Travel Smart with Attorney Chika Okoroafor: Dear Foreigners, Here’s How to and Why You Should Invest In Nigeria

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The Travel Smart Series is written by Chika Okoroafor, an Immigration Lawyer based in Nigeria.

Happy New Year, fellow Smart Travelers, and thank you so much for your support last year. For all those who wrote us, rest assured we will attend to all your inquires soon. Today’s post is all about educating foreigners on how to invest in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy.

A line by Nathalie Emmanuel (Ramsey) in Fast and Furious 8, I saw the movie recently,   goes something like “… so she has rendered my app obsolete…”  The Fast team wanted to use God’s eye to track down Vin diesel, only to find out that Charize Theron  had developed an app, or something similar, that interferes with the trace result, such that when “God’s eyes” is used to track an individual, the trace response will read multiple locations.

That line from Nathalie resonates with me. In IT-advanced countries like China, US etc. an inventor’s misfortune is the realisation that a breakthrough in a technology that perhaps they have invested their life’s worth on developing and perfecting is worth nothing because a bigger tech companies have long developed and patented a technology with the same functionality. Hence the technology is rendered obsolete on arrival.

In Nigeria and other third world countries, most of our industries are behind when compared with first world countries. Mobile phones started making waves in the early 70’s. By late 80’s mobile phones were already commercialised in developed countries. As far back as the 80’s, mobile phones were regular gadgets accessible to  common folks. It took Nigeria three decades later to commercialize mobile phones. At the time mobile phones came into Nigeria commercial market, what was been circulated were the early 70/80 prototypes. In summary an inventor whose product is “obsolete” in the 1st world may find relevance in Nigeria and other third world countries. Relevance is one of the reasons why investing in Nigeria may benefit a foreigner.

Besides relevance, below are other benefits of investing Nigeria, African’s largest economy:

  • Surplus variations of natural resources
  • Relatively favourable business environment
  • Free market economy
  • High return on investment
  • Available and affordable work force (over 70% of Nigeria population are youths under 30)
  • Political stability
  • Large consumer market (a population of over 155 million Nigeria is the most populous country and eight in the world)
  • Large and fertile land mass for Agro- Allied industries etc.

There are a lot of publications, with projections and statistical proofs, on the many benefits of investing in Nigeria. I will not be rehashing those; rather I will be writing on the practicability of foreigners or “Aliens” (using our local statutory term) doing business in Nigeria. This is based on my research.

Sometime last year, my firm was approached by two foreign companies. One of the companies was a Property/Estate Developer and Manager Company based in Dubai. I was elected by my firm to oversee the project of drafting a proposal of what it will take, in cost and tenure, for the foreign client to get all necessary permits to do business in Nigeria.  Hitherto all I knew about procedure of alien doing business in Nigeria were mere text book knowledge. I was excited that I would finally get to put them into practice. I knew it was going to be tasking, but I have long ago developed a simple problem-solving approach. I call it the Down-Up system. The solution to most legal issues can be surmounted by simply doing two things

First, look DOWN, read books and do your research, precedent is a lawyer’s best tool. Where you still cannot connect all the dots then you look UP to your seniors in practice. For me though, even when I think I have all that I need, especially for hitherto gray areas areas of practice I have zero practical experience on, I will still look UP i.e consult colleagues and seniors in practice and run it by them. You know the saying that “that it all may be lawful but not expedient.”

Apart from personal gain, I was proud that in time of recession and gross unemployment, that via these companies a lot of job opportunities will be created. The companies will most definitely employ local hands; properties will be purchased or leased to run the businesses. In summary, so many people where going to benefit on the long run. So with so much drive and motivation I kicked-started my research.

