Travel Smart With Attorney Chika Okoroafor: How a Media Feature Inspired Me to Help More Intending Immigrants

Attorney chika
Chika Okoroafor
Anne’s Note: Neither Chika nor I anticipated that our interview last year would generate as much interest as it did. In this feature, Chika takes us through what she has been up to helping people who contacted her with their immigration issues as a result of that interview, and our plans for the future. And we hereby officially launch a series “Travel Smart With Attorney Chika” where she will give us periodic tips on how to successfully travel abroad safe and smart. I hope you enjoy this feature as much as I did.
It was sometime in mid-October 2016. I had just got home from a short vacation where I was away from civilization (deliberately) for four days; no phone calls, sms or internet. As soon as I  got into town and switched on my phone, what happened next can be best defined in one word: ‘chaos’.  Notifications were coming in nanoseconds. My screen was lit in red numerical dots–notifications from my email, apps, sms, missed call icon etc. I couldn’t access the internet on my laptop and my poor phone couldn’t handle the traffic. I was startled. I knew I would be coming back to backlogs but the deluge of messages was strange. I hurried home, got my laptop out to access my mail and delete the “spam mails” that were choking life out of my phone memory so I could access my sms et al. So I got into my email and behold they were not spam after all. They were mails from people–feedback from an interview I granted which appeared in Huffington Post.
 
Since that interview, I have been, and I still am, working with clients with immigration issues who contacted me. With the good comes the bad: I have also had my fair share of tough lashes from people who disagree with what we are doing. Some are of the opinion that I am  “promoting brain drain.” Others didn’t quite like the counsel they got. One potential client didn’t take well an honest opinion that given his peculiar personal and economic circumstances at that time, he was not qualified to get a visa to his country of choice. I had advised that he waited a little more and improved his condition to increase his chance of success. However, in the end the good outweighed the not-so-good. Since the interview, the firm has expanded its clientele, increased its network, and potential foreign investors from across the globe have sought us out.
 
Because of what we learned from the  experience–that there is a dearth of qualify information out there regarding immigration–my firm has decided to start a campaign to encourage and offer legitimate opportunities to people who may want to leave Nigerian shores for the proverbial greener pastures.  We have taken this challenge to ensure that people who are desperate to leave Nigeria are not duped off their hard earned money and given false promises by “agencies” whose sole interest is in lining their own pockets.

Just as doctors cannot cure every disease, so it is too that  lawyers cannot win every case. First world countries have in place strict immigration policies to help protect them from being overwhelmed by economic migrants. The effect is that for us in third world countries, not everyone  will qualify for certain categories of visas to visit or reside in developed countries. A good lawyer will tell you from the get-go the likelihood of success of your visa application and give you other options, including other countries, that may be a better fit given your standing in life. For example, someone who cannot afford the high cost of education in U.S. and Europe can be offered opportunities in South Africa and Ghana.
 
On whether or not our firm is doing the country ill by promoting brain drain, I have  this to say: I once used to discourage migration. I disagreed with my friends and families who considered migration. Then, I felt migration  was the height of unpatriotism. But in the course of practicing immigration law and being privy to clients’ unique circumstances–cases that migration is the only option, for example, family reunions, economic opportunities, access to better medical care to save lives etc.–my ideologies evolved. While I still do not support permanent migration, I encourage traveling and temporal migration especially for study, family reunion and medical care.  The present state of Nigeria education and medical system is anything but encouraging. Traveling to other countries is not a luxury; it is educative, hence imperative. Because there is an upsurge of socioeconomic challenges in Nigeria with the political class bedeviling the future of masses with farcical policies, when Nigerian citizens travel abroad, a mental evolution from associating with individuals from saner climes is triggered, and when they come back home, they demand that our leaders do better. I will elucidate on this properly in a separate post. In summary, I see migration now as a tool and not an end.

 
The experience I gained from that one interview has been exciting, draining and most of all humbling. Some cases we handled gives credence to biblical phrase “ My people suffer for lack of Knowledge”.  Nigerians need as a matter of urgency a reorientation about migrating/travel ling especially on the “how” to go about it and the reality of what to expect for “when”.

Since it all started through the author of this platform, Anne Mmeje, when she published our interview on Huffington Post, another platform she contributes to, we, not wanting to be like the biblical nine ungrateful lepers, have decided to partner with her in our campaign to enlighten Nigerians on migration. 

Our firm will use Anne’s blog as a medium to reach out to people who are hungry for information on immigration. We will do this by publishing educative contents about various country visa types and how to meet their requirements. We will also give tips on documentation/packaging. We want the topics to be open and interactive  via the comment session, so we will give readers opportunities to write us about their traveling/immigration inquiries or challenges.

In all, our aim is to promote what we term  “Travelsmart Consciousness” and to provide travel aids to eligible individuals and help non-eligibles find other alternatives to prospering,  even if that means staying back home. We would rather people who are struggling economically save the little they have and invest it here in Nigeria than have them waste it on what is at best a pipe dream. We will also create awareness on the dangers of illegal migration, challenges illegal migrants face and why we discourage same.

Please note while information and answers giving during interactions on the blog is free, any individual who demands for personal service i.e individual assessment and visa packaging assistance will be charged a professional fee.

We intend to start with one publication a week. We will increase the sessions as we progress. We will be publishing scenarios inspired by real-life cases we have handled. (Clients’ and and former clients’ identifying information will be protected so as not to violate our obligation of confidentiality.)
To help us know what issues you would like us to address, we request that you give us feedback in the comment session. You can also write to us on countries of your interest and visa categories you wish us to discuss by sending us an email at attorneychika@gmail.com.
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A Death Reminds Me Why We Strive to be Rich

Sometime last week, I asked about someone I hadn’t seen in a while and learned she had been absent from work because her son died. The son ( a father of five) lived in a gang-infested city with high poverty and crime rate. He was shot dead in his house while he was watching a television. The police ruled that he was a victim of mistaken identity; that the gunman had mistaken him to be a gang member.

Earlier this year, one of my friends declined a job offer from a business in that city because of the high crime rate.  At the time, a part of me thought she was being paranoid. But last week, hearing how the man who died was reportedly a good man and just a victim of circumstance, I reflected on how wealth can afford one the luxury of living in a decent neighborhood. A marketing email, subject – “Money is Not That Important”, I received earlier from Rachel Rodgers a young lawyer who helps women grow their business also came to mind. Here’s the email:

“Dear Anne,

As a business coach whose focus is helping badass women make more money, I hear this line a lot: “money is not that important.”

When entrepreneurs say this to me, more often than not, they are using their supposed lack of concern about money as a defense mechanism. They know they are capable of making a whole lot more money. On some deep level, they know they are seriously limiting their income level and choosing not to live up to their full potential. What they don’t know is how to fix it. So they declare “it doesn’t matter” to feel better.

I call bullshit.
Money absolutely is important and anyone who says it’s not is lying.

My money pays for my children to get a great education. My money pays for the grass-fed beef and organic produce in my fridge. My money keeps the lights on and pays the rent in a safe neighborhood. My money enables me to visit my friends who live all over the world. My money pays for the event I’m hosting next month that will bring women entrepreneurs together to support each other.

My money enables me to help out my friends and family when they need it. My money will take care of my mom when she retires in a few years. My money pays for my family’s healthcare. My money has and will continue to enable schools to get built, provide medical care in war-torn parts of the world, protect the civil rights of Americans and provide startup funds to low-income women entrepreneurs.
My money matters. And so does yours.

If you want to make more money, it’s probably so you can get out of a job you hate, provide an incredible life for your children, be able to go on vacation or go out to eat without worrying about the bill. You probably want to do work that you love, enjoy some free time and have an impact on the world by living your life’s purpose, whatever that may be. You might have aging parents that you need to care for or a baby on the way that you need to provide for. These things matter. That’s why money matters.”

I couldn’t have said it better than Rachel. In addition, money gives us power to fund causes we care about. For example, when I was growing up in Aba, Nigeria, we didn’t have a decent public library. I prayed to God to make me so wealthy that I can buy any book I wanted to read. Years later, even though I don’t buy every book I would love to read, I am privileged to live in a city where I can literally find and borrow most books I want to read from my local library. (I am currently reading Billy Graham’s Just as I am and Hillary Clinton’s Hard choices.) These days I pray God to make me so rich that I can replicate this experience back home by building public libraries that would accessible to everyone.

