Review of Femi Pedro’s The Formula for Wealth

I bought Femi Pedro’s The Formula for Wealth, My thoughts on Wealth, Entrepreneurship and Leadership because of his background as a co-founder of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), former deputy governor of Lagos State and current chairman of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria. I had hoped the book will teach the reader how to create wealth with particular emphasis on what opportunities currently exist for creating businesses in various sectors in Nigeria.

The book delivered for the most part. Pedro’s story about his own humble beginning will inspire the reader. His insights on real estate investment, equity ownership, starting a company etc. are quite thorough. The many nuggets of wisdom in the book sprinkled with quotes from notable people and self-help authors serve to remind the reader that the path to success is attainable with diligence, persistence and patience.

I loved Pedro’s use of anecdotes to buttress his points. There was the story of Nnamdi Ezeigbo, an electrical engineer who in the 1990’s having failed to secure a job in a multinational company, started repairing computers. Subsequently Ezeigbo started importing computer parts and strategically grew and positioned his business that when GSM was eventually introduced in Nigeria, he partnered with MTN to sell sim cards, recharge cards and phones. Later, identifying the need, he started importing unlocked and dual sim phones directly from China. Today Ezeigbo has built enormous wealth. He worked hard and when the opportunity presented itself, took advantage of it to the fullest. His story shows that chance only favors the prepared and that starting wherever we can, with the little we have, often leads to greater success.

In the book, Pedro also distinguished between the rich, who merely buy expensive cars, houses, etc., and the wealthy, who invest in real estate, equities etc. Pedro also explained that should the rich fail to invest, the money soon vanishes and they become poor where as a person becomes wealthy when they own enough investment to be financially independent without working. Pedro also pointed out that wealth can be only be created through entrepreneurship and not by being employed.

Pedro illustrated how high salary earners can end up in the poverty trap if they fail to build wealth and how relying on one’s salary as the sole source of income is never a good idea. He told the story of four successful Nigerian bankers who were affected by the bank consolidation in the 2000’s and how of the four, only the frugal one who saved for the rainy day and started his own company survived financially when they all lost their jobs.

In the book, Pedro also posited that if you love what you do and the thought of your business gets your juices flowing, you are more likely to succeed. Pedro encourages everyone to save, irrespective of their income level, as money not saved is often used for non-essential things one may not be able to account for.

Pedro also wrote about a survey he commissioned that shows 85% of Nigerian entrepreneurs are struggling financially but also gave examples of young successful Nigerian entrepreneurs who are making it despite the odds like the founders of Jobberman, Bellanaija, Jumai and Konga. He highlighted what they were doing differently that accounts for their success.

Pedro’s book contains numerous valuable advice on how to build wealth including one about how one’s first real estate purchase should be for investment purposes, not to live in.

While I had hoped Pedro wrote more about his work in public service (for example, how he was able to , as deputy governor of Lagos State and chairman of Lagos State Revenue Mobilization committee, increase Lagos State internally generated revenue from from 300 Million Naira per month to a whopping 7 Billion Naira per month in the space of eighteen months) including his current role at Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, and given more insight into what sectors are currently economically viable for investment in Nigeria for small and medium enterprises, overall, I think the book is a good read that will encourage the reader to aspire to do more, be more and build wealth. I recommend this book to anyone looking to build wealth especially in Nigeria. You can buy the book in paperback or hardcover here, or get the ecopy on kindle for less than $4. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment.

For curious readers who may want to know the answer to the question I had hoped Pedro answered, it will appear that in this decade, any business that leverages the power of information technology is more likely to succeed. One can see, for example, that the contemporary Nigerian businesses listed by Pedro as successful are mostly technology or online based companies. In that regard, J. J. Omujuwa’s book, Digital: The New Code of Wealth: New Opportunities for Wealth Creation and Change which I read some months ago does offer insights into how to leverage the power of the internet to create wealth.

I do hope you consider reading one or both books to better understand the unique challenges and triumph of building businesses and creating wealth in Nigeria.

Updated June 8, 2020.

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How Nigerian Lawyers Can Significantly Increase Their Revenue and Improve Access to Justice

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This study by The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (Hiil) shows that Nigerians face 25 million legal problems every year, but only 8% of the legal problems in which resolution was sought were resolved through courts or lawyers. Most Nigerians resolve their legal disputes informally, or not at all. Lack of awareness of legal procedures, financial constraints, and time are some of the reasons people gave for not resolving their issues through the legal system. However, people who resolve their problems through the judicial process report getting the most satisfactory outcome.

If people do not access the justice system because of limited financial resources, and delays in the system, what can lawyers do to see that the more than 90% of cases not resolved through the judicial system (and this does not include the 30% of legal problems for which no resolution is attempted) are resolved through courts and lawyers? The answer lies in exploring cheaper, speedier alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation discussed in this post and in lawyers considering contingency fees for civil wrongs.

Given that Rule 39 of the Nigerian Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners now allows, subject to certain restrictions, lawyers to advertise and promote their practice, an entrepreneurial lawyer in Nigeria will significantly increase his or her revenue by taking the following five steps:

Diligently Promote Their Practice

Lack of awareness of legal rights and remedies is one of the reasons Nigerians don’t attempt to resolve their legal issues. Consequently, a lawyer who educates the public on their rights stands a better chance of being retained by people with legal problems. Femi Falana, SAN, the foremost human rights lawyer in Nigeria is popularly known because he speaks out on matters pertaining to human rights. Professor Itse Sagay is prominent for constitutional law because he has established himself as an authority in that area of law. In like manner, a lawyer who consistently comments on the law and educates the public about the law, even through a forum as basic as Facebook, grows his practice more aggressively than one who relies on old-fashioned word of mouth referral.

Most tenants facing eviction for non-payment, for example, do not know that uninhabitability of a leased apartment may be a valid ground to fight eviction in some states; a truck driver injured in a crash in the course of his employment may not know what rights he may have under workers compensation laws and may settle for peanuts even though he is permanently disabled. Likewise, surviving family members of a deceased in a wrongful death case may be unaware that remedies available may include not just funeral costs, but loss of the deceased future earnings, loss of companionship suffered by the widow, etc. Similarly, female employees sexually harassed by supervisors may not be knowledgeable of the civil remedies available for their employers’ inaction and may choose rather to quit their job rather than address the wrong. The above examples show that to increase the number of cases that go through the legal system, lawyers must do the hard work of educating the public on their rights and the extent of monetary damages recoverable.

The Hiil study previously referred also found that less than 10% of Nigerians receive information about their legal problems online. This, despite the fact that about 50% of Nigerians use the internet. Again, a lawyer who takes proactive step to provide information to the public is likely to attract potential clients. Since there are still some restrictions relating to lawyers advertising in Nigeria, the best way for a lawyer to promote his or her practice is through content marketing which I discussed in detail in this article on Bellanaija. An immigration lawyer I worked with, following the guidelines in the article, has reported generating businesses from all over the world because of her articles and LinkedIn presence.