My discoveries: To perfect a Business permit for an alien to participate in business, there is no clear cut procedure. The process will vary in accordance with the particulars of the business involved. Approval has to be gotten from various Government agency eg CAC, NIPC, DPR, CBN,  Ministry of Interior, Nigeria Customs, state/federal Ministry of land depending on location ( if the company intends to acquire property where it will run its business). Approvals are not gotten consecutively or concurrently. In fact the whole process is a potpourri of various intertwining processes. So here you start with one agency and get to a point where to continue, another agency’s approval has to be gotten before the previous agency can conclude because you cannot initiate the next step or conclude without certain approvals. I had all the information I needed to draft a proposal, advice, cost and to estimate tenure for the whole process. Eventually I drafted a proposal.

PEBEC AND VOA TO THE RESCUE

Early 2017, a senior officer at the ministry of interior with whom I brainstormed the tediousness of the Alien Business participation legalization processes, hinted PEBEC to me. The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) was set up in July 2016 by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business. It is a new government initiative constituted to take away the bottlenecks associated with regularizing foreigner’s participation in doing business in Nigeria.

There’s also VOA, an acronym for Visa on arrival. VOA is a privilege offered to business investors from ALL countries (except citizens of ECOWAS national who don’t need visas to enter Nigeria). So for business investors,the absence of Nigeria mission/embassies in your country will pose no hindrance. Even where there is a mission/embassy but it is urgent for an imminent business purpose, it is still okay to use VOA.  All you need is a VOA approval letter and flight ticket. On arrival at the port of entry, there is a desk marked “visa on arrival” where your entry will be regularized.

The VOA procedure is simple and can be done in two ways.

Please note this  procedure is available to business visitors alone and VOA approval letter MUST be mailed to applicant/representative before trip is embarked on.

In summary, via PEBEC and VOA initiative, for a foreigner who intends to invest in Nigeria, the regularization process is now a mere walk in the park and you can always count on us to walk you through.

 

Please share this with people who may benefit from it and write us at attorneychika@gmail.com with all your  inquiries.

Till next post, stay smart.

Chika okoroafor

 

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Travel Smart With Attorney Chika Okoroafor: Why You Should Start Going to Vacations Abroad Even If You Don’t Intend to Migrate Right Now

 

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The Travel Smart Series is written by Chika Okoroafor, an immigration lawyer based in Nigeria. To see our very first interview with her, click here. I partner with her to produce the series so as to create awareness of the legitimate means available for those who wish to travel abroad. We hope this effort will help reduce the epidemic of human trafficking which  results when desperate Nigerians try to migrate to other countries illegally.  

For a while now I have been trying to finish a post on International Investment for foreigners who are interested in investing in Nigeria and for Nigerians who are interested in investing abroad. It ought to have been posted weeks back but somehow other topics have kept it in the shadow. I was determined to finish it and finally get it out this week but  I am afraid that won’t be the case. Today’s post is inspired by interactions I had with two individuals who contacted me independently, via this medium. Although they had different stories and plans, I realised that at the end of the day, to each, I was making similar submission as to the other. I realised that even with some variances in their individual facts, they share the same fundamental defects, hence the similarity in the solution I proffered. Before I go into the main discussion please permit me to digress a little.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Italian authorities recovered the corpse of 26 female Nigerians (some as young as 14), illegal migrants who died in the Mediterranean sea while crossing into Italy from Libya.  375 other migrants were rescued and according to The Guardian, most of the survivors were either Nigerians or from other Sub-Saharan countries including Ghana, Sudan and Senegal. It was also reported that these migrants were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. About a week ago, I watched on TV the mass funeral and burial ceremony given to the 26 deceased by the Italians during which Nigerian officials were conspicuously absent. There are arguments that there are no proofs that the 26 were (all) Nigerians.  To me this is the most pathetic excuse and totally irrelevant.

Human trafficking, especially women trafficking, has been a menace in our country for God knows how long. Our Government, however, is yet to take definite action or take a firm approach towards putting an end to it.  Because the routes and tactics through which this evil is perpetrated are well known, we don’t need a rocket scientist to proffer a permanent solution to end this inhumane act. So the question is: Why is human trafficking still alive and well in our country? If you think corruption, well, your guess is as good as mine. However, it will take the most deviant in heart to look the other way, while young female children are being trafficked.  I implore every one of us to please be our brother’s keeper.  Most of these girls are taken involuntarily. Let us report to relevant authorities immediately, if we suspect anyone or group of person to be perpetrators. May God help us and all of ours.

