Be Inspired: This 24-Year Old Nigerian Without a University Degree Makes More Than N3.5 Million a Month as a Freelance Writer

I don’t remember for sure when and where I first read about Bamidele Onibalusi. It could have been in this 2015 Bellanaija post where he wrote about four ways to make money online. Because he is a success story in a field I am considering for a side hustle–freelance writing–I have been following his works through his blog Writers-in-Charge for the past few years. You can read more about his tale of rags-to-riches in Forbes (featured when he was only 19) and in this Huffington Post interview (2015).

Last year, I joined a closed Facebook group Bamidele created where a challenge required participants to make their first $1,000 as freelance writers in two months. Bamidele took the lead by taking up a pseudonym, not leveraging his reputation as an established writer, and solicited clients as a budding writer. Bamidele finished the challenge well before two months. Several other participants went on to establish their freelance writing careers as a result of that exercise. My other commitments did not permit me to follow through with the challenge. However, the challenge motivated me to contact and do a Skype call with partners from one of Nigeria’s top law firms about a business idea; I moved my blog to my domain name; and with Bamidele’s guidance to all participants, I got my first publication on Huffington post.

Yesterday, I got an email from Bamidele (I am only one of his 55,000 subscribers) and reading the email, I was reminded again of how far one can go if they persist in pursuing their goals. I had recently read portions of Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, a seminal work that shows that grit (:firmness of mind or spirit :unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger), not necessarily hard work, is the most essential element for success. In the email yesterday, Bamidele wrote that he made five figures last month (he lives in Nigeria but has clients in U.S. and charges in dollars). The email inspired me to reflect on my own goals. Here’s the relevant part of Bamidele’s email:

“Hey,

It’s Bamidele Onibalusi here.

It’s probably been awhile since you last heard from me: I’ve gotten emails from readers who have been missing my updates and wanted to check in to see if I am okay.

Yes, I am okay.

This year has been a very different year for me – in a good and challenging way:

First, I incorporated my offline business and took things to a whole different level (I had as many as 14 full-time employees at a point), and I have been scaling my business gradually. If you have read a bit about me, you probably know about my offline business (the catfish farming business). I took things to the next level starting late last year and got into crop farming, too. This meant I started planting yams (over 30,000 heaps), cassava, rice, maize and plantains. Managing the farm as well as my employees wasn’t easy – it takes time to get the hang of things, but I had solace in knowing that once I put a system in place I can slowly withdraw myself.These days, I don’t work at the farm as much as I did in the early days so I’m obviously doing something right. However, it is one of the major reasons I have been silent over here.

Second, schooling; I am doing a degree program in Psychology. It’s fun, and I’ve learnt so much that I blame myself for not having started sooner! However, it takes time too – especially when you decide you want to get distinctions all through (as I decided). I’ll probably finish the program early next year, though, so this will soon be out of the way.

Third, my health; this year hasn’t been the best for me health wise. My health hasn’t always been perfect, but you should see my energy! Even without the best of health, I do significantly more than very healthy people on the average day! 20-hour days have not been uncommon this year, and even on days that I do not work I usually put in more hours than people working a 9 to 5. Not because I am compelled to – by God’s grace, where I am today (thanks to income from this freelance writing thing that I’ve carefully invested into other areas), I could easily decide not to lift a finger for several years and I’d be perfectly okay. In fact, I spent the first two weeks of this year relaxing with my family, doing nothing — simply “being”. The sky didn’t fall over, and my businesses kept growing. However, I’m not gunning for “okay”; I want to be the biggest farmer in Africa and in the world, and that takes some sacrifice… which I’m more than happy to give. When there are health challenges, though, I have to put some things on the backburner even if I’d have loved to do them.

 

… I still actively freelance (just last month I pulled in five figures in income from my freelancing business – despite being busy with a host of activities). I also have really cool stuff planned for you in the coming days and weeks… especially if you are a beginner freelance writer, so you can stay tuned for that.”

Now, the exchange rate from Nigeria naira to U.S. dollar is about N350 to a dollar. If he made five figures, (I know it’s in dollars because I have been following his works and that is closer to what he regularly makes; also he writes for an international audience and so uses American currency as references) that’s at least $10,000 he made in September. That’s how I came to the N3.5m in the title of this post.

As you may have gleaned from his email, Bamidele has qualities that set him up for success. Having followed his works for a while, here are five lessons I have learned from Bamidele on how to be a success story.

Never Give Up

Like Linda Ikeji, Africa’s richest blogger who blogged for more than five years before earning money from writing, Bamidele blogged for at least two years before he made it. As we marvel at his success, it may be easy to forget all the hard work he did in the early years of his career. He succeeded because of his persistence. If Bamidele had given up at any point before his big break, he would not have been the success story he is today. In his quest for success, Bamidele wrote 270 guest posts in one year! He also wrote 30 posts in one particular week. Even though it looked at the time like his efforts were worthless, they did eventually pay off beyond his imagination.