If you are a lawyer and you do not promote your practice online, you are missing out on potential clients. A simple step like updating your LinkedIn profile and periodically updating the page with timely relevant resources in your practice area will yield result in due time.

Be Open to Contingency Fee Remuneration

A contingency fee is a type of remuneration that is based on outcome. In other words, a lawyers does not charge a client legal fees until a favorable result is obtained.

Most civil cases in the United States are prosecuted by attorneys on a contingency fee basis because the average American cannot finance a lawsuit. Imagine all the wrongs that will go unaddressed if the average working class American were expected to come up with tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees prior to settlement or judgment. Contingency fee remuneration is an ingenious idea that ensures increased access to justice. Keep in mind though, that contingency fee remuneration is appropriate mostly for civil wrongs but not for some practice areas like criminal law. In the U.S., the percentage of the proceeds retained by attorneys are sometimes as much as 45% of the settlement or judgment.

In Nigeria, Rule 50 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners allows contingency fee remuneration as follows:

  1. (1) A lawyer may enter into a contract with his client for a contingent fee in
    respect of a civil matter undertaken for a client whether contentious or noncontentious: Provided that –
    (a) the contract is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case including the risk
    and uncertainty of the compensation;
    (b) the contract is not –
    (i) vitiated by fraud, mistake or undue influence; or
    (ii) contrary to public policy; and
    (c) if the employment involved litigation, it is reasonably obvious that there is a
    bonafide cause of action.
    (2) A lawyer shall not enter into an arrangement to charge or collect, a contingent
    fee for representing a defendant in a criminal case.
    (3) Except as provided in sub-rule (1) of this rule, a lawyer shall not purchase or
    otherwise acquire directly or indirectly an interest in the subject matter of the
    litigation which he or his firm is conducting; but he may acquire a lien granted by law
    to secure his fees and expenses.
    (4) A lawyer shall not enter into a contingent fee arrangement without first having
    advised the client of the effect of the arrangement and afforded the client an
    opportunity to retain him under an arrangement whereby he would be compensated
    on the basis of a reasonable value of his services.
    (5) In this rule, “contingent fee” means fee paid or agreed to be paid for the lawyer’s
    legal services under an arrangement whereby compensation, contingent in whole or
    in part upon the successful accomplishment or deposition of the subject matter of
    the agreement, is to be of an amount which is either fixed or is to be determined
    under a formula.

Contigency fee remuneration ensures lawyers take up only cases that have the greatest chance of success, and since they have a stake in the outcome, lawyers tend to prosecute such cases diligently with an aim to obtain a resolution as quickly as possible. Contrast this with the current practice, as I experienced when I practiced in Eastern Nigeria, where even plaintiff attorneys have no sense of urgency in prosecuting cases and ask for adjournments without valid reason so they can collect more legal fees for appearances, etc. Therefore, incorporating contingency fee remuneration into one’s practice may potentially make one a better lawyer.

Go After Defendants Who Have the Means to Remedy the Wrong

A lawyer considering taking up cases on a contingency basis must evaluate every case not just for possible liability but for potential for recovery. Cases against defendants with insurance coverage, corporate entities, employers, landlords, licensed professionals, etc. are more likely to yield results than cases against less buoyant persons including people who have declared bankruptcy. A good case to take on a contingency basis will be, for example, one against Dangote Cement for this crash that killed six people this past April amidst the lock down. Therefore, to start out, a lawyer who wants to use content marketing as a promotional strategy may choose to educate the public about wrongs most likely to be committed by defendants with deep pockets. Obtaining monetary judgment against an impoverished defendant, except judgment is obtained as a matter of principle or to prove a point, is often futile and tantamount to winning a battle but losing the war.

Explore Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods for Civil Recovery

In the U.S, most civil cases settle prior to trial, about 95% for automobile cases. Parties settle because it is better for them to have a say in the outcome, than to have a third party, or parties in case of jury trial, decide their fate. They keep in mind that however clear the issue of liability may seem at first in any given case, judges’ individual biases, contributory negligence, act of God, failure to mitigate damages are factors that may weaken an otherwise strong case. Moreover, settling a case as soon as a reasonable offer is made spares both sides from spending time and money on litigation cost.

Therefore, before filing a lawsuit, a lawyer should brainstorm what alternatives to litigation may exist to obtain recovery. For example, in a previous post I mentioned how  Lagos Citizens Mediation Center, from January to December 2015, mediated 20, 966 cases, resolved 19, 464 and collected N752, 974, 217  on behalf of parties. Mediation services offer low-cost, speedy resolutions and should be considered for civil wrongs. Mediation is beneficial for the additional reason that defendants readily comply with settlements but would appeal judgments to frustrate execution of judgment.

Utilize Enforcement Power of Government Agencies

Government agencies in Nigeria are often associated with inefficiency and corruption, but from my experience, they can prove quite effective. In this post, I wrote about how I applied for my certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court via email and without any payment from me whatsoever, yet the registrar had it promptly sent to California.

Whenever possible, attorneys should consider using services provided by the government to enforce their clients’ rights. For example, besides the mediation service by Lagos State government previously mentioned, the state Ministry of Justice’s website also shows they help people illegally disposed of their land and represent free of charge people who are unlawfully detained or arrested. Using these government services, in addition to pursuing civil remedies, often guarantee speedier resolution than litigation alone.

Another instance where use of government enforcement action would come in handy is in cases against licensed professionals like doctors and lawyers in malpractice cases and in complaints against regulated institutions. Sometimes, a licensed professional or entity clearly in the wrong may settle a case not out of a desire to right their wrong but to avoid a possible enforcement action by a licensing entity. Some of the licensing agencies in Nigeria which receive complaints against professionals include Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria , the Nigerian Bar Association. Complaints against banks can also be filed with the Central Bank of Nigeria via their email cpd@cbn.gov.ng.

With increasing online presence, most of these agencies are now responsive. Using the enforcement power of these agencies can be one more tool lawyers may use to advance their clients’ interest for speedier resolution of disputes.

Increasing access to justice is an honorable goal every lawyer should aim for. It becomes more appealing when that also leads to increased earnings for lawyers. As a lawyer is first and foremost an advocate – one who pleads the cause of another, every lawyer’s primary goal should be to represent their clients’ interest in the most effective and efficient way possible. Even where a lawyer is unable to help a prospective client, they should consider referring the client to other alternatives that may provide some sort of remedy, yes, even when the referral does not benefit the lawyer. I hope this article encourages more lawyers to play their parts towards achieving a more egalitarian society.

Anne Mmeje is a lawyer with an interest in alternative dispute resolution and digital marketing. To contact her, email annemmeje@yahoo.com.

Travel Smart With Attorney Chika Okoroafor: Young and Thinking of Migrating? Don’t Be a Victim. Here’s a Safe (And Relatively Inexpensive Way) to go About It.