To our main discussion for today, we will be looking into the relevance of a good immigration/travel history vis-a-vis issues presented by the two individuals I interacted with earlier this week.

Client A is a soft-spoken young man, single, in his early thirties. He earns a modest income working for a reputable organisation; he is also an entrepreneur with strings of businesses here and there.  For the past five years until quite recently, he could boast of a net worth of about Fifty Million Naira (N50, 000,000).  Like most businesses in Nigeria, he’s also suffered some challenges that led to a drastic fall in his net worth in recent time.  He contacted me because he is desirous of exploring prospective international contacts, in Canada, for some business prospects.

Client B. Coincidentally another young man, who recently turned 19 years old, is from a middle class home. He has been trying to gain admission into the University for the past three years but hasn’t been successful.  To pacify him for his recent disappointment over yet another unsuccessful attempt to gain admission into the university and course of his choice, his parents are willingly to sponsor him for a trip abroad for a holiday, preferably to the UK or US where they have relatives who will receive him. On further inquiry, I discovered that client B’s parents are seasoned travelers with impeccable immigration/travel history

Unfortunately for both clients in the scenarios above, in my humble opinion, based on their current circumstances, chances that they will be granted visas on their application for a visitor’s visa to the destinations they seek is quite narrow and thus not advisable. It’s most unfortunate that both of them could have built an excellent travel history if they had made use of their immigration/travel opportunity peak period.

Do you know when your travel opportunity peak period is? Are you making use of it? Are you developing your immigration/travel record? Perhaps this post will gain you some enlightenment about why your response to the above questions ought to be in the affirmative.

In assessing a client for financial eligibility, I always request for client’s current six months financial record, in other words, bank statement(s). For Client A, it can easily be deduced from his bank statement that presently his financial circumstance is in distress because there is a great disparity in turnover from previous months and the later months. Because client A is single (no family ties) he has only his financial circumstances to establish reasonable ties. Establishing ties in home country is a prerequisite factor for the grant of a visitor’s visa. Clients A’s financial statement from a year ago (2016) was impeccable, great turnovers and stable income flow and it would have made an excellent document to build his immigration/travel records on. But it’s a typical average Nigerian mentality (especially those of us from the Eastern region of Nigeria) of those who are relatively financially well off, but see traveling as waste, except there is an immediate financial gain attached.  We fail to see the greater picture, which is that in the business world, to grow is to continuously explore and expand; nothing in life, business, technology, science etc is static. If you don’t grow, sooner or later, you become obsolete. A little bit of advice to us: No matter how palmy our present business, job, career maybe at the moment, we shouldn’t get too comfortable in a particular spot no matter how good it may seem at the moment. It pays to keep exploring ways to do more, know more and keep being better.  In whatever we do, we should avoid being monotonous at all cost.

Another hitch in Client A’s path is his country of interest. The Canadian high commission, from my practical experience in this line of business, is what we term as “not first-timers friendly”.  There are some diplomatic missions who are very skeptical about “visitors” with zero travel record. So I would not ordinarily (they are few exceptions though) advise a client to apply for a Canadian tourist/other visitors visa if such applicant had not previously  been to United States. However, Client A’s case is redeemable.

My recommendation to Client A

  • To Wait: First, he has to tidy up his financial. He will run a separate account for his salary and another account for income from side his hustle. His business account will be allowed to phase out the previous financial activities so in another couple of months, his future six months statement will read a stable revenue flow albeit a more moderate turnover. Financial eligibility is not all about huge turnovers but financial consistency/stability.
  • On a zero immigration/travel history and in the absence of a specific special visitation grounds, I will not advise him to apply to Canada first. I suggested a couple of “first-timers friendly” diplomatic missions where ceteris paribus, his application as a first-timer will stand a good chance. After he has made a couple of trips, then he may approach the Canadian High Commission.