Just like the Chinese bamboo tree I wrote about here, which doesn’t show much sign of growth until much later, all the efforts we make do add up in the long run. If this is true, and if it is also true that we have no crystal ball to determine when we will get our big break, quitting at anytime could be likened to digging for treasure underground, going several feet in, and giving up when the treasure is mere inches away, not knowing that removing a little more dirt will reveal the prize. So Bamidele’s story has taught me to never give up, and that grit is more important than hard work.

Quit Making Excuses

Bamidele started freelance writing around 2010 when internet service was still unstable and a luxury in Nigeria. He wrote from a computer center. He could have easily given up on his goal because of poor network and the money he spent pursuing a goal he wasn’t certain at the time would yield results.  When his freelancing career eventually took off, he wasn’t deterred from writing for American clients even though English is not his first language. He didn’t give up when he realized that PayPal is not supported in Nigeria. His resourcefulness led him to figure out how to produce content comparable to that of native speakers and to find other alternatives for receiving payment for services he provided. Despite the challenges he faces working from Nigeria, Bamidele is more successful than most freelance writers in the U.S.

Confidence

You may have noticed that in real world, it is not always those who excel in school who go on to be the most successful. In my experience, people with type-A personalities, (You know, the confident, aggressive, ambitious, proactive, highly organized, business-like, controlling, highly competitive, preoccupied with his status, time-conscious, workaholic who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence (thanks Wikipedia) and most-likely-to -get-an-MBA type) are more likely to succeed.

An otherwise intelligent hardworking person may not be as successful as Bamidele if they were not as confident as he is. The tone of his email above gives a glimpse into his personality. Bamidele is among the most sought-after freelance writers because he is confident in his skills and has somehow managed to convince us that he is an authority in freelance writing. And he knows his onions. Even when he was still coming up, Bamidele started a blog aimed at telling writers how to become successful bloggers. It took confidence for him to know his worth and establish himself as an authority. He  charges premium rates and command more rates than some writers who are more experienced than he is. I am not the most confident person but seeing how Bamidele exudes confidence and even toots his own horn where necessary,  I now remind myself that no U.S. president (arguably the most difficult job in the world) had experience on the job before they assumed that role. So I have learned to be more confident in my abilities.

Giving Back

Most successful people have passion for helping others which is usually how they achieved success in the first place. Amazon is dominating retail because of Jeff Bezos’ commitment to making the company earth’s most customer-eccentric business. Bill Gates of Microsoft spends most of his money on philanthropy. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has committed to give away 99% of his wealth.  Selflessness underlines the success of these innovators.

In his own way, Bamidele is giving back to the writing community by showing writers, among other things, how to charge what they are truly worth and not settle for peanuts. He committed his time and other resources to run the Facebook challenge for free last year and I can tell you that till now, testimonies keep coming on the page from people who have successfully established freelance writing careers because of his guidance during the challenge. So Bamidele has shown by example that we succeed more when we bring others along with us.

I Already Have What It Takes

Sometimes, fear keeps us from getting what we want. We tell ourselves that we need to get that certification, that degree, that connection etc, before we can succeed. Bamidele pursued a freelance writing career without having a university education. (He is getting a higher education now). I imagine there are many of us who have postgraduate degrees who still feel they are not sufficiently equipped to succeed. Bamidele’s example shows us that we are more competent that we realize; that success is more a function of our attitude than our aptitude.

Henry Ford once said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’tyou‘re right.’
I agree with him.

I hope Bamidele’s story inspires you like it inspired me.

Travel Smart With Attorney Chika Okoroafor: History of Immigration Law Entry Permit (Visa) and Assessment Procedure

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Editor’s note: If you are new to the Travel Smart series, please read this interview I had with Attorney Chika to get a background of the wonderful work she does as an Immigration Lawyer based in Nigeria. She writes this series.

Countries are structured into geographical locations defined by distinctive borders. Generally, every country has a right to protect its border from outside invasion, threats and interference. Threats may be physical, political or economical. Immigration laws protect the borders. In this way, any country (or person) that breaches the immigration law of another would be seen as a threat and every country is within its right to counter such threat(s). Immigration regulations are also used to foster better trade relationships among countries. It is as a tool to forge alliance with or against countries. For example, a Country can temporarily close its border to another country to persuade an oppressive government to relinquish power. Until recently, U.S. had no diplomatic relations with Cuba for decades.