If he lacked the resources to do so, the good Samaritan in the bible could not have taken the injured traveler to an inn and paid for his care. So besides the temporal benefits, being wealthy can help us complement our faith with good works. Now, that’s a noble reason to aspire to be a Bill Gate.

So what about you? let us know in the comments section the not-so-common reason why you want to be rich.

Anne.

Easiest Way to Get Transcripts From Nigerian Universities

In 2014, I wrote about ways Nigerian universities can make transcript issuance speedier and more effective. I’d read somewhere that some Nigerians abroad have had to travel back to Nigeria just to obtain their university transcripts. Around the same time, I also had transcript issues with my alma mater.

I suggested institutions digitizing students’ academic records, having application requirements on their websites, and making it possible for students and alumni to apply for their transcripts online from the comfort of their homes.

In the comments section for that post, other people expressed their frustrations and  experiences trying to obtain transcripts from Nigeria universities.

I’m doing this update because recently I have had two Nigerian friends tell me how the perceived stress of getting transcripts from Nigeria is discouraging them from furthering their studies or landing their dream job.

From my research as of July 2017, University of Nigeria Nsukka independently maintains its own i-transcript system. The school charges N15,000 to deliver transcripts within Nigeria and N35,000 to deliver outside Nigeria. UNN alumni can make their applications for transcript online  through this link.

For alumni of institutions that do not allow them to apply for transcripts online on the school’s website, EXT-NG Nigeria is a good alternative. EXT-NG has partnered with many schools to make online application for transcripts possible.

Good news is that EXT-NG also offers online application services for people whose institutions are not partners.

I used EXT-NG services in 2016 to obtain my transcript from Madonna Univeristy, Nigeria and I was very happy with their services and the result. No stories. I just paid them and waited for my school to send my transcript.

Given the difficulty and cost of traveling down to one’s former institution, bribing school clerks and registrars’ secretaries (you may have to buy them malt and pay “signing fees” besides the official fees, especially for public institutions) to do their work, and making more multiple trips to follow up, then EXT-NG is well worth it. And the price, in  my opinion, is very reasonable as it includes the institution’s fees, EXT-NG’s own fees for sending someone to the school (for institutions that insist applications must be made manually at the school), and the cost for delivering to the recipient school.

Before using the service, EXT-NG allows you to input information about the sending and receiving institution so you know if that’s what you can afford. The system gives you the price right away before you put in your personal information. For example, sending transcript from Abia State University Uturu to University of Johannesburg South Africa will set you back N53, 510.00 (all fees and charges included).

I commend Nigerian entrepreneurs like EXT-NG who are helping provide Nigerians efficient services where the government and its institutions failed.

Tell us your experience obtaining transcripts from Nigerian universities.

If you landed on this page because you are trying to obtain your transcript from a Nigerian university, I wish you the best of luck and wish you success in your career and academic pursuits. Ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

Amara Opurozor, Weight Loss Expert, Talks about How Keto Has Brought Health and Wealth to Nigerians

Amara discusses with me how keto has helped transform her country, Nigeria, getting a people whose staple crops are yam, cassava and rice to eat more protein, vegetable, and fat.

 

Ama opening pic

Amara, thank you for granting this interview. Please let’s get to know you.

I live in Lagos, Nigeria from where I run a weight loss and wellness group on Facebook called KETOLCHFNIGERIA with the support of my husband, who is also an administrator on the page. I coach people on weight loss and healthier living through a low-carbs high-fat ( LCHF) way of eating. Before starting the group, my career was in operations and marketing in the telecommunication and banking sectors. I have also done a lot of professional courses including one I concluded in project management last year. My focus right now, though, is to get as many people as possible to achieve optimal health without the burden of hitting the gym or counting calories.

Given that you have no background in healthcare, or even nutrition management, what motivated you to adopt wellness coaching as a career?

I didn’t set out to make a career out of this way of eating. But it happened that I needed to lose weight for medical and other reasons. I was obese and my midsection was too big to conceal under any decent wear. After having my three kids, my stomach became very big that I was often referred to as “iya ibeji” (pregnant woman). I looked 6 months pregnant even when I wasn’t expecting. While I discourage body-shaming and agree that what matters more is what’s on the inside, I must admit that I felt uncomfortable around people because of my weight. An air hostess actually told me once to sign an undertaking on air for being a safety risk. She thought, and for good reasons too, that I was expecting and far along in the pregnancy. It was that bad. Sometime in 2016, I met someone living the lifestyle and I found out that she was losing weight just by eating right. That was how my journey began.Through consistency and determination, I achieved my goal. I started by reading and researching. I found out the lifestyle worked and I officially started in May 2016. I was weighing 92kg (203 pounds) and I’m just about 5’4”. In just 3 month into the lifestyle, I weighed 75kg (165 pounds) and my stomach reduced significantly. I presently weigh 70kg (154 pounds) and that’s my desired weight.

Ama Before After Trad

Could you explain to the uninitiated what keto or LCHF is in a nutshell?

LCHF means Low Carb, High Fat. This means that those who adopt this way of eating, eat low carbohydrates usually in forms of veggies, high healthy fats, and moderate protein.

It could be strict which requires consumption of less than 20 gram carbs of carbs per day, moderate which allows 20 to 50 grams of carbs, or 50-100 grams per day for those who adopt the lifestyle liberally.

The level one adopts depends on what one wants to achieve. The idea behind this diet is to reduce to the barest minimum, the sugar we consume daily. Sugar has been recently discovered to be the root of most ailments. Since energy can also be derived from eating healthy fats, why eat lots of sugar and stand the risk of type 2 diabetes and other ailments?

What are the benefits of embarking on this lifestyle?

The benefits are enormous including fast weight loss, reduced hunger, better blood sugar control (Dr. Bernstein is the leading advocate for the usefulness of using this lifestyle to manage diabetes; He is a type 1 diabteic himself), fertility issues especially polycystic ovary syndrome, enhanced cognitive performance, age reversal, reduced risk of heart disease etc. In addition, because of the weight loss benefit, it helps manage high blood pressure. It helped me manage mine so I no longer need nor take high blood pressure medication.

What’s the science behind it?

A keto diet makes it easier for the body to use its fat reserves, as their release is no longer blocked by high insulin levels. This is one reason why eating fat produces a feeling of longer-lasting satiety than carbohydrates. It’s been shown in a number of studies: When people eat all they want on a low carb diet, caloric intake typically drops. Because of the high fats, they feel more satiated and tend to eat less, hence the drop in weight. So, no counting or food weighing is necessary. You can forget about the calories and trust your feelings of hunger and satiety. Most people don’t need to count or weigh their food any more than they need to count their breathing.

With diabetes eliminating sugar and foods that eventually convert to sugar—mainly carbs—is like a no-brainer to achieving normal blood sugar levels, thus eliminating all the complications that come with high blood sugar levels. I think that’s common sense. Dietdoctor.com is a rich resource for those who need to research further on how low-carb diet helps eliminate the need for medications in diabetics.

 You started your Facebook Group KetoLCHFNigeria less than a year ago and you now have over 15,000 members. I know a thing or two about running online campaigns and I know it is not always easy to sell such an unconventional idea to people, so what is the secret of your success?

Yes, I started the group in October 2016 because of the need I saw around me. As I got transformed, a lot of people asked me daily what I was doing, how I did, what I ate. I got so many calls, WhatsApp and Facebook messages etc. I spent quite some time explaining to them, using up my airtime which is still pay-as-you-go in Nigeria. I added so many of the people inquiring about the lifestyle to my parent group. I found out that they kept asking me further questions. I decided to create my own Facebook page. It has not been easy maintaining an online presence. But what moves the group forward is that the people who are adopting the lifestyle are seeing results. Another thing I do is make sure I write extensively on the things I preach. If I tell you to eat high fats, I do an extensive post on why you should eat healthy fats, the pros and cons, etc. With that people are convinced and they go on to introduce other people.

 

Besides the health benefits, I notice that LCHF has opened up a new way of income for coaches, vendors, etc. What business opportunities do you see this way of eating creating in Nigeria in the next five years?

In the next five years, I see so many people becoming self-employed, producing keto compliant foods like coconut flour and vegetable swallows—and they already doing so. There are now Youtube channels for preparing keto-complaint Nigerian meals. I also see most of our markets are now flooded with keto products; importers changing their import priorities. In the future, I envisage restaurants selling basically keto and low carbs meal in every nook and cranny of this country. I see entrepreneurs sprouting up daily producing foods to support this lifestyle.