About Client B, being an unemployed adult (above 18years) he is most likely to be viewed by any entry clearance officer assessing his application as an economic migrant and hence ineligible for a visitor’s visa. His parents’ sponsorship and the fact he has an invitation of family /friend who are legal residents of host country notwithstanding. Assessment is first and foremost individual-based.  The simple summary of client B’s individual assessment will reveal an unemployed adult, poor financial status, zero ties to home country.  However a few years back, when Client B was still a minor and perhaps in secondary school, an application for visitor visa would have been granted, why? He was a minor dependent on his parents’ financial status and his tie would be his educational status in his home country. In that scenario, as long as his parents could afford to sponsor him, and every other thing being equal, he is eligible to be granted entry permit. Client B’s parents would have taken advantage of his secondary school study period to build an immigration record for him by simply taking him along a few of their numerous previous trips abroad. As little as three trips to UK can earn an applicant privileged to a five year multiple entry visitor visa. The US embassy grants eligible applicant 2 years multiple entry visitor’s visa renewable via drop box (the drop box options is not an absolute right though). In other words if Client B had taken advantage of his immigration/travel peak period ( in this case while he was still in school), chances are that he may, like his parents, have valid visas/entry right at the present  and there would not have been any need to approach the diplomatic missions.  All he would have needed would be tickets to his destination and bon voyage.

Recommendations

  • To wait till he has proof of reasonable ties. In this instance, the easiest evidence of ties for client B to develop is academic pursuit. He needs to get into school (University) and while in school during school holiday he may start developing his immigration/travel record. Except he intends to change his visa route say from visit to study, then it’s a different procedure one which may not necessarily need evidence of an ongoing academic pursuit.
  • Since the trip is merely for Client B’s amusement, I suggested tourist location within Nigeria top on my list (Obudu cattle ranch in the beautiful state of Cross Rivers) or other regions where visa processing is not strict or visa free. The suggestions may not be as glamorous or exciting for client B as what his parents had promised but my job is to give advice from list of options, that which will suit client’s best in any prevailing circumstances. And like folks around here would say; at all, at all, na em bad pass or in other phrase; half bread is better than nothing.

Moral of today’s post: if /when you can afford it, please do develop you immigration/travel record. You may not necessarily be a chronic traveler to do this. As little as one trip a year or one in two years, strategically planned, may be all you need. The important thing is to create a bridge between yourself and countries of interest. On the long run you will discover it is worth it. This advice is most useful for us in Nigeria and other 3rd world countries.  Most of our local industries are constantly playing catch up with contemporaries in countries in the 1st world. If we are to retain relevance in any field and perhaps dare to top local competitors, we have to have access to the right information and contacts globally via attending conferences, trade fairs, trainings, short/long course etc; hence the essence of a healthy immigration/travel history.

I hope today’s post resonates with someone. If you want to know when you are at you immigration/travel peak or wish to start or develop your immigration/travel record, we are available to advise, guide and assist in any way we can. Who says you cannot mix business with pleasure? When you travel smart, you can turn a holiday to business prospects (without breaching your visitor’s visa conditions). When you travel smart you can eat your cake and have it.

Thank you for your mails. Like I mentioned earlier, this post was inspired by your inquiries and I hope to draw more inspiration for future post from your emails and comments. As usual, inquires at the comment session will be promptly attended to. Private inquiries are welcomed too at attorneychika@gmail.com.

Till next time, keep smart and remember, sharing is caring

Chika Okoroafor

 

Travel Smart With Attorney Chika Okoroafor: Dear Nurses, Here’s How to Register with Nursing and Midwifery Council as a First Step to Getting Your Work Visa in UK

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The Travel Smart Series is guest-posted by Chika Okoroafor, an Immigration Lawyer based in Nigeria. See our interview with her here.

Since the last publication on the UK tier 2 work visa, our mail box has been swamped with inquiries from interested parties. Unfortunately, other than Nurses and Midwifes, we do not have the contacts yet to help other professionals whose skills are enlisted on the Tier 2 occupation list and Tier 2 shortage occupation list.

