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My Entire Life Was Almost Derailed By Crippling Debt

Desperate times call for desperate measures. But for Nigerians, these desperate measures often end up in one money mistake or another. For this Nigerian man, his first mistake was falling for the lure of a get-rich-quick Ponzi scheme. 

In this conversation with PiggyVest, he shares how his world was rocked by the debt he incurred in the process, his road to recovery, and the lessons learnt.

So how did your debt problem start?

It dates back to 2017. But in the year leading up to that, there was a lot of frenzy about a certain Ponzi scheme, which, interestingly, I never partook in because I couldn’t understand the economics behind it. How could you tell me that I would just deposit money into a system and it would give me over 100% returns in a few weeks?

I also couldn’t see any product or service the system sold to generate money. I would ask everyone that tried to refer me how the system made their money, but I never got an answer. 

Smart. You knew better.

Yes. But fast-forward to 2017, I was posted to Abia State to serve. Unfortunately, Ponzi schemes were really popular among the corp members there. And they seemed to be paying off. Corpers were always celebrating the major returns they got from ‘investing’ after two to three weeks, and sometimes even as little as a week. 

I started to feel like a fool because I was the only one not reaping from this goldmine. They would use their terminologies around me, saying “I GHed here and PHed there,” but I would just watch from the sidelines feeling left out.

Out of fear of missing out, I decided to try one of the systems to see how legit it was.

The FOMO really hit you hard.

[Laughs] Yeah,  but I played it safe at first. I put in ₦20k of my money, which I’ll call equity, into the system. In a little over a week, I got my equity plus 100% back. 

And that’s how they get you!

You know it! I was thrilled. So I increased my position and put in ₦60k, and the same thing happened. It was unbelievable. And that’s when greed overtook me. 

I reached out to a few people; I’ll call them my creditors. I didn’t tell them I was putting the money into a Ponzi scheme. Instead, I said I had a business I was setting up and needed financial support to expand it. 

They trusted me enough, all five of them, and they committed resources to the tune of ₦1.2million into my hands..


My plan was to put everything in and, in a week or two, get a minimum of another ₦1.2m in return. Unfortunately for me, that was the same time the system crashed, and it took all my investment along with it. That’s when the story began.

That must have sucked big time.

From that point, my life took a different turn. I couldn’t sleep. I would be out and just suddenly break down in tears. My creditors kept blowing up my phone. My brain would not shut off because I kept thinking of how I could pay off these debts.

Couldn’t you ask anybody for help?

I reached out to a family member, an uncle to be precise. He’s someone everyone took to be a wealthy man, so I thought he could help. I explained my predicament to him, hoping that he could give me the money to settle my creditors, and then I would be calm knowing that I would only have family to contend with.

I also made room for disappointment. Even if he could not help me, he would at least sympathise with me, right? But I was not prepared for his response. He told me that he hoped the police would arrest me. 


That interaction only further aggravated my problem. Now my mind was racing, wondering whether or when the police would come and lock me up. I wasn’t doing anything like a business, where I could generate money to offset these debts.

I also could not rely on the stipends they were paying us during the service year. ₦19,800 was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. My family wasn’t financially buoyant, so speaking to my mum for the money was out of the question. I was completely on my own.

The ensuing despair must’ve been really heavy.

My last resort was the church. So I ran to my parish. I served the church too, so in my mind, if I spoke to the pastor, he would sympathise and dip his hand in the parish purse to help me settle the debt. 

Well, all I got from him was prayers. But at that point, I didn’t think I needed prayers. I needed real help. But help was nowhere in sight.

I’m sorry. 

Thank you. I realised I was in real trouble, so I had no choice but to start lying to all my creditors. I would tell them story after story, and I did this until the end of my service year and left Abia State.

But God was so faithful. Three months after I finished serving, I got my first job. Immediately, I came up with a repayment plan and called my creditors.

What was this plan like?

I would spread a certain percentage of my earnings across the 5 of them every month. I told them about my plan and they accepted. 

How much were you earning?

Interestingly, just ₦60k. And the entire money went into debt servicing. My luck was that I was living with family and my office was not really far, so I would save money on commuting by carpooling with a friend and make sure I ate all my meals at home to save money on food.

Paying ₦1.2m off this way must have taken a while.

It took me over a year to clear this debt. From 2018 to 2019. Meaning I worked for free for a year and then some. But I was able to stick to this plan I drew up. I also started by paying the person who needed the money most urgently. 

I was also lucky enough to get another job that paid as high as ₦150k in 2018, and that helped my situation immensely. Once I got this job, I was able to increase the amount I paid out every month, and I was able to pay all my debtors in 14 months. 

What a relief. 

I know right.

What lessons did this experience teach you?

The spirit of greed died that moment the investment crashed. Now, if something is beyond my financial power, I do not bother with it. I won’t take a loan either.  And I would never invest in a business that I don’t understand or can’t even afford.

Then on the other side, after seeing what my creditors went through, I have learnt not to loan out money that I can’t afford to lose. Look at my story, I never set out to elope with my creditors’ money, but things turned out badly. Now, I give out money knowing that unforeseen circumstances could occur at any time. 

Finally, I learnt the power of delayed gratification when it comes to investing. I’d rather put my money in investments that make sense to me and be patient enough to reap the benefits.

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