 

What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge for people who want to get on this lifestyle, but who seem to never get around to it?

The greatest challenge, I think, is discipline. Many can’t get around to eating this way because they are not ready to give up noodles, pasta, fufu , pap, spaghetti, and the likes. Some complain that their challenges are finances but I don’t think it is the greatest of other challenges.

I just got my lab results and my cholesterol is normal despite my being on this lifestyle. But there are concerns in some quarters that high consumption of oil in the LCHF lifestyle may lead to adverse health effects like high cholesterol, what do you say to that?

So many people raise such concern but the truth is that this lifestyle does not encourage just any fat. It encourages high healthy fats which includes saturated (lard, tallow, chicken fat, duck fat, goose fat, clarified butter / ghee, butter, ,palm oil ,coconut oil), monounsaturated (avocado, macadamia and olive oil), and polyunsaturated omega 3s, especially from animal sources (fatty fish and seafood). These fats do not impact negatively on your HDL (high density lipoproteins (HDL/the “good” Cholesterol) neither does it increase the LDL (low density lipoproteins (LDL/the “bad” one negatively. LDL is a lipoprotein and delivery man as well. It transports cholesterol after production from the liver to the body’s tissues. This diet could increase the HDL which is not bad at all. This is opposed to the unhealthy fats that increases our LDL. Anyone who already has cholesterol issues shouldn’t really bother about the healthy fats because they are good for everyone. But to allay any fears, people should always seek the advice of their doctors. Doctors are always in the right position to advise better.

What services do you provide to members of your group and others starting this journey?

We empower members through daily update on the page on relevant issues about the lifestyle. Remember they say information is power. We have several meal plans on the page to assist beginners; we make all the products easily accessible to members through our different vendors as most of the products are yet to be easily sourced in the local or open markets. We also offer specialized coaching and customized meal plans for members who are serious about achieving result especially in terms of weight loss.We also organize boot camps for a token where participants are camped in groups for usually 30 days and are coached intensively to achieve results. We also have one –one –one counseling for those who are still skeptical about embracing the lifestyle. We have an email(ketolchfnigeria@gmail.com) through which we can address other concerns. And this month, May 2017, we plan to do a free 20 day challenge, to coach as many people as possible especially those who cannot afford our paid boot camp services.

Are there people who may need close monitoring by a doctor while they are on this lifestyle?

Yes, I usually advise people especially those with peculiar health issues like HBP, diabetes, cholesterol issues, infertility and the likes to see their doctors first and speak to them especially if they are on any medication. This is important so that the doctor may monitor their progress and probably reduce the dosage of their current medication as they progress. I also encourage them to run some tests and do a trial for a month and then go back to check again. Most times, their status improve.

What motivates you to keep helping people? I notice you spend a lot of time on your Facebook group informing and answering questions from your clients.

The most motivating factor is that I receive messages almost on a daily basis from people I have never met thanking me and praying for God’s blessings on me; sometimes they pray for me over the phone and all I could do is just cry and praise God. One called and told me that I saved her life that she didn’t know how to pay me back, just after our 30 days boot camp. It’s enough motivation for me to do more.

Which client’s success story has touched you the most?

I have had so many touching stories. I will tell you two of such from the Reborn boot camp that ended two months ago. The client was so fat that she stopped working. She also had breathing problems. She said she had tried so many medications. She doesn’t live in Nigeria. She was only allowed to work for only three hours daily at least to support her family. Just 3 weeks into the boot camp, her breathing normalized and she resumed work full time. She lost 9kg (20 pounds) in 30 days. After she told me her story, I understood why she constantly told me that I saved her life. Another one that touched me too was one of the boot campers whose period seized for 3 years. Her period stopped coming after she did family planning. Just one week into the boot camp, her period resumed. She couldn’t believe it that she called me to share her joy.

What’s your goal for KetoLCHFNigeira in the next five years?

I hope the group would have touched uncountable lives, have members running in hundreds of thousand, and have vendors all over Nigeria. We presently have in seven States inlcuding Lagos, Abuja, Rivers, Abia, Imo ,Enugu and Anambra.We are looking forward to signing Ogun , Delta and Edo soon. KetoLCHFNigeria shall have its own website, online shop and would have become a household name.

Many Nigerians feel that embarking on this journey limits their food choices. What do you say to them and do you have a meal plan tailored to Nigerians?

I too thought I would feel deprived until I started the lifestyle. But I now realize I have more food options than when I was bingeing on carbs. On LCHF, one has so many options on all classes of food; any food we eat on high carb diet has a perfect replacement in low carbs. For example, you can ditch the buns and wrap your burger in lettuce, etc. The diet makes one creative and a super chef too. We have tailored meal plans for Nigerians who seek to embrace the lifestyle.

Are you open to accepting clients who are not resident in Nigeria?

Yes. We accept clients from Nigeria and all over the world. Our last boot camper who lost 9kg lives in London.

Any Special Note to diabetic patients? I consider its reversal of diabetes keto’s greatest benefit. What is the greatest mistake diabetics make in their food choices?

Ketogenic diet is perfect for diabetic patients. I coach diabetic patients. Before they start, I usually insist they meet with their doctors and run some necessary tests before they begin. And most times, their medications go down drastically after the first month. One of the greatest mistakes diabetic patients make is avoiding the obvious foods loaded with carbs like pasta, rice, bread, fries but still eating foods that are high in sugar, example fruits like water melon, that are loaded with fructose. For complete reversal of diabetics and to get off medication, patients may need to stop all fruits except avocados and berries. Even beans, unripe plantain, wheat, and all carbohydrates even those with seemingly low glycemic index should be given up. Replacing healthy fats with carbohydrate for energy will be a more lasting solution to diabetes.

And for High Blood Pressure Patients?

Ketogenic lifestyle may be the most effective remedy for lowering blood pressure naturally. In some cases it may even normalize blood pressure completely. If you’re on blood pressure medication and start a low-carb diet there’s a risk of getting low blood pressure. You may relatively quickly become too healthy for your medication. This blood pressure lowering effect on low carbs can happen within days, but it may also take months or even a year to reach full effect. If you feel weak, tired, dizzy etc. you should check your blood pressure. If it’s low, e.g. below 120/80, you should contact your doctor to discuss lowering or stopping your medication for just weight loss.

What advice do you have for people who are yet to adopt this lifestyle?

Well, LCHF is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle and not a quick fix. If you are adopting it, you are embracing healthier life, optimal weight and good looks. It’s a must embrace, no one loses anything trying. Anyone who has questions can email me at ketolchfnigeria@gmail.com or contact me on WhatsApp at +234-803-471-4137.

Thank you, Amara, for introducing me to this lifestyle.

You’re welcome. Thank you too.

Five Reasons Why Maje Ayida Has No Case Against Toke Makinwa

For those unfamiliar with the facts, in June 2015, news broke that On-Air Personality Toke Makinwa’s husband, Maje Ayida, had gotten his mistress pregnant. While Makinwa filed for divorce from her husband, she remained largely silent about the incident until November 2016 when she published her now best-selling memoir On Becoming chronicling events that led to the end of her marriage. In the book, Makinwa alleged, among other things, that Ayida cheated on her repeatedly throughout their relationship and that he infected her with STI on at least two occasions.

In February 2017, a letter purportedly written by Ayida’s lawyers to Makinwa surfaced demanding that Makinwa stop selling and promoting the book or risk being sued by Ayida. Ayida’s lawyers alleged that Makinwa made certain misrepresentations in her memoir and defamed Ayida thereby. In support of their position, Ayida’s lawyers claimed that the couple had signed a legal separation agreement as far back as July 2014, a fact which Makinwa failed to mention in her book.

Ayida’s lawyers denied that Maje had given Makinwa an “STI in the past or at any stage in their relationship.” They also noted that it was “highly misleading” for the book to allege that Maje “did not financially contribute adequately” to the marriage.

Ayida’s professional integrity, his lawyers wrote, as one of the leading health and wellness practitioners in Nigeria, and his professional credibility built over the years through dedicated hard work was being negatively affected by the content of the memoir.

In defiance of the lawyers’ demands, Makinwa continued promoting her book and even hosted a tour in London.

Making good on his threat, Ayida through his lawyers instituted a legal action demanding N100 milliom in damages against Makinwa at the Lagos judicial division of the high court, Lagos state.