We are still working on making contact with more human resource companies in the UK to cover more fields in order to be able to give our teeming clients of various professions the opportunity of getting job offers and placements in the UK.  As we have learnt from the previous post, a Job offer is a mandatory requirement for accessing a Tier 2 visa.

However, other professionals whose skill sets are enlisted in the tier 2 occupation lists can solicit the help of family and friends in the UK to seek out possible employment or scuff the net for job opportunities by themselves. Google is always very helpful in this regards. You may also register with UK-based human resource companies. Just be sure to do your due diligence. There may be some registration fees to be paid, but be certain it’s a reputable organisation before parting with your money.

For nurses and midwives, NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) is the professional body in charge of nurses and midwives in the UK. It is mandatory that anyone who intends to work in the nursing and midwifery profession in the UK register with NMC and get necessary certifications.

Registering with NMC

1             create an account in https://ireg.nmc-uk.org

2             Start application

3             Book Pearson VEU English test date

4             pay for the test (£130 or $172)

5             pass test and conclude application

Please Note: Pearson VEU test is an online Computer Base Test (CBT). For all the requirements for registering with NMC, please see this link.

We will only come in after an applicant has successfully registered with NMC. Our duty will be to link applicants to available job offers via our contacts in the UK. We will also provide guidance and visa packaging assistance.

For applicants who wrote us with regards to certain challenges they encountered in completing the NMC registration, such as

  • In ability to pay for the Pearson Test using their bank debit card
  • Stopping half way and not remembering login details
  • Not fully comprehending the questions etc.,

We have come up with some solutions. Issue 1 can be resolved by using a dollar (USD) debit card.  You must have a USD account to have a USD debit card or you can get someone who has to make payment on your behalf.

With regards to all the above challenges, we decided that an applicant may approach us to assist with the registration with NMC for a minimum service charge. Applicant will provide necessary information and funds for registration so we can make payment on their behalf.

I hope this post helps with our collective inquiries. If not, please rewrite us or you may post your question on the comment section and will promptly respond to you.

Thank you for inspiring us with you mails, comments and shares.

Till next time on Travel Smart Series, keep safe

Chika Okoroafor

P:S. As stated above, while ideally, we come in after an applicant has registered with NMC, for a small fee, we are willing to guide applicants who need assistance to register with NMC.

 

 

 

 

28 Takeaways From Days of Dialogue in Los Angeles Re: Police Brutality and Other Divisive Issues in U.S.

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In the past two weeks, I volunteered at two events (Days of Dialogue) organized by Institute of Non-Violence. The events are mainly aimed at improving police relationship with communities. The audience for the first event was a union for low-skilled school workers, the second, a muslim community. It was a pleasant experience for me: from having a cop slide a hand-written note that read Jay Jay Okocha my way when I mentioned that I grew up in Nigeria, getting an opportunity to say Salam Alekum (a greeting I learned in 2008 during my National Youth Service in Katsina, a predominantly muslim State), to learning that each stripe in the sleeve of an LAPD cop uniform represents five years of service.  More important, the  events provide a  rare opportunity to get unfiltered views from both sides of the aisle on issues  relating to police shootings of often unarmed  civilians.

Below,  in no particular order and sometimes contradictory, I highlight views  expressed by both members of law enforcement and the community at the two events

1. If law enforcement officers try to establish rapport with, and get to know members of the community before they are called for encounters that may necessitate deadly force, then officers are more likely to know, for example, which member of the public has mental illness and what step to take when they  subsequently respond to an incident involving the person. Also if officers have a rapport with a member of the community, a traffic stop is more likely to be a “Hey, buddy, looks like your brake light is off” than a series of commands to a belligerent driver who has preconceptions that officers are just out there to get people like him.

While writing this post, I did some research and found that the Los Angeles Police Department has about 9000 sworn officers serving Los Angeles’ 4 million population. So even if all these officers worked patrol, which isn’t the case, each officer will have to personally know about 444 members of the community. So while more engagement with the community will be possible in smaller cities, a city as big as LA may not afford having officers engage personally with members of the community in a way that yields the benefit proposed by this view. Events like the Days of Dialogue, targeted at groups, is more feasible and I applaud it.

