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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile the damage had been done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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