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The Travel Smart series is written by Chika Okoroafor, a Nigerian Immigration lawyer. Through the series , she gives useful information to people intending to migrate to other countries. The series is part of her effort to promote legal migration and stem the trend of young African immigrants losing their lives at sea in quest for greener pastures abroad. See our interview with her here.
The health and education sectors are two industries in Nigeria that compete in incompetence and deterioration. While the health sector is fortunate to have crusaders, like the Nigerian Medical Association, fighting to give the sector some semblance of decency, the education sector is on a free fall to rot. Compared to minimum standards, our educational sector, especially at the tertiary level, is a mockery, a pitiful excuse of what a tertiary education system should be. As a matter of fact, ours’ represent everything tertiary education should not be. The tertiary education provided by private sector is not exempted.
 
Jobs are scarce in Nigeria, yes. But not as scarce as human resources. You can ask any entrepreneur in Nigeria whether this is true or not.  Like a computer system, what we have is a system of garbage in garbage out. The system, and not the products, is to blame. What we have are mostly, unmotivated, unpruned, half-baked and unemployable graduates roaming the street competing in a saturated labour market with no selling point and nothing to offer a  potential employer.
 
Unemployment is, unarguably, the chief inciter of economic migration. Almost a decade in this field has taught me there is no dissuading an unemployed,  demoralised  youth who is convinced by his peers that his hope lies in shores of the white man’s land. So it’s futile to preach “don’t do it.” When we come across such client, the first thing we do, is to gain their confidence. This is imperative because their desperation makes them easy prey to “agents” and human traffickers who will explore there vulnerabilities for selfish interest, lining their pockets off the very little the desperate youths have left; leaving them poorer, depressed and at times suicidal (we counseled a lot of such cases).
 
Most economic migrants are usually financially challenged, hence prima facie ineligible for visa to the destination they seek. Most diplomatic missions have their share of backdoor deals. Forget the labels, Nigeria does not have monopoly of corruption. But The most an applicant can get from the backdoor deals is a visitor’s entry permit. I’m glad we have treated the substance of a visitor’s permit. If you missed it, please revert to this link for my publication on that.
An applicant who intends to migrate to a first world country on a visitor’s entry permit is not just doing something illegal, but it is also disadvantageous to the applicant. First world countries’ immigration regulations are regularly reviewed and the purpose is mostly to block loopholes that encourage illegal migration. Countless illegal migrants have lost their lives in the most horrible ways imaginable, in their quest to migrant overseas. Where a migrant succeeds in gaining entry, the host country’s internal regulation will be a trammel to an illegal immigrant’s stay.  
 
Here are some of the challenges faced by illegal migrants:
 
  • They cannot legally work
  • They have no interstate right to ingress and egress
  • They will be taken advantage of and maltreated but they cannot enforce their human rights
  • They are constantly blackmailed and threatened because of their immigration status
  • They are exposed to a life of crime willingly or unwillingly
  • They Deny themselves little comforts like driving for fear of being flagged down by the police, and
  • They are constantly at risk of being deported, etc.


I MUST TRAVEL. WHAT DO I DO?
 
You start, by not taking the quick fix bait of migrating long term on a short term entry permit .  If your travel intention is for long term, then seek an entry permit that will grant you long term stay, like a student visa, work visa, visa lottery, family reunion visa etc. Among the various long term visa options, student visa is the most easily accessible.
 
Students visa allows a holder right to stay for the duration of study (some programs can run into years) and most times right to work inside the school, and even in some cases outside the school. Student visa in some countries can transition into work permit post-study. A student has a right to bring his/her dependants (spouse/children) and in some country (e.g UK) the student’s spouse is allowed to work full-time. A student can issue invitation letter to family and friends for short term visits. In summary, a holder of student visa is accorded almost similar rights  as a citizen of host country for the duration of his/her legal stay
 
To a financially constrained, desperate economic migrant this option may seem capital intensive, hence inaccessible. But read again the downside to illegal migration listed above for holistic comparative analysis of real cost. If the goal is to migrate, the advice is do it right. Save, solicit funds from family/friends, give it a little bit of time, most importantly, consult a professional who will advise on plethora of study routes. You may be amazed to discover that there are some international institutions, in developed and developing countries, that are quite affordable (for N1 million or less) much more than our local private tertiary institutions. Furthermore, a standard international education gives you an edge in the labour market worldwide and more so, in our local labour market should you intend to return home post-study.
 
Student visas create a bridge between your home country and country of study. You have unlimited access to ingress and egress as you please. Hence, decision on whether to permanently migrate or not will be based on personal  convictions and on balanced information and not on hearsay or fairy tales.
 
STUDENT VISA APPLICATION
 
METHODOLOGY
There are three parties involved in a student visa procedure- the student/Student sponsor, the school and the diplomatic missio.
The procedure is usually in two consecutive stages:
  • Admission processing stage, and thereafter
  • Visa  processing stage.
 
ADMISSION PROCESSING STAGE
Key notes
The School: Applicant’s preferred school must be one approved/licenced by the country where the school is situate, to grant admission to international students. Before admission is granted, an applicant
  • Must provide documents, like credentials and essays, required by the school;
  • Excel qualifications test e.g GMAT, IELTS, TOEFL etc where required; and
  • Make tuition/part tuition payment
 
Refund policy: Admission into a licensed school does not guarantee Visa. Where an applicant is mandated to pay tuition or make a part-payment before admission is confirmed, it is important to check first, the refund policy of the school with regards to conditions, deductibles and the school’s expediency in making refunds, before making  any financial commitments.
 
Time: student visa application, is time sensitive. An applicant has to take into consideration admission processing time, school resumption date, and visa processing time and variables in between. Lapse in proper time management will jeopardize the whole process.

VISA PROCESSING STAGE
 
Diplomatic missions are not bound by the decision of schools. The missions run independent assessments. Decision to grant or refuse a student entry permit is based on an applicant’s eligibility vis-a-vis the diplomatic missions’ regulation.
 
While evaluating an applicant’s student visa application, every diplomatic mission has their particular area of interest, which may include all or some or more of the list below.
 
  • Admission letter from a licensed institution
  • Applicant’s age
  • Academic background
  • Maintenance funds
  • Medical/criminal  records
 
Future posts on student visa application will be discussed in line with the regulation of particular diplomatic missions. Until next publication in Travelsmart series, please share and spread the word, #notoillegalmigration
Do you have questions or in need of further clarification or advice? We welcome questions at the comment section or you may email us at attorneychika@gmail.com
 
PS: Some institutions provide financial aid and scholarships to international students. I know people who have benefited from them so that’s an option to explore.
PPS: If you have your masters degree in sciences and scored 60 or higher, and are interested in pursuing your doctorate degree, leave your email below. Someone I know who is doing her PhD on scholarship has offered to email interested persons opportunities to study abroad.
PPPS: I have been reading Kacheetee.com a lot. The blog is run by a 28-year old Nigerian lawyer who made first class both in university and at the Nigerian law school. She eventually did her masters at Cambridge on full scholarship. From her blog and elsewhere, I got the links below hoping these stories of young successful Nigerian women inspire you to be all you can be.