I have read Makinwa’s memoir and I have considered the issues raised by Maje in his letter (I assume the issues in the lawsuit are same as the ones in the cease and desist letter). I now wear my lawyer hat and tell you five reasons why Maje will have a difficult time winning the lawsuit against Toke.

1. Ayida First Breached His Contract With Toke and Caused Her Monetary damages
Although marriage is a religious institution in Nigeria, it is also a legal union guided by the law of contract, a breach of which has consequences. Ayida and Makinwa celebrated a monogamous marriage under the Marriage Act at the Lagos Registry. An implied term of that contract was that the parties would not have sexual relationships with third parties outside the marriage.

Ayida does not deny that he had sexual relationships with the woman who got pregnant for him thus tacitly admitting said infidelity. So it is not in dispute that Ayida breached his marriage contract with Toke.

Ayida’s breach of the contract had adverse consequences on Makinwa’s career. Makinwa wrote in her memoir that when the news of Ayida’s infidelity broke in 2015, viewership of her weekly vlogs on Toke Moments plummeted and her brand suffered. In the memoir and in the documents she filed in court for her divorce , Makinwa claimed she was days away from sealing a N20 million endorsemnt deal with a telecommunication company when the news of her husband’s pregnant mistress broke in June 2015. When the story came out, however, the company withdrew from the deal for they did not want to be associated with the negative publicity. In the book, Makinwa wrote of how she cried the night the deal was called off and how she wondered why a man she loved so much could hurt her deeply as to take food from her mouth.

While Ayida may assert that he did not intend the adverse consequences his actions had on his then wife, his knowledge that his wife gave advice on relationships in her vlogs is an indication he foresaw how his actions could harm his wife’s brand. Ayida’s actions brought shame and embarrassment to his wife.

To succeed in an action for breach of contract, a party need only prove the existence of a contract, breach by the other party, and damages to the suing party as a result of the breach. Here, there was a marriage contract between Makniwa and Ayida, satisfying the first arm. (Ayida’s reference in his cease and desist letter to a separation agreement the parties signed in 2014 is a weak defense. The said agreement, even if it exists, did not have power to end the marriage relationship. Only death or a dissolution order signed by a court can effectively bring a marriage contract to an end. Moreover, that Ayida and Makinwa coninued to live together after the alleged separation agreement negates any intentions they had towards the agreement.)

The second arm of the requirement for succeeding in a breach of contract agreement is satisfied because Ayida indisputably had sexual relations with another woman during his marriage to Makinwa.

Lastly, regarding damages, but for Ayida’s promisciuoty and infidelity, Makinwa would not have lost her contract with the telecommunication company.

Counter-suing a plaintiff is a very potent defense weapon. If Makinwa’s lawyers want to use this strategy to defend Ayida’s lawsuit, then they have all the elements they need to counter-sue Ayida for damages arising from his breach of his marriage contract with Makinwa. So even if Ayida succeeds in his defamation claim, which is very unlikely, he may still be the one signing check book based on the legal defense of Set-Off ( an equitable defence to the whole or to a portion of a plaintiff’s claim, a set-off is the right of a debtor to balance mutual debts with a creditor.)

2. Truth is a Defense to Defamation Claim
In an article she wrote shortly after Toke published her book , Ivie Omoregie, a Nigerian lawyer and columnist identified the elements necessary to prove the tort of defamation as follows:
a. The plaintiff must show that the defendant made false and damaging statements about them;
b. The plaintiff must show negligence on the part of the defendant in making the statement;
c. The plaintiff mush show that the defendant was not protected by the rules governing “privileged publications” to third parties;
d. Where claiming special damages (i.e a loss of specific revenue directly resulting from the defamatory publication), the plaintiff must show evidence of the special damages being claimed.

The first prong shows that truth is a defense to an action for defamation .

Thus if a statement of fact is true, then there can be no claim for defamation. As Omoregie explained:
“where the defendant alleges and can show that the statement is a reflection of the truth, then this will serve as a viable defense. I must stress that the entirety of the statement need not be literally true for this defence to stand. What the courts require, is for the statement to be substantially true. Thus, where there may have been some embellishments to the “gist”, as long as the majority of the statement is substantially true. Truth will stand as an affirmative defense.”

Hence as Ayida has neither denied having relationship with the woman in question nor the paternity of the love child, Ayida’s claim of defamation has little basis .

Even if Ayida proves that he had no SDI, in contradiction to Makinwa’s allegation in the book, his infidelity is a far weightier allegation than the transmission of a SDI. So his reputation suffered more from his sexual indiscretion than from alleged infection. Same goes for his claim that Makinwa misrepresented the extent of his financial contribution to their family during the marriage.

3. Maje’s Reputation and Finances Were Damaged Before Makinwa Published Her Memoir

To succeed in an action for defamation, in addition to the requirement that the statement made by defendant be false, a Plaintiff must show he suffered damages. Here, Ayida must prove that he lost his reputation because of revelations Makinwa made in her memoir. But it does not seem to be the case here. As stated earlier, Makinwa published her memoir in November 2016, but well before then, in June 2015, a popular Nigerian blogger, Stella Dimoko Korkus, reported the news.

Indeed, in her book, Toke wrote that the blogger called her to give her a heads-up before the blogger published the embarrassing news. Makinwa’s account of the call was the most heartbreaking portion of the book for me. .

So in suing Makinwa, Ayida is barking up the wrong tree. Stella Dimoko Korkus who published the story first in June 2015–more than a year before Makinwa did–may be a more appropriate defendant.

Moreover, a month before Makinwa released her memoir, in October 2016, in an interview posted online on October 7, 2016 , Ayida made comments suggesting that his reputation and business had taken a hit because of the events surrounding his break-up with Makinwa.

When asked about the media attention he had the previous year, he said:
“I had a very dramatic year last year. I am kind of slowly trying to climb out of that hole. How did I deal with it? I focused on my work. I put my work forward and allowed that speak for me. A couple of the big brands I work with got a bit spooked. Business wasn’t actually kicking.”

Asked whether it was fair for him to have been in the face of the media at the time, Ayida said:

“I think it’s life. I think it happens. If you are in the media for the wrong reason, it’s going to affect you.”

4. Ayida May be Liable To Makinwa in Damages for the STI

Besides Maje being liable to Toke for breach of contract as discussed in No. I above, Ayida may also be liable to Toke in Torts (civil wrong) for infecting her with an STI.

In her memoir, Makinwa wrote that Ayida infected her with STI. She wrote of a particular time when Ayida returned from a trip and after they had sexual intercourse, she started itching a few days later. Makinwa wrote that she went to the doctors and was prescribed medication, but when she asked Ayida about the infection, he denied knowing anything about it. Toke wrote that when she went through Ayida’s phone, however, she saw a conversation Ayida had with his mistress where she complained that she had been itching. According to Toke, the conversation read like the report was not news to Ayida but more like an update from his paramour on a situation he already knew about.

The details in the account suggest that it is not a made-up story, and given the electronic communication trail, Makinwa can easily prove the allegation thus making Ayida even more liable to her in monetary damages. In some jurisdictions, women win hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions against sexual partners who infect them with STI. Infecting someone with an STI without their consent is considered a civil wrong, and can lead to criminal prosecution in some jurisdictions. So Makinwa has a claim to counter Ayida’s.

5. Even Though Maje and Anita May Succeed in Breach of Privacy Claims as Regards the SDI Claim; This Could Easily Be Offset by Their Liability to Makinwa

Of all the claims Maje may make against Makinwa, the one that holds water is an invasion of a privacy claim.

As rightly stated by Uduak Oduok, a Nigerian practicing law in California, there are four ways to invade a person’s privacy:
a) through use of that person’s image or name for commercial advantage;
b) intruding on the person’s affairs or seclusion;
c) publishing facts that place that person in a false light; and
d) publicly disclosing private facts about that person.

Of the four ways, D, publicly disclosing private facts about a person, seems to be the most viable claim Ayida may have. So even if he did have an SDI, he and Anita had the right to privacy to not have this fact made known to the public.

Section 37 of the Nigerian constitution guarantees a person’s right to privacy including the privacy of their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications.

While by reason of her marriage to Ayida, Makinwa may not have violated the constitution when he read Ayida’s email/phone chats without his consent, making public the content of Ayida’s electronic conversation makes Makinwa vulnerable to an invasion of privacy claim from both Ayida and Anita.

