#HorribleBosses: Inside Nigeria’s Tech Companies That Make Life Difficult for Their Employees

Founder/CEO, Flutterwave, Olugbenga Agboola

The Flutterwave CEO is bullying me and it ends today,” Odero wrote, “I have been constantly belittled, lied about, harassed, had my name tarnished and almost arrested because of Olugbenga Agboola the CEO of Flutterwave and I am calling time. It has been almost 5 years of constant harassment and I am over it all.

From Ebun Okubanjo, the CEO of Bento Africa, – a cloud based salaries and benefits solution platform that helps business do more with less and Clara Wanjiku Odero, Head of Expansion at Flutterwave, a Nigerian fintech company that provides a payment infrastructure for global merchants and payment service providers across the continent, the social media and technology spaces have been agog with different kinds of scandals that has to do with bullying of staff at work.

It was Ebun’s bullying story that first broke on Twitter with the allegation of subjecting his employees to inhumane conditions that include emotional and verbal abuse.     

‘Horrible Bosses’ is a ’Twitter discussion tagged ‘#HorribleBosses’ in which ex-employees share their experiences working under toxic bosses or in negative work-environments.

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The entire conversation started out with a hashtag that started trending after a Twitter Space hosted by a journalist, Kiki Mordi, received massive contributions against alleged toxic behaviours of founders and chief executives in the Nigerian tech ecosystem.

Some of the CEOs and founders called out by their ex-employees include Sim Shagaya of ULesson and Ebun Okunbajo of Bento Africa.

Others are the CEOs of Beat FM, Reliance HMO, Klasha, WHER, Gladepay, Kuda Bank, Gokada, SheLeadsAfrica, amongst others.

Bullying either at work or in other places can be seen as acts or verbal comments that could psychologically or ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person in the workplace.   

It can sometimes involve negative physical contact as well and usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people. It has also been described as the assertion of power through aggression.     

Staff who had worked with him at one point or the other had shared their one time or the other experience working with Ebun.       

In TechCabal’s report, Pascal was said that Bento, the company Ebun head took everything from him, saying that his sense of humanity, sanity, confidence, and trust were reduced to nothing.    

Chidozie Takes Over as Bento Africa CEO, Ebun Steps Down | Business Post  Nigeria
CEO of Bento Africa, Ebun Okubanjo

Pascal who was a Sales Executive at Bento Africa said working at the organisation was a whole hell for him.    

“We worked around the clock. Ebun would send you messages by 2 AM and expect a response asap. No rest. We went to bed every night praying our jobs would still be there when we woke up the next morning.”

Pascal was abruptly fired from his job and fell into a depressive state, and everything stopped making sense for him.

He explained that he stopped going out, and his relationships with friends and family suffered. He described working at Bento a hell, adding that what he experienced working with Ebun was a noting but a torture.

In Okubanjo’s termination email to Pascal, he was said to be fired because of a “lack of cultural fit and poor performance”.

But Pascal wondered: “How could I have been culturally unfit and incompetent after working for you for over a year? Why did it take you that long to clock my incompetence?”

TechCabal further reported that employees often weep during the sales team’s check-in call at 8 AM every weekday with Ebun harshly criticizing them and threatening to fire them all at these meetings.

With a series of bullying Ebun was alleged of, none of his staff has gratified him, they all have bad remarks about him.

As Ebun was alleged, Clara Odero also alleged his former boss, CEO of Flutterwave, Olugbenga Agbola. 

Clara took to Medium to announce the bullying allegation saying that she has been harassed since the last five years she quit working at the company. 

She went ahead to detail her experiences at the Fintech company, saying it was about time the harassment came to a stop.

“The Flutterwave CEO is bullying me and it ends today,” Odero wrote, “I have been constantly belittled, lied about, harassed, had my name tarnished and almost arrested because of Olugbenga Agboola the CEO of Flutterwave and I am calling time. It has been almost 5 years of constant harassment and I am over it all.”

The Kenyan environmental scientist-turned-tech babe explained that she quit the company in November 2018 because she was not “being treated well”.

She said she was accused, without evidence, of operating a Twitter account calling out male members of management for sexual harassment.

Clara recalled that the alleged bullying began when she demanded the payment of her dues after her resignation.

She explained that the repeated demands were ignored until she sent a message threatening to involve a lawyer.

Instead of authorizing the payment, she said, Olugbenga felt threatened by her message and called her bluff.

She said she made good her promise to involve a lawyer, who served the company a demand letter.

Odero said that after the demand letter was served, she began to receive multiple calls from several Futterwave staff who pushed for an amicable resolution.

She said the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Bode Abifarin, was asked to resolve her claims.

Clara Odero talks about working at 2 unicorns, 1 decacorn and a startup
Former Head of Expansion at Flutterwave, Clara Wanjiku Odero,

Odero said Abifarin mentioned the Twitter account to her lawyer, who asked if she knew anything about it and she said no.

Drawing typicals of such stories from global perspectives, notable CEOs at different levels have also been alleged of different allegations of bullying that affected their careers.

Harvey Weinstein – Actor and Weinsten Company co-founder

Harvey Weinstein was nown by many in the entertainment industry to have an imposing presence, but some women knew he had an even darker side. The Weinsten Company co-founder was accused of sexual coercion and harassment by Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan

Surprisingly, Harvey didn’t deny the sexual harassment claims in an interview with BBC initially but once the allegations of rape came into play via a New Yorker article, Weinstein took a different stance.