2.  In order for gun control laws to be effective, they should be uniform throughout the country, otherwise,  a state that has strict gun laws, like stricter backgrounds checks, for example, will still have people bringing into the state guns purchased from out-of-state.

3.  There is no need for tougher  gun control laws. People who do not obey the law do not obey existing gun laws anyway, so they will not obey any new laws. Stricter gun laws only hurt law-abiding citizens and limit their rights to acquire arms, a situation that renders them vulnerable and defenseless in the event they are attacked.

4. Australia’s 1996 tighter gun control laws has reduced homicide rate in the country significantly. While writing this post, I did a little research and found that there are conflicting views on the effect of the 1996 laws. That said, I found this excerpt from Wikipdia:

“Since the 1996 legislation the risk of dying by gunshots was reduced by 50% in the following years and stayed on that lower level since then.

The rate of gun related suicide was greatly reduced as well.[26] In 2010, a study reported a 59% decrease in firearm homicides in Australia between 1995 and 2006 (0.37 per 100,000 people in 1995 to 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2006).[29] They also reported that the non-firearm homicides fell by the same rate. The decreasing rate for homicide with a firearm was a continuation of a pre-existing decline prior to the 1996 reforms, and several analyses of these trends have been conducted and claimed that the reforms have had a statistically insignificant effect on homicide rates with a firearm .[30]

Suicides by firearm were already declining; however they fell significantly after controls, dropping around 50% in two years.[31] Overall suicide rates remained steady until a slight drop in 2003, followed by stable rates since then.[27]”

5. There is currently no law mandating any training for new gun owners.

6. There is  a real  need for gun owners to be responsible for where they keep their guns. Keeping guns locked away is the safest way to store them; not in plain view, however high. Even a hidden but accessible place is unsafe as the gun may get into the  wrong hands in the event of a burglary.  Officers at the event gave an example of their colleague who is now paralyzed because he stored his gun under his chair while riding his young child in a car. I think the young child somehow got her hand on the gun and accidentally shot his dad. As I am writing this, in the news is the story of an 11-year old South Carolina girl who killed herself with a gun. So the need for safe gun storage  cannot be over emphasized.

7. LAPD has the best model in the country for dealing with people with mental illness. The unit has about seventy sworn officers who respond to cases involving people with mental health issues. This 2015 article provides more insight into the program for anyone researching on the subject.

8. In 2015, LAPD officers had over 1.5 million contacts with members of the public, including arrests and responses to 9-1-1 calls. Only .13% of those contacts resulted in any type of use of force. This represents a Use of Force rate of 1.3 per 1,000 public contacts.
The 48 Officer-Involved Shootings in 2015 represent only .03 per 1,000 contacts with members of the public or .003%. See the full report here.

9. There is need for mutual respect between the police and the public. If an officer is friendly towards a driver during a traffic stop, the driver is less likely to be hostile towards the officer. Likewise, a police officer is less likely to be violent towards a citizen who obeys instructions given by an officer. Giving an officer attitude places one in a bad position. This is true. I had previously heard an officer say that she is more likely to give a ticket to someone who is uncooperative. A family member also told me of how once he was stopped by an officer for no apparent reason. After questioning him, the officer let him go but then he asked the officer why he stopped him in the first place. The officer then issued him  a ticket that contained the violation. Yep, silence is golden and officers admit they are humans after all, so don’t give them attitude.

10. Despite the training they receive re mentally challenged people, the police may nevertheless use deadly force on such persons if they pose immediate danger to others.

11. The LAPD has contemplated not pursuing fleeing felons, and withdrawing and running away from people who pose immediate harm to officers. But the downside to adopting this de-escalation technique is that it will set a dangerous precedent and lead people to commit  crime with impunity.

12. A black man was walking around in Beverly Hill and a police officer stopped him and asked him, “What are you doing here?” Beverly Hills is 82% white and 2% blacks.