That said, Ayida’s liability for breach of contract and infecting Makinwa with STI dimnishes any claim he may have for invasion of privacy.

As regards any claim Ayida’s paramour may have, Makinwa may offset such claim by counter suing her for the of tort enticement or alienation of affection for the role she played in breaking up her marriage. In some jurisdictions, these torts are maintainable against third parties who interfere with the marriage relationship.

The best form of Defense is an attack. If Makinwa’s attorneys get on the offensive and counter sues Ayida for the torts above, Makinwa would have won half the battle.

P:S. Although the above is written by a lawyer, it’s a mere opinion. Laws vary by jurisdiction and the opinion expressed may not apply to your particular case. Please consult a lawyer if you need legal advice.

Dear Nigerian Lawyers, Here’s How to Market Your Law Practice Without “Advertising”

The 2007 Nigeria Rules of Professional Conduct for Nigerian Lawyers prohibit certain types of advertising by Nigerian lawyers. For example, a lawyer is not allowed to distribute circulars and bills, or advertise on TV and newspapers.

However, the Rules also provides that a lawyer may write articles for publications, or participate in radio and television programmes in which he gives information on the law.

Interpreting the above, a lawyer may write informative blog posts, newspaper articles, etc. educating people on their rights, which is a form of content marketing.

Content marketing is defined by Content Marketing Institute as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching products or services, a business delivers information that makes a buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if businesses deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, buyers ultimately reward the organizations with their business and loyalty.

Forbes reports that 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing. Content marketing is used by some of the greatest marketing organizations in the world, including P&G, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and John Deere.

When I was growing up in Nigeria in early 2000’s, for example, there was a campaign by a leading toothpaste manufacturing company which advised people to brush morning and night. Instead of pitching how good their product was, the company took used TV and billboard ads to show monstrous creatures emerging from foul-smelling mouths at night. Without directly telling people to buy their products, the company taught people the importance of good oral hygiene and the need to brush also at night, not just in the morning.

The campaign influenced me to start brushing my teeth at night. Using this strategy, the company perhaps doubled its sales without directly telling their audience to buy their products. Content marketing works because people do not see it as a sales pitch and so are more likely to let down their guard when exposed to it.

Also, this August, Intel Nigeria launched a new campaign: “With a Computer, You are Powerful.” Rather than focus on their products, the campaign enlightens audience on the the many uses of a computer and showcases the new generation of successful Nigerians You-tubers and bloggers who are using computers to make millions of naira, thereby educating consumers.

With the advent of internet, content marketing has become even more effective because people research online to find answers to various problems including legal, medical and financial issues. For example, if someone wants to incorporate their company in Nigeria, it’s likely they will google “How to incorporate a company in Nigeria” and not “Law firms that incorporate companies in Nigeria.”

From the above example, if there are two law firms that render company incorporation services in Nigeria, SEO will favor the lawyer whose website contains step-by-step procedure for incorporating a company in Nigeria rather than the lawyer’s who simple states somewhere in his website that he has a “Corporate practice.”

Given an opportunity to choose between the two law firms, a potential client is more likely to patronize the lawyer who already shows, through his blog posts, that he knows what is required to incorporate a company. By writing detailed posts on services they provide, lawyers are likely to attract clients who are researching on the types of services the lawyers render.

In Nigeria where laws are rarely enforced because people are unaware of laws that protect their rights, lawyers who embrace content marketing will, besides promoting their practice, also be providing a much needed service of educating Nigerians of their rights.

For example, Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011 makes it a crime for landlords (in certain parts of Lagos) to collect more than one year rent in advance. The law also provides that a tenant who feels his rent has been unreasonably increased can petition the court. I wager that 90% of Lagos residents are unaware of this law. A lawyer who writes about this can generate traffic to his website and engage readers who will turn into potential clients.

Also, for the past two years, following the oil bust, oil companies in Nigeria have been terminating their employees’ contracts in large numbers. I never knew this could be illegal until I read a BellaNaija post by Ivie Omoregie on the due process these oil companies must follow before firing an employee. From the post, I learned that before letting an employee go, an oil company must seek consent from the Minister of Petroleum. One wonders how many oil workers didn’t fight back and lost their jobs because they were unaware of this law.

Moreover, a business that engages in content marketing establishes itself as a leader in the industry. Festus Keyamo and Femi Falana are among the most visible Nigerian lawyers because they talk about human rights on TV and newspapers. They have established themselves as authorities in the industry and anyone who has a human rights case naturally thinks of them because of their perceived expertise.

Content marketing is already popular among U.S. firms and is used by 90% of law firms. However, I researched most of the leading law firms in Nigeria and did not find one that provided the type of quality and consistent blogging needed to get a Return on Investment from content marketing.

For a high ROI through content marketing, a law firm should

1. Create quality blog posts using examples and scenarios.
2. Write articles commenting on important decisions by the Supreme court.
3. Hijack news by providing legal opinion on the latest celebrity gossip.
4. Prepare a time-table scheduling consistent blog posts, for example, weekly etc.
5. Guest post educative legal blogs on popular Nigerian blogs.

Besides generating new clients, content marketing also opens up opportunities. I got my present day job through someone who read one of my blog posts. I wrote about other importance of blogging here.

Although this post is targeted at Nigerian lawyers, I hope this post inspires all small businesses to consider content marketing as an advertising strategy as it has proven more effective than traditional marketing.

These Nigerian Celebrities Prove that Unrelaxed Black Hair is “New School”

chioma akpotha

Before the dawn of 21st century, afro-textured hair was unpopular. In Nigeria, it was associated, in a derogatory manner, with Deeper Life Christians. But in recent time, the trend which was once seen as unsophisticated is now popular among elites. A hair type which once characterized women deemed not well-versed in the ways of the world is now worn by the most knowledgeable.

According to Wikipedia, “going natural,” is now so popular that hair care suppliers have seen a rapid decrease in the purchase of relaxers, the chemical hair straightener. An industry that was once worth an estimated $774 million in relaxer sales have gone down 26% over the last five years, says a 2013 numbers report. Sales are estimated to decrease to 45% by 2019. Brands are lowering their production of relaxers and instead are producing more natural-friendly products.

Bringing it close to home, I present to you ten (or twelve, depending on how you count it) influential Nigerians who are leading the Natural hair movement.

1. Chimamanda Adichie
adichie

I her 2013 novel, Americanah, Chimamanda made a case for accepting black women’s hair the way it grows from their scalp. Walking her talk, Chimamanda now rocks her hair in stylish natural ways.

Here’s what Adichie has to say about natural hair:

“Many of us say our natural hair is too hard, too difficult. But that’s because we weren’t taught how to care for our hair. I have discovered the wonders of coconut, castor, shea, even honey for softening hair. Trick is add it when your hair is wet! You get wonderful softness!

Relaxers are not about softness. They are really about texture. Otherwise there are ways to soften hair without permanently changing the texture of hair.”

2. Genevieve Nnaji
Genevieve-Nnaji-London-Natural-Hair-November-2014-BN

Genevieve Nnaji is perhaps Nigeria’s most influential actress. With over two million Instagram followers, her influence is widely felt when she sets or associates with a trend. While I didn’t find any statement regarding natural her attributed to the the rather reticent actress, popular Nigeria blogs, including Bellanaija have carried numerous headlines of Nnajis’ transition to natural hair.

3. Kate Henshaw
kate

If you consider that it’s been twenty-three years since When the Sun Set, Kate’s first movie, you will realize that this Nollywood beauty is aging gracefully, not that she’s too old at 45.

Besides sharing her fitness routine with her Instagram followers, the beauty also discusses her natural hair journey on her page. In a recent post she wrote: “We are all different. Genes and all. We all will not have thick, long hair.. some are soft and curly, some are wiry and coarse. The important thing is to maintain good hair routines that will keep your hair healthy.”

4. Dakore Egbuson
dakore

Long before her colleagues joined the natural hair trend, Dakore Egbuson wore dreadlocks– a hair style that made her unusually visible in the industry. Although the gorgeous mother of two cut her dreadlocks a few years ago, she still wears her natural hair.

She had this to say about cutting her locks: “I made up my mind that I wanted to wear dreadlocks, and when I was tired of it, I decided to cut it. My husband did not want me to cut my hair; he wanted our children to meet me with the hair. I dance to the beat of my own drum and my path is different from every other person’s. I have my own mind; if I let people shape my opinions of myself, I will not be authentic to myself.”

