When the Holy Books urged us to help our neighbours, they didn’t count on them being onigbeses — the worst kind of debtors. If you’re lucky when dealing with debtors, you’d only have to beg and follow up for months, sometimes years, before they finally return the loan. But in a lot of cases, your debtor might decide that you’re unworthy of your own money, so you get nothing.
Nigerians spoke to us about their worst experience lending money and how they handled it.
1. My debtor refused to pay because he saw me spraying dollars at a wedding
When Tayo* borrowed a friend ₦300,000 in November 2019, the agreed payback date was January 2020. In December, they both attended Tayo’s cousin’s wedding.. They even sat at the same table.
February 2020, a full month after his debtor was supposed to pay, Tayo reached out to him, and he said, point-blank, that he’s not paying back the loan. His excuse? He saw Tayo flexing all December. “You even sprayed dollars at Funmi’s* wedding,” he said.
“He never paid me back all of it,” said Tayo. “He owns a mechanic workshop, so I just started going for repairs and refusing to pay after.”
2. My debtor sent my loan as my wedding gift, four years later
In 2014, Edima’s* best friend reached out for a loan of ₦40,000. It was a huge loan, considering Edima was a corper surviving on an ₦18,500 allowance. Edima didn’t follow up until late 2014. “I haven’t forgotten,” Edima said, “was her answer every time I asked, so I told myself I was saving money with her.”
Fast forward to 2015, she said she was leaving the country. At this point, Edima just assumed her bestie would pay whenever she had the funds. That happened In 2018. “She heard I was getting married and sent me ₦45,000 with this message: ‘I just wanted to give you something small for your wedding.’”
3. My debtor told me he has debtors he doesn’t disturb
In 2019, Jola* lent $400 to someone who needed $1000 urgently for a project. “After three months, I asked for my money and he aired me.” That wasn’t a red flag for Jola because she had borrowed him ₦100,000 before and he paid back. “I called several times and dropped text messages; he ignored all of them,” she said. “Eventually, he asked me to stop disturbing him, that other people owed him money and he doesn’t go around harassing them.” She never got her money back.
4. My debtor asked me to forget his debt
Tobe* transferred ₦300,000 to a family member for a friend. He was meant to pay back the FX equivalent (he needed naira, Tobe needed dollars). “Initially, I kept following up and getting new dates,” Tobe said. “After a while, I had to call him out when it became obvious I was being taken for a ride.” After that, his debtor paid half and promised to pay the rest in one week. “It’s been six months. He sort of told me to forget about it.”
5. My debtor made me pay ₦2 million for their wedding decorations
In 2017, Chioma’s* events company covered wedding decorations worth ₦2 million for one of their big clients. “We have done things like this before, and they paid in three days,” she said. A week after the wedding, the couple didn’t make any attempts to pay.
“We reached out respectfully, but they kept making payment promises they didn’t keep,” Chioma said. “I knew we weren’t getting our money back when they said business wasn’t working and a family member had cancer.” The couple who had a lavish wedding, now have a child and post their luxury vacations on the gram.
6. My debtor only paid 40% of his debt
In 2016, Esther* borrowed an ex-boyfriend ₦50,000. They agreed he would pay by the end of the month. He didn’t honour the agreement, and she didn’t bring it up. Towards the end of the second month, Esther had issues withdrawing money from her main account, so she reached out to him to send the money he owed to her other account. “I needed to sort some minor bills,” she said. “That was when he went ballistic. He blamed himself for borrowing from me, saying that’s why I was talking to him like that. On top of my own money. He ended up paying only ₦20,000.”
7. My debtor was my sneaky link
In 2018, Osarumen* had to bail himself out of a confrontation with his sneaky link’s boyfriend. “I was with someone who didn’t tell me they were in a relationship until their boyfriend showed up mid-knacks.” The pair were able to get presentable before the boyfriend entered, but Osarumen got introduced as a business partner and had to play the role to the fullest. “I had to cough up ₦10,000, so he could add ₦10,000 to give to his boyfriend.”
He was promised a refund in 24 hours, but the wait lasted five months. In that time, Osarumen took extreme measures to make sure he got paid. “I later found out I wasn’t his only victim. The fury of getting suckered and scammed gave me the ginger to carry on,” he said. He eventually got his money, but not without posting his debtor on Whatsapp and IG stories as an onigbese.
8. My debtor used the money I invested in his business for a Ponzi scheme
Timothy* has been very unlucky with lending people money. In 2020, he lent his friend ₦3 million to invest in his importation business. When it was time to pay back, he learnt his friend had put the money in a Ponzi scheme. “I got my money back, but it was a horrid experience.”
Another experience was dealing with an employee who took a ₦100,000 loan, paid ₦40,000 and begged him to pardon the rest. “The same man requested for ₦150,000 as half payment for a land he wanted, but he only paid back ₦40,000 again.” By the time the employee asked for a third loan, Timothy had caught up to the pattern.
In his final act of being an onigbese, “He got ₦30,000 from me and called to say he’s never coming back to work,” said Timothy. “When I confronted him for my money, he and his wife asked what I have ever done for them, that I couldn’t leave a paltry ₦30k alone.”
9. My debtor sent ₦5k after one year of owing me ₦100k
In 2016, Michael* met Sunday* through a friend at the Ake Festival. They got friendly on the TL and eventually became closer. When Michael found out he was in between jobs, he encouraged and supported him with cash gifts. In 2019, Sunday reached out for a ₦100,000 loan for a business he was certain would work, saying he would pay back in December.” A full year after the loan was given, Michael got excuses but never his money. “In December 2020, after I threatened him and he assured me he would pay when the deadline came, he sent me ₦5,000.” Michael still hasn’t gotten the rest.