Love,

Anne

Travel Smart With Attorney Chika Okoroafor: Why I Love Traveling and Why Your Visitors Visa Application May be Denied Even Though You are Rich

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This post is part of the Travel Smart series written by Chika Okoroafor, an Immigration lawyer based in Nigeria. To get a glimpse into the wonderful work she is doing helping people who want to leave (whether permanently or temporarily) Nigeria’s shore,  read our interview with her here.

Hello everyone, please get in here. This article promises to be an interesting yet educative read. Look around you, someone you know is thinking about traveling outside Nigeria. It could even be you. If you are not thinking about it today, you will probably be tomorrow. By nature, we are inquisitive and adventurous beings in constant pursuit of knowledge. With the exception of Agoraphobics, I believe that we all are Christopher Columbus in some way.

I love to travel. For me, traveling is educative, therapeutic, ethereal, fun, and so much more. For me, traveling is living. The beauty of nature can never be aptly defined in words, nor ideally qualified by adjectives. One needs to experience it.

In my university days, I was a member of Junior Chambers International (JCI for Short). The highlight of my membership with this amazing association was that we traveled a lot, locally and internationally, attending workshops, seminars, trainings, conferences etc. Before I graduated, through JCI, I visited 21 out of 36 states in Nigeria ( I have since covered more local and international states). I had fellow Jaycees who covered more states and traveled around the globe while in school.

In those days, as a student my funds were very limited. My parents’ priority was to provide the basics; any extracurricular expenses had to be scraped out from whatever was left and where nothing could be scraped, a little mathematics came very handy. Ever heard of the the 101, 011 or 001 formula? Foregoing one or several of the three meals a day to scrape by. When it comes to traveling, passion always comes before price. Passion always finds a way, for what wouldn’t one do for passion? So I gave up meals to save for a trip. Some sites are priceless, top on the list from my JCI adventure days was traveling the devil’s elbow of the Obudu mountains enroute the famous Obudu cattle ranch; the drive up the mountain is my must trepidus and exhilarating experience yet. Other scenery included the beautiful landscape, rural and cultural preserve of Ilara Mokin in Ondo State, Yankari game reserve in Bauchi state, Olumo rock Abeokuta etc, not discounting friends made along the way who turned family.

Traveling teaches love and tolerance; perhaps that accounts for my unique perspectives of life, one of which is we are all people irrespective of where we come from. Are you conceited and tribalistic ? A healthy dose of traveling will do your soul some good.

Pardon the derail, this article is about international travel via the visitors’ entry permit platform.

Visitors’ Visa is an entry clearance permit granted by a diplomatic mission to a foreigner/ alien according its holder a right to enter its country albeit  temporary for a particular purpose and for a stipulated time frame.  

Visitors applications are the most applications diplomatic missions receive. It’s also the most abused visa. Holders of visitors visas, by regulation, are expected to strictly adhere to the purpose for which visa was granted ab initio. There are plethora of visitors visas, differentiated by purpose of visit e.g. family visitors visa, tourist visitors visa, medical visitors visa, sport/entertainment visitors visa, business visitors visa, study visitors visa etc.

A diplomatic mission may merge a couple of these visitors visa in one clearance permit eg. US B1/B2 covers family, tourist, and business visits while UK standard Visitors Visa covers family, friends and tourist visits. Where a visa stands on its own, its application has to be strictly for the purpose it was issued. For instance, if an applicant is granted visa as a tourist, they are not expected to work, rely on the host country’s public welfare packages like free medicals, school etc. Such indulgence will be a breach of  visa regulation and if caught, visa will be revoked and there may be further consequences like a ban.

Another important aspect of a visitor’s visa is tenure. Before visitors visa is issued, an applicant has to specify the duration of stay. The fact that a diplomatic mission issues more time than applied for, does not automatically confer on applicant right to stay beyond reasonable time. For example, Mr X, a first-time applicant, applied to UK diplomatic missions for a standard visitors visa to visit a friend or for holiday, specifying duration of stay to be two weeks. If found eligible, UK will issue him 6 months multiple entry permit. This length of visa granted does not translate to a right to stay. It is, at the most, tenure bestowed in trust extended to Mr. X to use bona fide, for subsequent visits.  That is why it is a multiple entry visa. Even where six months visa is granted at single entry, applicant is still expected to adhere to purpose and duration stated in his application.

Qualifying for a visitors visa

Most often, people and/or “agents” gamble with their application, using the correction through error approach where they assume that what works for A will work for B.  For instance: A and B work in the same organization, earn the same salary (or B may earn more). A applied for visitors visa and was granted, B did same but was not so lucky. I would be a millionaire if I have a penny for every time I hear this remark “ I did the same thing A did, I earn more, yet I was refused” or “ how come my junior(s) are always successful with their application and I have been repeatedly refused”. Well all I know is that just like in gambling, you win some, you lose some.

Dear readers, please note that visitors visa regulation is based on individual assessment. That you work in the same organization, earn the same income as a colleague who has been assessed eligible does not confer the same status on you. Financial assessment is not limited to income, your financial encumbrances vis a vis your income is also considered.

Using the scenario above, A may be single or married and his wife may also be gainfully employed, while B who may be earning more than A, is also married, his wife is a homemaker, he has two children in school, aged parents etc. From the evidence of his financial statement presented, it will be obvious that his income goes as soon as it comes in. Thus, between A and B, B, is an economic red flag to an entrance clearance officer.

Another analogy on financial assessment: Mr. Y a trader, trades in his registered business name, applies for a visitors visa with his family, he enclosed certificate of business registration and bank statement etc. and his application went hitch-free. His friend, Mr. X, owns a business, a duly incorporated limited liability company, let’s call it XYZ LTD. Shareholders and directors are Mr. X’s nuclear family members i.e. wife and children. Mr. X wants to treat family to a vacation abroad so he got his company’s incorporation documents, XYZ cooperate bank statements. XYZ company is worth billions. He confidently submits documents to a diplomatic mission of his choice. Mrs X and children are already daydreaming about upcoming glamourous vacation. Weeks later the package is returned with the rejection letter enclosed; refusal was on the grounds of lack of funds. It could be that at the interview, the entrance officer asks for evidence of fund and Mr. X flashes XYZ business account statement and officer goes, “sorry but these funds are not available to you”. It’s a simple company law principle enshrined in the locus classicus  case Salomon vs Salomon: a company is a legal being, different from its shareholders – no one can lay claim to what belongs to another. At best an individual may enjoy some benefits by virtue of his position in a company and such privileges must be expressly stated and agreed by board resolution, during a duly convened board of director’s meeting (irrespective of the fact that directors in this scenario are Mr. X and family/Visa applicants).

In nutshell, to present your company’s account for the purpose of proving financial eligibility, documents like, board resolution, letter from the bank where fund is held, and an official letter in company’s letter head are essential. And yet financial eligibility alone, though a very vital tool, does not by itself suffice.

In reiteration, there are no static formula, every application is holistically analyzed before conclusion about an applicant’s eligibility is reached. In addition to one’s economic status, below, are two key factors considered during an assessment of visitors visa applicant.