Immigration laws, like every other law, are not stringent. They are reviewed regularly to create, boost or severe interstate relationships, curb imminent economic challenges etc. For example, a country facing a dwindling population may relax its rules to encourage people to migrate to the country. On the other hand, a country faced with an obdurate migrant traffic can put in place strict immigration regulations. A case in point is the recent migration of Nigerian doctors  to Saudi Arabia where their services are in high demand. Canada also has an Express Entry program to encourage skilled workers to migrate to Canada. When you talk to a seasoned immigration lawyer, they can look at your station in life and advise you on which country you will have the most success with.

Further, the relationship between countries can easily be ascertained by the nature of the immigration regulations between them. Close countries and countries that do not pose economic threat to each other have relaxed immigration regulations among them. To check immigration traffic, economically advanced countries effect strict immigration criteria for the economically challenged countries. While in some cases, it may be unethical and breach of several international treaties (e.g right to family reunion, right of asylum etc) for a country to close its border to another country (except of course countries in hostile relationship) every country nonetheless have a right to protect its border to the best of its ability.

Visa is common/general term used for every entry permit granted by a diplomatic mission to nationals of other countries. Countries are at liberty to model their immigration policies to suit their demands. But irrespective of the terms used, all entry permits are basically for two main purpose, visiting/temporary (short-term stay) or permanent resident permit (long-term stay). The right to grant entry permits (commonly called Visas) is invested on diplomatic missions, otherwise known as embassies or high commissions. (Among commonwealth nations, diplomatic missions are called high commission, while Embassies are diplomatic missions from non commonwealth nations)

There are different categories or types of Visas. Categories, nomenclatures and rules ascribed to each category are at the discretion of diplomatic missions. Excluding applicants with privileges (e.g diplomats) .The first thing a visa applicant needs to figure out is the category of visa his application falls under. And the next steps is to be abreast of regulations guiding that category. An applicant must meet requirements for the visa category he or she is applying for before entry permit is granted. After a formal application is made, to determine an applicant’s eligibility, diplomatic missions run their own independent assessment using either of the following approach:

Oral interview
Paper Assessment
Both Oral and Paper Interview

Oral Interview:
Here an applicant is granted audience with officials of the diplomatic mission of his/her interest. An applicant may or may not be required to front load his/her documents before an appointment for an interview is scheduled. Diplomatic missions like U.S use this approach for most of their visa categories. The success of an application  depends predominantly on the applicant’s performance during the interview. Where an applicant has front loaded his information/document prior to the interview, for example, it is important that his responses do not contradict information supplied. Applicant’s demeanour is key because more often than not the interview is based more on psychology than logic. We will have a separate post on tips to have a successful interview and the significance of various body languages.

Paper Assessment
An application can be assessed solely on an applicant’s documents. The United Kingdom high commission adopts this approach for most of their visa categories. Applicants here do not have a right to an audience. Therefore, the importance of proper documentation cannot be over emphasized. While some diplomatic mission (e.g Austria) may write an applicant to get more information or clarification over a pending application, others may not be that generous. Any conflicting or contradicting information detected in documents earns an applicant an immediate refusal, and in cases where such applicant does have a right to appeal/review because of the category of visa he/she applied for his/her, recompense lies in a fresh application that means fresh visa fees and other incidental charges. Tips on documentation will be explored in subsequent posts

Both Paper and Oral Interview
As the heading suggests, in this case, an applicant’s assessment is considered on the strength of documents and performance during oral interview. Failure in any part of the interview will lead to a denial of visa application.

It is important that when you engage the services of a “consultant” or “an agent,” especially those who are non-lawyers, that you personally research the rules guiding your visa category or at least demand for that information. This is the easiest way to test the competence of your handler. Don’t be an ignorant applicant; don’t be kept in the dark. Insist on full disclosure even if it is “being done for you.” Please insist you be carried along during the whole process. It is YOUR application, YOUR records and most importantly YOUR money. While you can report lawyers to the Nigerian Bar when there is gross negligence on their part in providing you services paid for, non-lawyer consultants are generally not liable or accountable to any regulatory agency.

Thank you for your likes, comments and emails. Please keep them coming. For those who wrote us, thank you for your compliments and interest in our firm. We will do our best not to disappoint you. If we are yet to respond to your mail, do kindly resend it. It may have been lost in the deluge of emails, as new mails keep pushing previous ones further down the trail and we may have missed a couple mails. Based on popular demands from mails received, in subsequent posts we will discuss Visitors Visa application. From statistics, Visitors applications form the bulk of applications diplomatic missions receives from Nigerians. In subsequent posts, we will analyze the rules guiding this visa category in the US, UK and Canada diplomatic missions in Nigeria.

Till next time, please be travel smart.

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.

A Death Reminds Me Why We Strive to be Rich

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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

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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

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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”?

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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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