Segun* is a 35-year-old teacher who ran to loan apps as a last resort to survive the pandemic. He talks about servicing loans from multiple apps on a teacher’s salary and the lessons he has learnt in this process.
How did your misadventure with loan apps start?
It all started during the lockdown in 2020. I was a class teacher at the time, so we were at home and out of work. I needed money for the upkeep of my home and my pregnant wife.
I tried asking everybody I could for financial aid, but no one could help me. That was when a friend advised me to try a loan app. I was desperate, so I went searching for them. Eventually, I settled for one and borrowed from there.
How much was this loan?
I borrowed ₦20k.
And how much was your salary as a class teacher?
It was also ₦20k.
When the time came for me to pay back, I couldn’t. I wasn’t working, so there was no way for me to actually make the money to pay. And the thing about loan apps is that you pay a large interest when returning the money. You also get fined if you miss a repayment day.
What did you do?
At this same time, unfortunately, my colleague had given me some money to keep for him. About ₦30k. It was that money I decided to use to pay back the loan. When I finally paid the loan, three weeks had passed. I paid ₦27k.
A whole 7k extra?
Yes. But this was just the beginning. Now I had to pay back the money I ‘borrowed’ from my colleague. I still wasn’t working yet, so where could I have gotten the money? As a last resort, I found myself going back to that same loan app to borrow the money I took from my colleague.
The vicious cycle…
Yes. If you don’t repay on time, these apps threaten to publish your name or send messages to your family and friends. I didn’t want my image to be tarnished, so I took more money from funds that were left in my care.
Just like that, my misfortune started. When it was time to pay back the owner of the money, I went back to a loan app. My debts compounded to the point that I was using multiple loan apps at the same time. I would go to another loan app to get money to pay that off.
How much debt were you servicing at this point?
By this time, the amount was ₦150,000. I had been doing this back and forth for about two years already. As of 2022, I was still battling with them.
It got to the point where I had to go to my cooperative to borrow money to pay the loan. Money I could have used for a business opportunity. Then I went back to the loan apps to pay back the cooperative. After a while, I realised I was going in circles. So I decided enough was enough.
How did you stop?
I just stopped borrowing from one loan app to pay another. The only way to get out of this problematic cycle was to ignore all the loan deadlines no matter what, and focus on paying them back gradually. I’ve accepted that I owe money, and I’ll pay as soon as it’s possible.
Right now, I wait till the end of every month, then pay off what I can. If I can offset just ₦10k, then so be it. I’ll pay it this way until I finish. If I keep thinking of my debt, it might cause problems to my health.
How much is left?
I currently have three loans I’m servicing. One is ₦30K, the other is ₦40k and the last one is ₦50k.
How are you able to pay off these loans on a class teacher salary?
I’ve transitioned from class teacher to freelance lesson teacher. I teach phonics in four schools, and I make almost 5 times what I used to earn. That makes it easier.
Do they harass you with calls?
Of course they do. But I know their numbers so I don’t pick up. I have no money to give them na.
What about your family? Are they protected from this?
I have a wife and a kid. And my wife knows everything that has been going on. She understands that I didn’t borrow the money to spend lavishly. It was for our family. So we’re working through it together.
What did you learn from this?
Ah! I’ve learnt my lesson. I used to recommend loan apps to people because I thought they were my saving grace when I needed emergency funds. But it turns out that loan apps have only brought disaster. Unless it’s do or die, I would not advise anybody to borrow money from loan apps. Especially if you can’t pay it off immediately.
Assuming I didn’t go online to borrow money, all these things would not happen to me. Now I’m using money I should use to cater for my family and invest in a small business to pay off loans.