She deserves credit for seeing the beauty in natural hair long before the rest of us started appreciating it.

5. Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha
chioma akpotha

Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha, the Nigerian actress with the girl-next-door disposition, started her natural hair journey in 2014.

Pictured above (middle) with her Wives on Strike colleagues (Uche Jombo, left and Omoni Oboli, right, who also happen to be naturalistas), the actress wrote about her natural hair journey in her Instagram page some days ago thus:

“@YellowSisi got me gushing all over my hair yesterday , all day! Her “special” touch makes you wonder how she really does it! For anything that has to do natural hair @yellowsisi is there for you. Follow her and you’d be glad you did. For my not so secret to my healthy hair, stay tuned for a post on the products I have used from when I transitioned till this point!. #naturalhair #TeamNatural”

In another post a week earlier, the Early Marriage actress wrote about how she almost gave up midway into the journey: “I’ve been feeling good about my hair all day. It’s been quite some journey from Dec’14 . I did a not so big chop in December 2014 and started the perm to natural transition. It was hard and quite tiresome. I almost gave up especially when it was difficult to comb when the new growth started coming in March 2015.

Now when I look back I’m so glad I didn’t give up! I absolutely love my hair. So with 1 year and 4months on, I believe I can fly.Once you set your mind on something and don’t give up, with time you’d get there gradually.” #NaturalHair #Naturalista”

@YellowSisi, The Instagram user she gave a shout out to also has Kate Henshaw as a client. No doubt, she seems to know her onions.

6. Nse Ikpe Etim

nse ikep etim

I fell in love with Nse Ikpe Etim the first time I saw her on screen. The banker-turned-actress in one of the most influential Nigerian natural hair promoters. She had this to say about her natural hair:

“I don’t wear dreadlocks, it is just my natural hair that you are seeing. I twist it and loose it when I choose to. I do not fix a weave-on because it is artificial. I carry my hair most of the time, except when I have to attach something else to it. If I am playing a role in a home video film, I wear another hairstyle.”

As I can’t miss an opportunity to emphasize the need to follow one’s passion, here’s what Nse said about quitting her banking job for acting:

“I don’t think I remember the year I quit banking. But when I decided it was not longer what I wanted to do I had to leave. I was doing the same thing everyday. I was not passionate about it and I think if you want to earn a living, you should be passionate about what you do.”

She is inspiring in so many ways.

7. Sisiyemmie

Sisi-Yemmie-Bn-Fro-Friday-July-2016-BellaNaija0025

By now, you know how much I love Sisiyemmie. I listed her in my favorite people on the web here.

In an interview with Bellanaija the beautiful blogger who wore her natural her even for her wedding said she will never go back to relaxing her hair.

When asked what she loved most about natural hair, she said: “I love how versatile natural hair can be, I can have it straight today if I want and get it kinky tomorrow. I also love how thick it has become, well, thicker than when I was relaxed. There is a certain look you have when you’re rocking well styled natural hair-you look healthy!”

If you haven’t checked her out, please check her website here. I haven’t missed an episode of her more than now 50 weekly vlogs!

8. Yagazie Emezi

yagazie

Yagazie was also among the people I listed as one of my favorite people in the web. The young Nigeria who combines photography with art has an unusually long natural hair because of her Malaysian gene which she inherited from her mother.

Speaking on natural hair, Yagazie said in this clip : “Good hair all has to do with hair care, good hair has to do with how you take care of your hair regardless of whatever hairstyle you have on or what length your hair is…It doesn’t always mean that because you have long hair that you have healthy hair.”

Given how gorgeous Yagazie’s hair is, she’s definitely one to take hair advice from.

9. Eki Ogunbor

eku

Eki joined BellaNaija team this year and she has become a favorite of many even landing an endorsement with a luxury homeware company.

About her natural hair journey she said, “I transitioned for 6 months but I did the big chop after. I did this because I wanted to get a feel of my hair texture before committing to the journey and I did the big chop because I really wanted to see what I’d look like with really short hair. My family was really shocked when I cut off all my hair, others were really angry because I had long relaxed hair.”

About her hair routine she wrote, “I always have one protective style or the other which I get done at O’Naturals natural hair salon and they take good care of my hair there because I don’t always have time to do it myself. They also advice on the hair care routine that’s best for the style I have on and how to prolong it’s neatness till my next visit. Between protective styles, I wash and deep condition with different products like the Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla range, the Cantu Shea Butter range especially the co-wash shampoo and Herbal Essences Hello Hydration range. I also use a lot of Coconut Oil (hair and scalp), Castor Oil (mostly scalp) and Shea Butter (hair, to seal in moisture).”

Eki is definitely one to look out for.

10. Adanna Ohakim

Adanna o

I saved the best for last. Adanna doesn’t just rock natural hair, she teaches others how to take care of it. I’m wearing a kinky twist I braided myself. Thanks to Adanna and her many tips.

Seeing these pictures may inspire you to consider transitioning. When you decide. here’s a list that contains natural hair salons and beauty shops in several cities in Nigeria.

If you are in Lagos, I think O’Naturals is a good place to go. People recommend it.

So what are your thoughts?

P.S If you are a hair dresser who works with natural hair, please write your contact in the comments section so people will find you. Black hair rocks!

When Judges Google Evidence, Do Inadmissible Evidence Remain “Unadmitted”?

Yesterday, I was working on a jury instruction, a portion of it read:
“You must decide the facts based on the evidence admitted in this trial. Do not do any research on your own or as a group. Do not use dictionaries, the Internet, or other reference materials. Do not investigate the case or conduct any experiments. Do not contact anyone to assist you, such as a family accountant, doctor, or lawyer. Do not visit or view the scene of any event involved in this case. If you happen to pass by the scene, do not stop or investigate. All jurors must see or hear the same evidence at the same time. You must not let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence your decision”
–the same standard expected of Judges.

A Hard Call
But do Judges and Jurors follow this age-old tenet of the adversarial legal system in reaching decisions? What factors, besides the evidence presented at trial, influence Judges’ decisions? Their upbringing? Religious Beliefs? Political ideology? Why did the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia vote against gay marriage, predictably, and Sonia Sotomayor in its favor, naturally?

The scholarly analysis of judging has historically revolved around this central question: How much of judicial decision-making depends on legal reasoning? Do Judges, after finding the relevant facts of the case, consult legal rules and then arrive at their decision? What if instead of using legal rules to decide their cases, Judges rather use those rules to justify their decisions and not to arrive at them? What if instead of using only statutory legal rules, Judges often rely on policy principles not found in law books?

And a question peculiar to twenty-first century: What if Judges reach decisions based on evidence they found on the internet?

“Unhearing” Evidence
As instituted, the adversarial legal system expects a Judge, in ruling on a case, to ignore everything he knows and rule solely on evidence presented before it. So, for example, a Judge whose wife’s Ph.D research two years prior found with 99% certainty that talcum powder does not cause ovarian cancer, is expected to ignore his wife’s doctoral thesis (which he’d have heard tens of times over dinner) when sitting on a case between Johnson & Johnson and women alleging talcum powder caused them cancer. Except the defense does its home work, the Judge may be impelled to give judgment to Plaintiffs, contrary to his belief, and possibly, the truth.

But can a Judge, in fact, will himself to ignore the truth he knows and give evidence against it? Consider another part of the jury instructions:
“The attorneys’ questions are not evidence. Only the witnesses’ answers are evidence. You should not think that something is true just because an attorney’s question suggested that it was true.
Each side had the right to object to evidence offered by the other side. If I sustained an objection to a question, you must ignore the question. If the witness did not answer, you must not guess what he or she might have said or why I sustained the objection. If the witness already answered, you must ignore the answer.”

By the letters in bold, the Judge is in fact telling the jury to “unhear” an answer given to a question an objection to which he sustained. Can a jury really disregard such evidence if they found it compelling?