Proof of Purpose

In applying for a visitors visa, there must be a clear and definite purpose and documents in support for e.g family visit/business visit. When applying based on your relationship with someone in the host country, there should be an invitation letter from your host and your host must be a national or documented resident of the country. In case of a tourist visa, a well planned-out travel itinerary will suffice for proof of purpose.

Ties to Home Country:

A diplomatic mission needs to be convinced that a visitor’s visa applicant is not an economic migrant. How? Via an applicant’s ties to his/her home country. Ties can be ascertained by applicant’s personal and financial circumstances.

Thus, marital status, responsibilities (family/social), financial status vis-a-vis financial liabilities, career, age, immigration history, are factors considered collectively during an applicant’s assessment. Each of these attributes have its significance with regards to applicant’s eligibility.

For instance, a minor applying alongside his parents/guardian has a better standing over an unemployed major sponsored by his parents or invitee. An unemployed, married parent, in some cases is considered eligible over a single, though employed individual. Also some diplomatic missions are not first-time applicant friendly. So here you see an averagely financial applicant considered over a financially buoyant applicant because the former has visited countries the diplomatic mission considered at par with its country while the other applicant may be refused because he/she holds a virgin passport.

In conclusion, the importance of pre-application assessment by a professional who understands the demeanor of various diplomatic missions cannot be overemphasized. Assessment is not recommended for first-time applicant alone. During subsequent applications or renewal, it’s imperative to seek professional counsel as well, for the following reasons:

I Personal/financial circumstances may have changed.

II Change of purpose may entail different visa type, and

III Immigration rules are not static; they are regularly reviewed.

In time, we will discuss each visitors visa type disclosing tips and tricks on how to professionally package a visitor visa application.

It’s school season! My firm represents and liaises with several international schools. If you have any questions or are considering studying abroad, leave a comment below or email us at attorneychika@gmail.com. We will be happy to answer your questions. There is always something for anyone. Our next post will be on student visas. So look out for it.

Thank you all for your comments and shares in our previous posts.

 

Chika Okoroafor

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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
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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
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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
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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
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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

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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

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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

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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!

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

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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

Meet Chika Ugonwa, Lagos Immigration Lawyer and Entrepreneur

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Chika

Editor’s Note:In Nigeria, it is not often that you hear of a young lawyer whose clients don’t mind having her flight tickets included in their bills. Such privileges are accorded only Senior Advocates and highly experienced attorneys. But because of her specialized area of practice and her dedication to her clients, Chika Ugonwa, a young lawyer in her early thirties, is so sought-after that her practice takes her around the country. Chika (whose vision includes to establish a firm that will serve as a one stop shop for everything Travelling/Immigration inquiry and assistance in Nigeria; to establish bilateral relation with immigration firms all over the world, Embassies and High Commissions; and to build a strong brand on the foundation of Trust and Integrity) granted us this interview discussing her work as an Immigration Lawyer, the epidemic of human trafficking in Nigeria, and why she think laws protecting only women are unnecessary. She also expressed her desire to help women who are marginalized, pro bono. In her down time, Chika writes poems with such great rhymes you will want to give her some dimes. I hope Chika’s extraordinary courage and hard work inspires you, like it inspired me.

We are excited to do this interview with you. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Thanks for having me. My name is Chika Ugonwa. I am a Lawyer, a Graduate Manager, an Immigration Consultant and an Entrepreneur. In the past I worked with Abubakar Mustapha & Co. (Kaduna) and Threshold Barrister & Solicitors (Lagos). Presently, I am running my own firm Tnencucc Consulting in partnership with Reality Education Ltd (Port Harcourt), Rexcue Barrister and Solicitors (Lagos), and New Dimension Konsult (Kaduna).

Okay, now that sounds interesting. You are affiliated with three firms. What’s the arrangement like?
I started my Immigration Law practice in Lagos with Threshold Immigration Consult which is a subsidiary of Threshold Barristers & Solicitors. As you know, Legal practice is built on trust and in the course of the attorney-client relationship, one has access to client’s sensitive private and financial information. So when I moved to Abuja, a lot of my Lagos clients still sought me. My efforts to get them to work with other lawyers failed. That was where the partnership idea came from. After some attempts at trying to work with my clients in Lagos from Abuja, I realized that I could successfully serve clients anywhere.

For my clients who are based in Lagos for instance, they consult me through the phone or email. Then I do their work and send the finished work to my colleague (Rexcue Barrister and Solicitors Lagos), who ensures my clients properly endorse their documents. For some VIP clients who can afford to fly me to their location, I also go to them to finalize and prep them for Interview.

Overtime, through referrals, my clientèle grew; some clients trust whoever referred them enough to release personal information and pay professional fees without seeing me. Others don’t mind the cost to get a one-on-one meeting with me. When they can afford it, they come to me or if the fee is right I go to them using any of my partners’ office as a meeting point.

Congratulations on your achievements so far. Has law practice been what you expected? Many people go into law school with great ideas. Did the reality of law practice match your earlier expectations of what to expect from the practice of Law?
I don’t know about ‘many people.’ For me, I did not really go into the law program with great expectations or any expectations. The decision to study law was suggested by someone I could never say No to. In secondary school I was good in social sciences and art, my parents wanted me to be an accountant; my grandfather wanted Law. I chose Law. In University my goal was not to fail my grandfather, my parents who were paying for my education and myself. (In my family, my siblings and I are a bit competitive). Long story short: I did not have ‘earlier expectations.’ But having practiced for a while I expect so much more from colleagues, the Bar, the bench, and our legislators (our legislators are surrounded by lawyers, bills are drafted by lawyers so lawyers should be blamed for ALL the faults in our laws). The socio-economic fate of this country to a large extent lies with the legal profession and so it suffices to say we are to a large extent part of the problem of the country. We need strict ethics and conduct regulations.

What has been your greatest challenge practicing law in Nigeria?
Law practice is a very broad concept. The challenges a lawyer encounters are unique to his/her area of practice. My areas are Maritime, Civil, Family, Company and Immigration law practice. I can write a book on the challenges for each but for this interview I will only mention one challenge in Maritime practice which is ‘stagnancy’.

My former firm (Threshold barristers & Solicitors) had over 30 cases on different maritime matters. Apart from one of the matters that I got a default Judgement on, others ended up in settlement before I got the chance to taste my skills in trial. In court one day while I was moving yet another motion for discontinuance and adoption of parties’ terms of settlement, the Judge said (jokingly) that in his 20 years in the bench he was yet to deliver a final Judgement on a Maritime case.

In Maritime, litigation is instituted just to get the shippers/and or the insurance company to settle. Hence in rare cases where the matter goes all the way to trial, there are hardly sufficient judicial precedents to rely on.

But one may consider the cases settling a good thing, seeing how we are now advocating for alternative means of resolving disputes which reduces the stress and hostility associated with litigation. However, I can see how lack of precedence in case law is a disadvantage for the Maritime cases that do make it to trial. Of all the areas of law you mentioned you practice, which do you practice more?
I practice Immigration Law more. Thanks to Nigeria legal system, a lawyer in Nigeria can practice in any part of Nigeria. My Job takes me around the Country (and I hope someday beyond) and we attend to clients at any location within Nigeria.