He is currently serving a 23-year sentence in New York for rape and sexual abuse, but is in a Los Angeles county jail awaiting his West Coast trial which is expected to happen this summer.

Chris Noth: Co-owner of The Cutting Room, a New York lounge

Just after the Sex and the City reboot premiered, Chris Noth was accused of sexual assault by two women in two different cities over a decade apart. One of the victims talked about the PTSD she suffered after her alleged 2005 rape.

 The co-owner of The Cutting Room, a New York lounge and music venue released a statement discrediting the claims but was fired from The Equalizer and his And Just Like That flashback scenes as Mr. Big were removed from the final episode. 

Armie Hammer – Actor

In 2021, Armie Hammer was accused of sexual assault, manipulation, and coercion by exes including Paige Lorenze, Courtney Vucekovich, and a model named Effie, all of whom claim Hammer would show an initial interest in BDSM and escalate into increasingly violent and humiliating behavior, allegedly detailing cannibalistic fantasies and an interest in having these women be his “sex slaves.”

Hammer denied all of the claims against, calling them but was fired from all of his film projects and, despite an LAPD investigation, he was never charged criminally. He entered rehab in May 2021 and is now back in the Cayman Islands, living near his ex-wife Elizabeth Chambers and their two kids.

Ebun has been reported to apologize on different bullying allegations levied against. In an apology note that was published on different news blogs, he admitted to being careless about the impact of work on people.

“To everyone who has been on the receiving end of my outburst, either written or verbally — I am sorry. I have some work to do here and there is a lot of room for growth.

“I did encourage a culture of long work days and weeks. Those late emails that came in odd hours were because I myself had no balance in my life — only work. I guess it is easy to expect the unreasonable from others when you are not being reasonable with yourself.

“To everyone who I have ever made to feel less than, who have felt that fire that burns so hot when we are in the thick of it, I am so sorry for the emotional and mental stress I caused you. Please reach out to me and let me know how I can personally fix it”, said Okubanjo.

Meanwhile, TechCrunch, an online tech startup news platform reached out to Flutterwave for comments, asking questions about Wanjiku’s bullying claims by the company and its CEO. The fintech company declined all the questions and responded that the organisation that continuously strives to create an environment where employees feel secure and safe, we take the recent allegations of bullying from a former employee very seriously.

“We categorically state that there is no place for bullying or harassment of any kind in our workplace. We have a zero-tolerance stance on bullying and a robust independent disciplinary committee and processes in place to stamp out abuse of any kind”

The report further stated that Flutterwave has grown significantly in personnel over the last 3 years. We experienced most of that growth during lockdown — it was very important for us to bring the entire company together to meet each other in one location, (for the first time in many cases), share our story, challenges and build camaraderie. Sharing some of our challenges as a company, understandably caused a reaction from a former employee.

Business Executive Director and Legal Practitioner, Emmanuel Bello spoke about the effects of office bullying and emotional damage at the workplace on employees and the management.

According to Emmanuel, the effect of bullying and workplace harassment amounts to creating a work environment enabled by fear as everyone works on eggshells. Staff won’t want to be the example for others to see.

“It leaves you with self-doubt and lack of esteem about your abilities because you’ll think that you got the job because of some other reasons other than your competence. So it is very damaging and it is usually a time bomb that can destroy any organization”, he said.

In the case of Flutterwave, the legal practitioner gave the verdict of the law on the legality stance of companies who keep using former employees’ contact details for business purposes. What he described to be criminal liability, it is wrong in law for an organization to still continue to use the details of a former employee to transact business.

He added, “The employee can take legal action against the company on different grounds. Tort, contract, criminal liability particularly if there’s any fraud arising from the transaction that the details of the former employee was use.’’

Also, commenting on the legal and ideal means of terminating an employment contract between employer and employee without sanctions, Emmanuel said termination of employment borders more on law.

‘’The legality of Contract and statutory of employment are determined based on the law that governs that employment. Private employment with contact would determine how the employment will be determined. However, there are employment with no contract of employment; parties can do as they wish since no valid contract binds them.

Speaking on detaching official duties from personal differences at the workplace amidst emotional damage and bullying, the executive director noted that separating personal differences from working relationships is a tough task to a large extent, particularly in Africa.

“People find it quite difficult to manage their emotions and react in the heat of it with the fact that most organizations in Africa are one man or sole proprietor based, it is largely impossible to separate the business from the owner. It is very important that our Labor laws are made to work to help protect employees from harsh working conditions.

Nigerian payments startup Flutterwave achieves “unicorn” status after $170m  funding round - Disrupt Africa

As office harassment and bullying are a global phenomenon at the workplace, the top management officer of Fox Capital Investment Limited proffer solutions on how the menace could be reduced for productivity and growth in establishments.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: #HorribleBosses: Nigerian Employees Take To Twitter To Call Out Horrible Bosses

For curbing assaults, bullying and harassment in any organization, Emmanuel called for formal office policy on workplace harassment and must be enforced by management without fear or favor and also allowing staff the right to speak up when harassed or bullied.

He added that management without any form of bias must thoroughly investigate all allegations of bullying and harassment. That way everyone will know that it is possible to be exonerated if falsely accused or punished if found guilty.





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