Only God will save us in this Lagos.
While waiting for my one year compulsory youth service, I decided to “intern” (you know, that term that has today replaced the word “slavery”) at an estate firm in Lagos. I didn’t have to do it; I was sick of remaining at home doing nothing but reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and writing short stories of my own. So, it was fine when I was offered only ₦15,000 a month.
We were seated in the Access Bank banking hall at Allen Avenue when the offer was made. I was excited to start and had decked myself in my favourite TM Lewin shirt, my banker brother’s tie, and shoes I had gotten for my sister’s wedding. I had my resumé tucked under my arm in a brown envelope, and inside that envelope it remained, with my would-be boss forgetting to request for it. I should have seen the light.
The company was new and the owner was in the final stages of opening a company bank account. That’s what we were doing in the banking hall. Between meetings with his banking officer, we sat on frigid metal chairs while he spoke about his determination and drive to build his business. He wanted us to do it together. He had big ideas about changing the property landscape in Lagos. He’d left his former job as a Business Manager because of this, he told me, and he was excited to bring smart people on the new journey with him. Easily-flattered, I was unable to suppress my smile.
On my way home I texted my friends that maybe I could stay until I became a partner. Never mind the ₦15,000—it was a new business and it’d no doubt grow. And it was enough to cover transport.
The week after I started, my boss sealed a ₦700,000 deal. The following week, he had begun borrowing petty sums from me, sometimes for recharge cards, a few times for a lunch of amala and gbegiri, and most times to buy Baby Oku in the mornings. Where did the money go, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine. Goes without saying, of course, that at the end of the month my ₦15k was nowhere to be found. I remained for two and a half months, and was paid maybe a total of ₦20k. And that’s when I add the few times he returned the money he borrowed.
I find it hilarious now when I look back, and when I share the story with new friends it’s as a funny anecdote, all of us laughing and sharing other employer-from-hell stories, much in the same way I have been laughing all morning after I woke up to the Twitter gist about Glory Osei and Muyiwa Folorunso, and their chain of businesses.
It’s impossible to find the genesis of a leak when the entire tap has busted open. And this tap is gushing from everywhere. Former employees began sharing their stories on Sunday night. You find people who were allegedly hired and fired days later because “Muyiwa has changed his mind.” Another shared how he was hired for two months and was never paid before he was let go. Yet another, in a thread that seemed oddly indicative of Stockholm Syndrome, wrote about being taken advantage of as a young jobseeker. Another shared how she and several others were fired with no reason and no pay. Someone else shared how she was fired after being involved in a car accident.
The stories are never-ending.
What’s worse is that news of the alleged employment fraud has been on the internet since 2014, particularly Nairaland. There’s one about Truerebel changing its name to Fashionhands. Another about Truerebel flooding the market with fake jewelries. Another on someone’s personal experience working for Truerebel. One from 2016 about their brand Shapeyou. And on and on and on like that the stories go.
Glory Osei, responding on her Twitter, has denied all of it. “I have never mistreated any staff,” she wrote in an “unofficial press release.” She does wish her companies had handled the firings with “a little more tact,” but they were “very necessary dismissals,” she wrote. The official release contained even less information, with the claims described as defamation, and legal threat against those who have come out to share their stories. The whole thing is reminiscent of the Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo/COZA press release.
Generally, I am skeptical about wading into matters about fraud that come from Twitter. Some people are filled with bile, and when they let it out they spray it everywhere, looking for anyone to hurt. But, with the amount of reports coming in, it’s difficult to not believe this gist here. Sure, not all of it will be true, and reality will not be as exactly as it has been painted. But some of it will be true. Some of it will be exactly as the people have said. And some is enough.