerian mums, fear them.
Wait, let’s take some steps back, you ignored your mum’s call? How did that play out?
There was this time my mum asked me for 100k. Where do you want me to get that amount from? Can you believe she called her friends to tell them Dami doesn’t want to give her money. Like hol’ up, woman, 100k from what salary? I choose myself first. You can’t suck me dry. “You think you are smart by reporting me to your friends, abi? See that money? I won’t send it,” I said to myself, and I didn’t. Mothers ehn. They can be so extra.
You dad nko?
There was one time my dad called me that he had nothing on him (and my dad doesn’t ask only if he needs it desperately), to pay my brothers school fees. Apparently, the stupid school sent my brother out of school on the last day of his exam, because of how much? I was so pissed, I sent more than the amount my dad asked. That was me choosing my family over myself.
Do you think paying black tax in this present economy sets you back from the achievements your folks had made at this age?
Yes o. I shouldn’t even be paying black tax. I feel I should still be getting small change from my parents at the age of 22. Haha. On a serious note though, I don’t think black tax has set me back from the achievements my folks had made at my age. My parents were still in the university at my age. I’m happy they can rely on me in some situations, but then, it can get annoying.
Would you say paying black tax, for you, is out of love or obligation?
To be honest, I didn’t sign up for this. I was born and became obligated as the first daughter to take care of everybody. At first, they were thankful that I was helping out. Now it seems like one of the things they expect. The thank you and prayers make me happy too. So, it’s more of love for me. I love my family, especially when it involves my siblings. Whenever I have, I send. I love my parents too. As long as my budget for the month isn’t overboard, I’m good.
Have you ever gotten fed up with doing it?
Yes. Who isn’t tired? I miss the days I collected money from my parents. Right from my university days, I’ve been paying black tax to my mum. Then when I started NYSC, at the age of 19, I was into it fully. I just want to relax and be taken care of.
If you had a choice, is this something you’d do again?
Runaway, maybe. Haha. I think I will probably not tell them how much I earn.
Any advice for people paying black tax?
Many youths my age are making good money but because they’re the first child in their family, they are still living paycheck-to-paycheck because their money isn’t just their money. Their money is mom’s light bill money, little bro’s football money, and so on. So first, don’t tell everyone what you earn. Then decline when you can’t afford it – as long as you don’t live under the same roof with them, to avoid the emotional exchange. Stick to your monthly budget. Also, use the scale of preference – is it a necessity or a want? Just make sure you prioritize.
You know you can share your Paying Black Tax story with us, right? If, like Dami and many young people out there, you are paying black tax, why not tell us about it. Wanna know what’s awesome? You can also choose to remain anonymous. So send a mail to [email protected] with the subject: Paying Black Tax. We’ve got ya!