13. Family dynamics in U.S. is changing. Children are not held accountable for their actions at home and so they have no respect for authority. It shows in the way they talk to officers. A participant recounted an incident she witnessed. A juvenile spat on a sheriff while they were all waiting for a hearing in a courtroom, the officer remained professional throughout the incident. Moments later, the juvenile alleged that the officer had manhandled him, which was untrue. The officer’s saving grace  was that there were witnesses, including lawyers, to the incident.

Young adults who have no sense that certain actions lead to certain consequences are always shocked when they end up in the justice system for actions that hitherto went unpunished.

Recently my friend started substitute teaching. Within her first two days, an 11-year old in her class told her to say please or she would not obey her order. So there’s definitely some truth to the assertion that young people have no respect for authority.

14. You can make a report against an officer for the silliest of reasons and the department will launch an investigation, no matter how improbable the allegation may be. I didn’t quite hear this part well but I think  an officer gave an example of a cop that was once investigated because a woman alleged the officer stole her ovaries!

15. There is a lot of misinformation and exaggeration by the media regarding police use of deadly force.

16. Minorities  experience some sort of discrimination wherever they are. A participant who is Armenian believes that Glendale police stop them more than they do others. This, despite Armenians making up about 34% of Glendale population.

17. Doing a ride-along with a police officer may help citizens see things from  police perspective. See this page if you want to do a ride-along with LAPD.

18. LAPD is diverse: about 50% of sworn officers are Hispanics.

19. Illegal immigrants in Los Angeles shouldn’t worry about LAPD officers engaging in deportation activities against them. LAPD is not cooperating with the Feds in that regard.

20. A by-stander videoing officers when they are making an arrest makes the officers’ job harder as the officers now have to worry about the safety of the bystander while trying to effect an arrest.

21. Officers love that their departments now use body-cameras because it makes them more accountable, and exonerate them when they are falsely accused. However, officers say body cameras now make them harsher on citizens as they now feel impelled to punish minor crimes they would have used their discretion to pardon in the past, lest their department discipline them for being soft on crime. They also  hate that the department can nit-pick on their actions recorded in the video. I agree with them. However good an employee may be, it will be suffocating to have an employer watch every move one makes.

21. Police draw their guns only when they fear an imminent threat to life.

22. One hundred and thirty-five officers lost their lives in the U.S. in 2016. This is not widely reported in the news so the public are not well informed about the danger officers face. But the officers know this figure and so are apprehensive during encounters with dangerous members of the public. Many of them have had their friends killed on the job.

23. Younger African males are more racially profiled than older African Americans.

24. Older members of the police force engage members  of the community more politely than younger law enforcement officers. Experience does come with age.

25. A participant recounted how his son and his friends, all high school students, were walking to a Taco Bell for lunch. They were stopped by the police. His son greeted the officers politely and respectfully. The police detained his friends and sent him home. This reinforces the  earlier point that the police reciprocate courtesy.

26. There is more tension when officers who grew up in sheltered suburbs are assigned to patrol inner cities.

27. Even blacks are biased against members of their race whose dressing and conduct in public give the impression that they can cause harm. It is recommended that people dress the way that they want to be addressed; even people who aren’t racist have implicit bias and may judge us wrongly based solely on the impression they get from our appearance.

28. Muslims don’t support ISIS. Muslim participants said ISIS actually kill more muslims than people who practice other religion. There may be some truth to that assertion. In Nigeria where Boko Haram, another Islamic extremist group that has claimed thousands of lives, operate, they bomb mostly Northern Nigeria which is the muslim region in the country.

It is hard to capture all the lessons from the events in this one post. If you want to learn more and have an unbiased opinion about police brutality in U.S. or to participate in future events, please visit Days of Dialogue website and follow them on Twitter.

 

Anne Mmeje.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oral interview
Paper Assessment
Both Oral and Paper Interview

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time, please be travel smart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Reasons Why Maje Ayida Has No Case Against Toke Makinwa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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