Are you surprised at how little or much your clients know about Immigration law?

Not at all; Immigration law practice is still a grey area of practice. I was fortunate to stumble into it myself. Its sounds alien when I discuss it with my colleagues. Apart from a few firms in Lagos I am not sure there are firms in other jurisdictions who engage in it. Imagine how many countries there are and the entry demands for those countries. Through this job, I have learned a lot and I am still learning.

Most people are not even aware of the need to consult a lawyer until it’s a bit late. Some clients come to us with terrible immigration record. There are cases of applicants with over ten refusal stamps in their passports. These are eligible applicants seeking entry for genuine purposes (e.g business, study, medical etc). Their applications are refused repeatedly because of poor or improper documentation. It’s sad considering that application fees are non refundable. A particular client who came to us after he had been refused over and over again only found out after he consulted us that he was serving a ten-year ban as a result of some forged documents an ‘agent’ used in his first application. His refusal letter always stated “refused under para.360H.” I had to explain to him that any refusal under S.360 attracts a ten-year ban. While we do our best to fix some, there are some cases, like the applicant serving a ten-year ban, we can’t fix.

Years ago, anyone in Nigeria could have multiple passports with different identities on each although it is illegal. However, that is no longer practicable in this era of E-passport and bio-metrics. It has now become imperative for people to consult an immigration lawyer first before applying for any visa.

Many Nigerians do not know that some lawyers specialize in Immigration Law practice. For their benefit, please what does a Nigerian Immigration Lawyer do?
You are right. And not a lot of people know that traveling across border is actually a right not a privilege. Let me not bore your readers with sections of UN Treaties and African Charters on Human right and other citations that uphold these rights.

In summary; A country cannot close its borders from entry to members of other territories. There are exceptions though.

We attend to Immigration issues bothering on;
Permanent migrants i.e spouses, children, parents etc. who seeks to join families overseas across border or regularize foreigners already in the country. Temporary Migrants which includes International Students, Work permits (eg. Canada Federal Skill migrant scheme, for professional migrants) etc. My firm is also an International Education facilitator. We work with schools in Europe, United States, Canada, Australia, Malaysia etc. Then we have our cluster clientele: the short time Visitors. Tourist, family visitors, Medicals Visitors etc.

It is quite an interesting job. You will be amazed at the volume of immigration cases there are out there.

In addition to the above, we also organize trainings and seminars. News are often reported about mangled dead bodies found in international flights tyre compartments, like the stories here: http://www.nairaland.com/432392/desperate-man-sneaks-into-delta, http://old.nationaldailyng.com/news/crime/5988-arik-dead-body-uk-authorities-may-join-investigation. Some lose their lives at Sahara Desert or at sea, in desperate attempt to illegally migrate in quest for greener pastures. In the later instance, loved ones are saddled with the agony of not knowing for sure what happened to their wards–pain they will be forced to endure to their graves. Those who promote these inhuman practices for profit will never inform their clients of the risks involved. Through these seminars we educate the youths on the dangers of illegal migration, we warn them against patronising fraudsters who will promise them 1st world countries Visas just to reap them and they families off huge sums of money. We also create awareness on human trafficking.

I am truly amazed at your accomplishments. Chika Unaigwe’s novel On Black Sisters’ Street is an eye-opener on human trafficking in Nigeria and prostitution by Nigerians abroad. I am happy you are part of the group making efforts to stop this inhuman act. So in concrete terms, what type of services do you render to your clients?

1. We offer professional advisory services. Information is very important, especially since countries keep reviewing their immigration rules and regulations to protect their borders against economic migrants and terrorists. It is our duty to advise based on the prevailing rules and regulations. We also advise clients on their eligibility status.
2. We give packaging assistance; a lot of immigration process / application is done online and not many people know their way around the internet nor have the patience to be bothered with it, and the question may be a bit technical, so we do the actual application for clients who retain us to do so.
3. We also represent clients on appeals (via paper litigation) for clients who have been wrongfully refused. We prepare ground of appeal, witness statement(s) etc.
4. Further, we offer International Investors legal assistance through our partnership with other law firms abroad. We can help a client secure an investment abroad, or a foreigner secure investments here (Nigeria).

What is the most fulfilling case you have ever handled?
As a rule, I do not take on any case I am not passionate about. It is my passion that propels me to give my best. In my immigration practice however, one particular case comes to mind though. Client was a 17-year old boy at that time. He lost his mother at a young age. His mother was never married to his father. He was raised by his maternal grandmother who also later became deceased. His father was a Nigerian / Belgian permanently resident in Belgium. He wanted the client to join him. There were a lot of documentary challenges. Initially it looked like a hopeless case. The client, young and without assistance (other than professional fee his father paid to the firm), did all his best to assemble necessary documentation. He made several trips from Edo (where he was living at the time) to our firm in Lagos. The package took about 6 months to tidy up and another 6 months in the embassy. I was gearing up for appeals when the documents came out and his application was granted. This case was fulfilling for me because in the course of packaging the client’s application, I got to learn of his life story. He’d had a difficult life and I felt that he deserved a break. I was very happy he got his visa. He is doing very well in Belgium now.

I share your joy. I do find too that the cases we tend to love the most are not the ones we made most money from but the ones we helped our clients get life-changing results. Given your diverse practice, have you noticed any dissimilarity between Immigration Law and other areas of law practice?
Yes there are, for instance, one of the popular principles in law is that a person is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. In Immigration law the reverse is the case. In Immigration Law, it is an applicant’s duty to prove that his/her purpose is genuine before his/her request is granted. In other words, you are considered an Economic Migrant (especially if you are applying from an undeveloped country to a developed country) until evidence proves otherwise.

Another difference is that Immigration law is not guided by Precedence. Even where two clients have the same immigration challenges, solutions are rarely the same. Every application is unique to the applicant’s personal and economic circumstances.

Lagos State government recently uploaded the State Laws on the internet but requires people to make a certain payment before accessing them. What is your take on this? Shouldn’t people know, say the Criminal Code, without having to buy them, in order not to break the law.
I have always been of the opinion that basic laws (criminal law and fundamental human rights) should be introduced as subjects is senior secondary schools and that such laws be also made available to the masses especially since ignorance of the law is not a defence in law. Take this yahoo yahoo thing for example, a lot of youths who engage in it do it for the fun of it as much as for the money. They are ignorant of the fact that they are committing a felony nor the penalty it attracts. But the Government as usual is focused on generating revenue at the expense of the masses’ welfare.