Here’s a scenario: In a trial in which a man is facing trial for murder for stabbing the deceased to death with a knife, the defense counsel has information that the Prosecution’s “eye witness” was not in fact at the scene of the incidence at the exact moment the incident allegedly occurred. During a cross-examination the Defense counsel asks the Prosection Witness:
Counsel: “So where were you at 4:40pm on Sunday, June 28, 2015?” The time the incident occurred.
Witness: “I was in my car outside the deceased’s house”
Counsel: “Where in the deceased’s house did the incident take place?”
Witness: “In his living room.”
Counsel: “At 4:40pm on Sunday, June 28, 2015, when you were in your car, could you see the victim’s living room?”
Witness: “No.”
Counsel: “You know the alleged incident took place at 4:40pm on June 28, 2015?”
Witness: “Yes.”
Counsel: “Please answer “yes” or “No” to the next question. If you were in your car at 4:40pm on June 28, 2015 and the victim’s living room was not visible to you, it is safe to say that you did not witness the incident which allegedly took place in the victim’s living room?”
Witness: “I will say I witnessed the incident because…”
Counsel: “Answer Yes or No!”
Witness: “While sitting in the car, I saw the accused run out from the victim’s house with a bloodied knife.”
Counsel: “Objection, Your Honour! Strike the answer, the answer is not responsive to the question.”
Court: “Objection sustained. Court Reporter, strike the answer. Jury disregard the last testimony from the witness.”

Meanwhile the damage had been done.

Not Every Relevant Evidence is Admissible
Before a court can admit an evidence, it must not only be relevant; it must also be admissible. So an evidence may be relevant but nonetheless inadmissible. Consider the so-called fruit of the poisonous tree in criminal cases. Fruit of the poisonous tree is a legal metaphor in the United States used to describe evidence that is obtained illegally.The logic of the terminology is that if the source (the “tree”) of the evidence or evidence itself is tainted, then anything gained (the “fruit”) from it is tainted as well. Such evidence is not generally admissible in court. So if, for example, police enters a suspect’s home without a search warrant and finds a murder weapon, except the circumstances under which the police entered the house fall under certain exceptions, as compelling an evidence as the murder weapon is, the court will not admit the evidence when the suspect stands trial.

In theory, in the adversarial legal system, however relevant an evidence a Judge found outside the judicial process is, he must ignore the evidence and make a decision based on the evidence and argument presented before him in court. A Judge should never descend into the arena. This rule is necessary to ensure the impartiality of Judges. It also helps appellate courts who must hear appeals based only on arguments made in the lower court.

Going the Extra Mile
While the law has since been laid down that Judges must rely on evidence presented in court, and not on their own investigations, the prevalence of internet makes it hard to draw the line. Can a Judge, for example, google a medical terminology to better understand a medical malpractice case? If the basis of the action is that the doctor did not promptly respond to a “Code Blue” call, can a Judge sitting on the case research on the meaning of the term and the average respond time to determine if the particular doctor is liable?

Without doubt, evidence got off google can sometimes give Judges a better picture than the evidence presented at trial. Here’s an example from a case I came across sometime ago. A man was sued by his Homeowners Association for dues. The man thought his house didn’t have a lot in common with the other homeowners to warrant their insistence that he paid dues for the maintenance of the neighborhood. A Declarations of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R). CC&R’s usually provide for how much dues the homeowners in the association will pay, what they can or cannot keep on their front lawns, etc. The goal of the CC&R in the case, which the homeowner argued he wasn’t bound to comply with, was to maintain the general aesthetics of the neighborhood which translates into good value for the homes.

For that case, after I’d heard the facts, I used Google earth to look at the neighborhood virtually. Viewing the neighborhood, I could see how a Judge’s opinion, if he viewed the neighborhood virtually like I did, could depend on the images captured by Google: If the neighborhood looked well maintained and had common walls, a Judge would be more inclined to rule that the homeowner pays his dues so that others don’t get discouraged and leave the neighborhood to go to ruins. If on the other hand Google Earth shows the neighborhood to be a slum in an inner city, a Judge could care less about the residential subdivision seeing there is nothing left to preserve.

The possibility that an extraneous evidence may sway a Judge is the reason judges are discouraged from investigating cases on their own. That is, a Judge t check the Facebook page of a Plaintiff in a sexual harassment case to see if she partied a lot and had it coming.

However, some Judges give in to the temptation. While researching for this post, I saw this comment left by someone who had read on a post on the subject: “There’s an Administrative Law Judge in my area who does driver license appeals. i.e., people are attempting to get their driver licenses back after a drunk driving conviction. Anyway, at the hearing on the record this Judge looks up the appellant’s Facebook and MySpace accounts. He’ll find pictures of them drinking, hanging out with people drinking, and make comments about how they were so shit faced drunk last Saturday.”

A Lawyer’s Duty
A lawyer has a duty to represent his client competently. Social media has become a way of life. So a lawyer has an obligation to research and make online investigations, both of his client and opposing party. Just as a lawyer advises his client to cover up tattoos, wear shirt and tie and maintain a decent appearance in court, he should also advise his client to not leave incriminating evidence on Facebook and have a ready explanation for ones not within his power to control. If a Judge gives a decision based on what the Judge found on Google, this may also be a ground for a lawyer to appeal a decision that is adverse to his client’s interest.

Not only do lawyers have to worry about an opposing counsel stumbling upon adverse evidence on social media, lawyers should consider that the ultimate arbiter may well believe that Judges do make laws– even if with the help of Google.

P.S: So what’s your opinion? Should Judges be allowed to google evidence?

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Twenty of My Favorite People/Sites on the Web

In other words, people and sites that distract me from blogging when I pick up the laptop to write. In no particular order, I present:

1. BellaNaija.com
uche pedro
Except I make a mental note to discipline myself, I refresh Bellanaija.com several times a day to see what new entry they have posted. The site is Nigeria’s leading blog on entertainment, weddings, career, politics, entrepreneurship etc. Because the site is run by the very decent Uche Perdo, it doesn’t malign celebrities. The comments on the site are always well-thought out. The site won an award in Los Angeles this year as Africa’s best blog. Uche has been featured in both CNN and Oprah Winfrey show because of the blog. Here’s an inspirational post Uche Pedro posted on the blog at the beginning of the year. It will give you an insight into the brain behind the site.

2.Goodreads.com


Goodreads.com is the world’s largest community of book lovers. With so many books around, I visit the site often for recommendations, and ratings for books I am interested in reading.

3. Sisiyemmie.com
Sisiyemie
I have watched all of Sisiyemmie’s more than fifty weekly vlogs. Last month, Sisiyemmie joined Tiwa Savage, AY, Juliet Ibrahim etc., for a sponsored trip to South Africa, and boy did she document the experience for her fans. Vintage Sisiyemmie! Her vlogs and blogs which document her life primarily in Lagos reminds me of why there is just no place like home. By watching her blogs, I know we now have Uber and GPS in Nigeria. She keeps me posted!

4. AbAjournal.com


ABA stands for the American Bar Association. The magazine keeps me up to date on what’s going on in the legal field. From it, I also get tips for law practice. I recommend it to all lawyers , practicing in the U.S. or elsewhere.

5.Smallstarter.com


Smallstarter.com is a website dedicated to small entrepreneurs in Africa. If you consider that the founder is an African entrepreneur himself, you will see why he is in a position to give valuable insight and advice on starting a business in Nigeria. I also follow the site on Facebook. You will be amazed at how many business opportunities await entrepreneurs who are interested in investing in Africa.

6. Writersincharge.com


Writersincharge is run by a young Nigeria who has made millions from freelance writing. I get valuable insight from Bamidele’s tips and nuggets of information.

7. Yagazie Emezi
Yagazie
I am not on Instagram but a day hardly passes that I don’t join Yagazie’s over 86,000 Instagram followers to see what she captured on the street for the day. While others put up beauty and luxury on Insatgram, Yagazie captures every day people through her lenses transforming the mundane into an amazing work of art. You can see this photo of her father’s old kitchen in Aba which she captioned “Stove on stove on stove – Remnants of Home, Aba 2016.”

8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria
The most prominent online encyclopedia, I use Wikipedia to find reliable information on subjects I’m researching. Anything not on Wikipedia is not notbale. On Wikipedia, you can learn about the 1917 apparition of the Virgin Mary in Fatima, or pokemon go. You choose.

9. AdannaDavid
adannatwin
Adanna Ohakim is a medical doctor, has an identical twin, is married to a German, is a naturalista, lives in Ireland, is daughter of a former Imo State governor, and her mum and all her sisters are lawyers. I can’t help but be enthralled when I’m watching a life as interesting as hers through her weekly vlogs, with her more than 150,000 Youtube subscribers. Click the link above to watch her and her twin, Adanma.

10. Bryan Garner


Bryan Garner is the editor of Black’s Law Dictionary. If you want to know the difference between every day and everyday, tweet him and he will tell you. Seriously, he answers questions on twitter and also gives writing tips on his handle. It was from him I took note of the difference between every day and every day, the former being each day and the later, common or normal.

