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 Malik’s (who has chosen to remain anonymous, so this is not his real name) story. Malik is a 34-year-old married man who works as a painter. His work is contract-based and his pay fluctuates between hundreds of thousands to millions of naira.
How would you describe the economic class of your family growing up?
I was really cool. We were very rich until I lost both my parents. Before then, I had everything I needed, and never lacked anything. I went to the best schools, had a good relationship with both my parents. Everything was perfect. Things went downhill immediately after my parents’ death. Family members carted away with some of our properties and my siblings and I were left to fend for ourselves. That was when I began to know lack.
We’re sorry about that, how are you and your sibling’s financial status now?
Every mallam bears his kettle, haha. Things are bette now. We’re mostly grown ups and we can easily fend for ourselves now. Most of us are married and we’re all still hustling.
At what point did you begin to shoulder heavy financial responsibilities?
As soon as I started working. After I did my diploma, I knew I wanted to go into home painting and designs. So I did a lot of short courses on design. Immediately I started getting contracts here and there, I started going beyond finding for myself to taking care of my siblings, especially my younger ones. My younger brother is currently in the university and I pay his fees. My siblings – both older and younger – call me to ask for money and I have to give.
Do you have a fixed figure you pay or is it anywhere belle face?
It’s anywhere belle face o. Because I don’t have a fixed income, they also don’t get any fixed pay from me.
Do you divulge your financial status to your family?
To my immediate family, my wife, yes I do. To my extended family, I don’t divulge my financial status but they guess. At first, they call to greet me and then ask me where I am. Once they know that I travelled, they automatically assume I went to work on a contract and start bombarding me with their financial problems. Calls from every corner will start coming in, this one will have one problem, another will need one financial assistance.
How have you been able to handle these financial requests
I wasn’t handling it before. As a matter of fact, I didn’t know I needed to handle it until recently. I actually enjoy giving my family money especially when they are in a fix. But I hate the feeling that I’m being taken advantage of, you know, and I only started noticing that I was being finally manipulated recently. Every single time I get a new contract, they begin to call, and I have to settle everyone of them. Sometimes, I cannot afford to buy certain things for myself because my extended family are always in financial need.
What are the ripple effects paying black tax has brought you?
It has slowed me down in so many ways. Today, I’m, rich, tomorrow, I’m broke. Now that I have my own family, I am trying to learn how to say no when they ask me for money. I just had a baby recently and it’s high time I began to plan for my children’s future.
Aww, congratulations. What’s the reaction to you now saying no to your extended family?
We’ve been quarrelling a lot. When I started withdrawing a little, it caused some family problems. They claimed I was being stingy and wicked and some even blamed my wife for being the one behind my stinginess. It’s not like I want to withdraw from my family, and I’ll love to continue helping them when they have a need. But I hate the way they heap their problems on me when they realise I just got a contract. I don’t want to be used or become anyone’s ATM. I want to give my children the future they deserve.
Do you think paying black tax in this present economy sets you back from the achievements your folks had made at this age?
To a large extent, yes. You see, I recognise that my own situation is different. If we still had our parents, the situation would not be like this, you get? I wouldn’t be responsible for my younger ones. I am not even the first born, but I get more money from my contracts than the rest of my siblings, so I have to settle everyone. It would have been so different if we weren’t orphans because my parents were rich before they died.
Omo, it sounds like this black tax thing tires you
All the time, BellaNaija. All the time. But what will I do? Isn’t this what they call adulting?
What lessons can you share with our readers on the black tax and how you’ve been able to navigate life within the expectations
Know when you are satisfying a need, helping your family, or when you are simply being used. It took me a while to notice the pattern in many of my extended family’s request and observe that I was being manipulated by some people. And I don’t blame them, they were already used to always getting money from me. That’s why, whatever you would not be able to keep up in future, never start it.
Also, it is important to save and invest in yourself. Have funds set aside for yourself and your own dreams. When you get your pay for anything, save first, get something for yourself, your wife and kid, then extended family members can have the rest. No matter what, always have funds set aside for yourself, and your own family’s future.
You know you can share your Paying Black Tax story with us, right? If, like Malik 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!