The National Assembly did not pass the gender equality bill that was presented before it earlier this year. What effect do you think passing this law would have had on women’s right?
I have not read the bill though but I do not think it will have any substantive effect on women’s right. I am not aware of any law(in my jurisdiction) that is specifically discriminatory against women. The constitution provided for Fundamental HUMAN rights. The Criminal Code did not segregate crimes or penalties on gender. I am indifferent to the bill just like I am indifferent to the bill on domestic violence (when the criminal code has amply provided laws against physical and non-physical violence). I am indifferent to these laws and bills focusing on women simply because I think they amount to proliferation of laws. If we women are serious about our rights, we should stop expecting special treatment. It is our constitutionally giving right to challenge any law or practice that we feel is discriminatory towards us on basis of gender. Any woman who seeks to challenge such laws or practice will have my support pro bono.

So if someone wants to apply for visitors’ visa to U.S. are you able to do that?
Yes. Like I said the bulk of our clients falls in the Visitors (short term travellers) category. We also serve clients who wish to travel to Canada, Australia, Europe etc .

Where can people get information and resources about Maritime Laws and Immigration Laws in Nigeria?
There are plethora of books and legislations on Maritime: NIMASA ACT 2007, Sabotage Act etc. For Immigration law, there is the Immigration Act but general rule , it is the Immigration rules and regulation of the country a client is seeking entry to that is relied on.

You practice Maritime law. What is the relationship between depreciation of the Naira and Importation?
The Naira depreciation is as a result of Nigeria’s heavy reliance on importation. Nigeria imports almost everything. If importation reduces, the Naira will appreciate.

Thank you, Chika. I enjoyed this interview and I learned quite a lot, and I’m sure our readers will too.
You are most welcome, Anne, and thanks again for having me. It is an Amazing job you are doing with the blog.

P.S: If you enjoyed reading this post and will love others to learn from it, please share on Facebook. Want to be notified any time I post a new blog? Click the follow button on this blog or follow me on twitter @annemmeje. Thank you, as always, for your support.

MEET ADA OPUROZOR: A PIONEER OF E-COMMERCE IN NIGERIA AND CEO OF TWO MAJOR ONLINE STORES

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Ada Opurozor

Editor’s Note:
When I learned I would be interviewing Ada, I was pleasantly surprised because I had thought that with the level of success she has attained, she should be interviewed by Forbes, not me. CEO of Da-Funshop and Wholesaleng, Ada started offering goods for sale online when many Nigerians still thought Facebook was all there was to the internet. E-commere wasn’t Ada’s first venture into entrepreneurship. As a child, Ada displayed steamed groundnuts for sale in front of her parents’ home, to make her “own” money, much to the embarrassment of her blue-blooded father who graduated with a first class in Statistics.

After graduating from university, Ada worked with her father’s advertising company. Not one to be complacent because of her father’s success, Ada opened a brick-and-mortar kids’ store. Thereafter, seeing the need to serve customers outside Lagos, Ada ventured into e-commerce. Today, drawing from her experience in running Nigeria’s favorite online kids’store and Nigeria’s No.1 wholesale mart, Ada now also runs a company that offers digital marketing and website designing. In this interview, Ada gives us an insight into how she came to be a serial entrepreneur.

Let’s Get to Know You.
A: My name is Princess Ada Opurozor, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of three Companies: www.dafunshop.com-Nigeria’s favourite online kids store and www.wholesaleng.com- Nigeria’s number 1 online wholesale mart and Big Ideas Communications Limited- A web design/digital marketing Communications Company.
I do not believe in Impossibility, everything is possible.

You are one of the pioneers of e-commerce in Nigeria, an exceptional feat. Do you have a background in technology?
A: I have no background in Technology. I had my first degree in Mass Communication and started my work career in the Advertising/marketing Communications Industry as a Client Service Executive. I had always loved business so I started a Kids Store even while I was still working. I had to resign my job after 6 years to run the kids store as I needed it to succeed.

What motivated you to transition from a brick-and-mortar store to online business? Do you still have physical stores?
A: The Motivation was the desire to succeed. The business wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped and I was thinking of ways to reach more people than those within my store location. Going the e-commerce route was me being innovative. At that time, online stores weren’t so popular in Nigeria but I had shopped online from stores abroad and one day I said to myself, if I, being I Nigeria, can buy from stores in UK and China, without even meeting these people or stepping my foot in these countries, then people from far and near can also buy from me if I take my business to the world-wide web. That gave birth to http://www.dafunshop.com (Nigeria’s favourite online kids store).

Going Online really helped grow the business beyond my expectations. We still have a walk-in Store where customers can walk in to buy if they do not want to shop online.

How have you succeeded in ensuring goods are delivered to your customers without getting lost in transit? Are the goods insured?
A: We work in partnership with some reputable Courier and logistics company who ensure delivery of orders to our customers nationwide. The Courier Companies insure these items so they get to replace any item lost in transit although this has never happened in our years of doing business. The worst that has happened is that an item got damaged in transit and in such cases, we replace the item and charge the courier company for it.

What’s your return policy?
A: We have a three-day return policy within Lagos and a seven-day return policy for outside Lagos orders. However, items on SALE/Clearance are not eligible for returns.

How do you ensure customer satisfaction?
A : We encourage customer feedback as that is the only way we can improve. Customers drop feedback on our website, Facebook page or in –store and we are always ready to look into areas of concern.

Many Nigerian entrepreneurs complain that though there are many unemployed graduates in Nigeria, it is difficult to find skilled employees with good work ethic. What has been your experience with finding skilled employees with integrity for your business?
A: This is a problem that we face regularly. Getting the right people with the right attitude is like looking for a needle in a haystack really. I always say, there are lots of people looking for jobs but very few willing to work. I have had dedicated serious staff as well so all hope isn’t lost, we are always on the lookout for such people who can bring something to the table.

Nigeria has a reputation for fraud. Your success shows one can achieve any goal the put their mind to. How have you been able to ensure your customers’ financial information do not get into wrong hands? I understand your sites are 100% secure.
A: I always tell people that Nigerians are not the only fraudulent people in the world. There are fraudulent people everywhere. A friend of mine got duped trying to do business with some Chinese guys so this fear applies everywhere. We have been successful because we do our best to fulfill customers’ orders as timely as possible. My happiness and satisfaction comes when I read messages from customers on how happy they are with goods purchased or our services etc.

Let me say something here, we are currently the only online store now in Nigeria that doesn’t offer pay-on-delivery service anymore. Initially when we started, we did pay-on-delivery for the first two years, it wasn’t an easy ride. Some customers are not really serious and just want to play on the website, when you go to deliver, they switch off their phones on you or blatantly reject the item for flimsy reasons. They even refuse to pay the delivery fee for bringing the item to them so who bears that cost? We decided to only process prepaid orders and I tell you, business has not slowed down at all, we are still very busy. We have made a reputation for been a serious business and our customers do not doubt our reliability at all. Also for new customers who are skeptical, they can choose to walk into our physical store in Festac Town, Lagos to buy. Those who are outside Lagos and can’t visit themselves, may send their friends or relations to the store to shop for them.
On Site Security, we use a reputable and secured hosting company. Also paying online on our site is very secure as we also deploy a reputable payment process for this purpose.