11. AllNigerianrecipes.
abacha
The site has both video and written how-tos on most Nigerian recipes. It has been very useful for me.

12. wau.org.
The Word Among Us is a Catholic magazine. It features daily mass readings and contemporary stories for spiritual growth. I will love to visit it more than I do.

13. The Due Process Advocates.


DPA is a Nigerian Facebook group with over 100,000 members. Although one may question some of the founder’s choices, I’m happy the group is helping secure justice for people who otherwise would have no one to speak for them.

Although I’m not on Instagram, I often visit the following Actors to see what they are up to

14. Genevieve Nnaji
genevieve

15. Eva Longoria
eva longoria

16. Kate Henshaw
kate

I follow Authors 17. Chimamanda Adichie, 18. Chika Unaigwe, 19. Obioma Chigozie, and 20. Akaweke Emezie, on Facebook.

A post like this, written in less than two hours, may not have accurately captured all my interests. I do hope, however, that a site or person listed may become helpful to you in some of your pursuits.

Interests change over time and I imagine that if I do this list in next six months, some people/sites on the list would have been replaced by another. So tell me, what are your favorite people/things on the web?

WANT TO GIVE SPEECHES AS POWERFUL AS MICHELLE OBAMA’S? HERE ARE FIVE TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED

On Monday night, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a rousing speech that is still making headlines today. Compare this with the reaction last week when Melania Trump gave hers. Even before the crowd at the convention center learned that Melania plagiarized Ms. Obama’s speech, half of them were so uninspired by her speech that they left the arena shortly after her speech, midway into the Republican National Convention.

I too was uninspired. I thought that Melania’s speech was not as captivating as Michelle Obama’s was in 2012. So minutes after listening to her speech, I went on social media to see who else shared my sentiments. It didn’t take long to find one. A Facebook friend, a colleague, pointed out how Melania’s speech paled in comparison to Michelle’s. I argued that Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama make eloquent speakers probably because of their profession as lawyers. My friend responded that lawyers are only trained in the act of advocacy, not oratory. Later, in a private moment, I googled Websters–To advocate:to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly. My friend and I had this discussion last week. Since then, Bill Clinton, and Barack and Michelle Obama have given speeches this week that finished to resounding applause.

What makes a good speech? Instead of using her Monday or even 2012 convention speech, I looked online for Michelle’s 2008 Convention speech, her first as an aspiring first lady, just like Melania. I compared the first nine paragraph of Ms. Obama’s 2008 speech with Melania’s. What I found confirmed what I’ve always known: that techniques for effective advocacy can be learned. Here are five tips to help you in making your case–tips that have helped me in my job as an advocate.

1. Start with a story, a quote or a proposition
Your audience decides if you are worth listening to within few minutes of your speech. Captivate them with a story, a quote, a question or a proposition before you lose them. If you look back to memorable sermons from your childhood, you will find that you remember the sermon because of a story, a quote or something new you learned. Each of these makes a promise of something more to come thus making an audience eager to hear more.

Quotes are memorable because they capture in few words an idea that can take pages to convey. For example, a cousin lost her husband recently. I have been struggling with that loss for weeks. Last week, someone posted a picture of the widow and her children in mourning clothes and captioned it: “What cannot be avoided has to be endured.” That quote is one I’m not likely to forget.

A proposition states a theory to be analyzed. So if you start a speech by saying, for instance, “Diabetes is now an epidemic.” You are likely to engage an audience eager to find out what statistics, studies, etc. you are relying on to make that assertion.

When you start a speech by asking a question calling for your audience’s responses, you get the audience involved right away as they will naturally get busy figuring the answer to the question. Once you get them in, it will be harder to lose them.

Stories are my favorite for starting a speech. Here are the first three paragraphs from Michelle’s 2008 and Melania’s 2016 speech.

Michelle’s:
“As you might imagine, for Barack, running for president is nothing compared to that first game of basketball with my brother, Craig.

I can’t tell you how much it means to have Craig and my mom here tonight. Like Craig, I can feel my dad looking down on us, just as I’ve felt his presence in every grace-filled moment of my life.

At 6-foot-6, I’ve often felt like Craig was looking down on me too … literally. But the truth is, both when we were kids and today, he wasn’t looking down on me. He was watching over me.”

Melania’s:
“It’s a very nice welcome and we’re excited to be with you at this historic convention.

I am so proud of your choice for President of the United States, my husband, Donald J. Trump.

And I can assure you, he is moved by this great honor.”

You can tell which of the two is more compelling. With Michelle’s, you are eager to hear more, wondering what Craig has to got to do with Obama winning the presidency. With Melanie’s, you will readily notice that she is stating the obvious, nothing exciting to make you eager to hear more.

2. Show Don’t Tell
Creative writers know that showing and telling is the difference between a good read and an uninteresting one. If you are writing a tribute for a parent for example, telling us that he was the best father and husband anybody could have prayed for is telling us nothing. Every grieving child says that. How about if you tell us that when you were a child, the day your mother went into labor to give birth to your (now) youngest sibling, your father took your mum to the hospital, came home, fed and tucked you and your younger sibling in bed all the while fingering his rosary, praying for your mother whom he couldn’t be with because your parents couldn’t afford a babysitter at the time.

While Melania generally talked about Trump’s love for America without telling us why she came to that conclusion, Michelle, in her 2008 speech, gave concrete examples of Obama’s love for America thus:

“It’s what he did all those years ago, on the streets of Chicago, setting up job training to get people back to work and after-school programs to keep kids safe — working block by block to help people lift up their families.

It’s what he did in the Illinois Senate, moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard-working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work.

It’s what he’s done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades but with good jobs and benefits and health care — including mental health care.”

3. Concede Points to Your Opponent
An audience can tell when one is making an objective argument and when arguments are based on sentiments. When you want to make a case, being objective and presenting arguments in favor of the other side shows you have done your research. It shows yes, you get the other position, but having considered it, you feel your position is a better one.

Once, in a case we tried, an opposing counsel filed a motion with the court requesting attorney fees for over$80,000. This, when the case hadn’t ended as to all parties. Among other arguments we made opposing the motion, we admitted that the dismissed party was in fact entitled to attorney fees, but for less than $3,000. We however requested the court to deny the attorney fees entirely on account of the attorney’s greed in requesting so much when he was entitled to so little. The court ruled the motion in our favor based on this argument. Our conceding that the attorney is entitled to something made us sound fair and it was easy for the judge to agree with us.

Let’s also take Nigerian elections, for example. During the campaigns, Buhari’s supporters that argued that Jonathan may be a decent man but that he was too gentle for Nigeria etc. scored more points in my book than people who simply dismissed Jonathan as corrupt. With his personality, anybody can buy the first argument about the former president but not necessarily the latter argument.

4. Don’t Call Names
Similar to the previous argument, making condescending arguments against your opponent reflects poorly on you than it does on them. In Michelle’s Monday speech, he subtly discredited Trump without once mentioning his name. She merely argued the issues. Her proposition that America needs “someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters” was a subtle reference to Trump’s penchant for tweeting. Also her saying “So don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again” was in obvious reference to Trump whose campaign slogan is “Make America great again.” Yet when Trump was asked about Michelle’s speech, he said that Ms. Obama did an excellent job. Yes, Trump said so. So argue the issues. Don’t attack people.

I learned how important it is to avoid name-calling in law school when we were thought never to commit Fallacy Ad Hominem, i.e, attacking your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument. Yet, in my practice as a lawyer, I made that mistake once and I lost a motion. In other two cases where opposing counsels said not so nice things about me or my firm, they lost the motions too.

When one takes such cheap shot, the arbiter may conclude that the maker have no better argument to make or punish them for being so contemptuous. Anybody can call names; people are convinced more when you back up your arguments with facts. So instead of, for example, calling Buhari a dictator, go straight to the argument and give an example of how he made an executive order without consulting the National Assembly. That will make you sound intelligent and informed, giving you credibility.

5. Get a Law Degree
To advocate means to speak, plead, or argue in favor of. That is what you do each time you try to sell an idea. Lawyers are trained to be advocates. 25 of the 44 U.S. presidents have been attorneys. Need I say more?

Anne Mmeje is a lawyer licensed in Nigeria and California. She is also a freelance writer. To contact her email annemmeje@yahoo.com