Who are your major competitors? What sets you apart from them?
A: Many Online Stores are springing up every day so competition is stiff. However, for instance the wholesaleng.com, we are really the only ones doing what we do the way we do it for now. We sell items in bulk online in Nigeria from various categories ranging from baby to kids to beauty to appliances, etc., at low wholesale prices. Our main focus are resellers who own kids stores, supermarkets, gift shops, bookshops, beauty shops etc. For dafunshop.com, what sets us apart from other kids’ online stores is that we have a walk-in-store and an address. Most online stores just have telephone numbers on their contact us page.

I notice your stores seem to offer high-end products; my friends who patronize you are from upper middle class families. I see some kids’ cars that go for over a N100,000 on your site. Obviously not many Nigerians can afford that. Do you have products for the average Joe (or is it Emeka since we are talking about a Nigerian market)?
Yes of course. Our Customers cut across all classes. You will also find products for as low as N50 on our website or In-store. We stock items for people of different pocket sizes. If you are looking for high-end or low-end, you will find them at our store.

What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
The fact that I own me and own my time. I can decide to take a vacation anytime and not answer to anyone. The fact that I love what I do and I am happy. The fact that every sweat, every effort I put into the business translate into my own pocket. I love that.

What is the difference between Da-Funshop and Wholesaleng?
Da Fun-Shop is a Kids Retail Business with a Walk-in and online store. Our Customers are mostly parents who wish to purchase unique, quality items for their kids. While Wholesaleng is a strictly Online wholesale business with a physical office. Wholesaleng customers are mainly resellers who own their own shops.

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You were in South Africa recently as a guest speaker at an e-commerce conference; how was the experience?
It was a wonderful experience for me as I got to meet different people taking advantage of the online hemisphere from other parts of the world. I got to rub minds with intelligent driven young people like myself. I was motivated and inspired to do more.

Has the depreciation of the naira affected your business?
Yes, it has affected us greatly. Prices of goods have doubled and the purchasing power of the average Nigerian has decreased so this has caused a huge problem as many people are not buying or shopping as much anymore. Some of our customers who used to buy wholesale on a regular basis to stock up their shops have not placed an order in a long time.

Do you miss being a paid employee?
Not at all, I DO NOT miss being a paid employee at all. I make more than I could ever dream of working for someone and I have full control of my time as well.

Do you have any challenges peculiar to your business as an online business?
The Challenges we face are two-dimensional as we are both an online and physical store so we face common problems associated with these industries. Problems such as Server- down time, Power(electricity) remain a major challenge. We have to have steady power, computers have to be on 24/7 as orders are processed each second.

You deliver in all 36 states. What is the average time it takes from the time a customer places an order to the time the goods are delivered to them? Have you ever delivered to Zamfara (I assume it is one of the most obscure states in Nigeria)?
Yes, we deliver to all states in Nigeria. As long as there is a bus going to that state, we can deliver there. The average delivery time is one day in Lagos and 3-5 days outside Lagos. And yes, we have processed orders from Zamfara.

Where do you see your two online stores in the next seven years?
In the next seven years, we see Da Fun-shop having more Walk-in-stores in other states in Nigeria. We see ourselves being a household name. For Wholesaleng, we intend to increase our product categories/lines and start delivering products outside the shores of this country.

Fittingly, drawing from you experience in successfully running two online stores, you now design websites and run digital advertising campaigns for clients. Please tell us the importance of a good web design.
I have always been very artistic and picked up graphic designing when I was working in the advertising industry. By the time I left, I was writing advertising copy and doing graphic jobs as well.

Moving into the Online industry, I realized a lot of people were unreliable and leaving the fate of my business to some unreliable web designer wasn’t the way I wanted to do things so I decided to learn web-design in order to manage my online store myself. By the time I decided to set up wholesaleng.com, I was able to design the site on my own. Since then I have built websites for some other clients. Most web design jobs I have done are based on referrals from people I have worked for in the past. I also run digital advertising campaigns, social media campaigns for my online stores and other clients as well.

A good website is very important as this is a major factor in ensuring that interest becomes a Sale. Customers should be to navigate the website easily, find products and place their orders easily otherwise they can give up along the way and the store loses.

You previously worked in an advertising firm before digital marketing became prevalent. What skills from your previous experience have you transferred into your services as a digital marketing consultant?
Advertising principles whether traditional advertising or Digital advertising are basically the same. I learnt Copy writing, graphic designing, client management and lots more from my previous employment and this has contributed greatly to my success in my own businesses.

How effective are digital marketing?
Digital Marketing is where is the world is now. The Internet has made the world a truly small village; communication is a lot easier with all the social media sites, apps etc. Tapping into this benefit has helped most businesses since it is easier to target specific audiences and also easier to measure effectiveness of your advertising online.

Can you give us a price range for designing a website?
Depending on the features needed on the website, prices may vary from N50,000 to N500,000. An e-commerce site costs more than a corporate website due to certain plugins and features that have to be integrated like payment, shipping etc.

What is the minimum budget one should have before they can consider digital advertising?
There is no minimum or maximum budget. We can work with what the Client has available. No matter how small, every kobo expended will bring in a result.

You are proof one can do it all and a breath of fresh air in a country where the media tend to publish mostly depressing tales. You are an inspiration to young women.
Thank you very much for granting this interview.

You are welcome.

How to Apply for Transcript from University of Nigeria, Nsukka

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If you graduated from University of Nigeria, Nsukka, you are among the privileged few Nigerian graduates who can apply for their transcripts online. You don’t have to incur travel expenses traveling to Enugu or spend your hard-earned money on unofficial fees ‘settling’ university staff to get them to do their jobs.

Fees
UNN charges N15,000 to deliver transcripts within Nigeria, and N35,000 for international deliveries. That may sound like a lot but if you consider that you won’t expend money traveling to Enugu, missing work, etc, you will see that it is well worth it. You can use verve, visa, or master card to apply. The portal accepts payment only in naira at this time. If you are outside Nigeria, you will have to get someone in Nigeria to use their debit card to complete the transaction.

How to apply
To apply, click here. You will need to enter your matriculation number and other identifying information. You can apply for multiple transcripts at a time. Enter the name you used when you were in school. If you are a woman and you have married since graduating from UNN, use your maiden name as UNN does not know you by your marital name.

Student Copies
As at the time I wrote this post, the online application has no provision for student copies. However, UNN says you can apply online to have the official copy sent to you. Again, UNN alums are lucky the school doesn’t mind delivering the official copies to them. Many other schools insist alums come to them each time they need a transcript so they can deliver directly to the requesting institution.

Caveat
Delivered transcripts are NON-RETURNABLE. Successful transcript orders cannot be cancelled. Successful payments cannot be reversed.

Successful orders are packaged and delivered to the address specified by an alum while placing the order. An alum is responsible and liable for any error in the specified delivery address and would have to pay any additional expense in getting the package re-delivered to an appropriate location.

Standard shipping ETAs (estimated time of arrival) apply to all orders and vary pending on the selected courier agent.

UNN promises to do everything it can to ensure its alumni have a positive experience in acquiring their transcripts.