UPDATE: Dr (Mrs) Uzoma Nnanna-Kalu

It is with sadness we announce the passing of Dr.(Mrs) Chinwe Uzoma Nnanna-Kalu. She passed away on Monday morning. She fought valiantly to live and to see her children before she passed away.

We asked you to donate money for her hospital bills and her legal defence. Her bill was in excess of NGN3million. We raised NGN90,000. It was enough to file a suit at the Federal High Court Enugu to enforce her fundamental human rights to life and dignity against the hospital and her husband.

We still have NGN30,000 in our fund and we are going to use it to launch the Women’s Legal Defence Trust Fund immediately. The purpose of this fund is to provide a financial pool to litigate the enforcement of women’s and children’s rights within the family, the workplace and the community. The fund needs to be crowd funded and community owned. This isn’t about me. Its about us. Us keeping our homes and our communities safe for women and children.

Uzoma’s case is not isolated. The number of women whose life depends on timely and urgent legal action is large. We need to have a fund available for emergencies. Legislation and policy are important but its equally important to interpret and enforce them in court. The enforcement and protection of women’s rights have suffered for a lack of litigation and the inability of women to litigate cases addressing important issues of law all the way to the Supreme court for interpretation.

The Womens Legal
Defence Trust Fund will cover legal costs in cases that:

1. Need to be filed urgently to save a woman’s life as was the case with Uzoma.

2. Propose innovative legal arguments that enforce women’s constitutionally protected fundamental rights within the family, the workplace and the community and challenge repugnant laws, customs and customary law.

3. Interpret contentious issues of legal practice and procedure that dicriminate against women or place an unreasonable burden of proof on them in civil and criminal trials.

4. Appeal decisions of lower courts that are unfavourable to women’s rights within the family, the workplace and the community.

5. Develop the capacity of the legal practitioners and the legal profession to protect women’s and children’s rights within the family, the workplace and the community.

These actions will broaden the case law on women’s rights, establish precedents and increase the proficiency of lawyers to defend and protect rights of women and children through the judicial system. We honour Chinwe and all the other women who died because our laws did not protect them.

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THE STORY OF CHINWE UZOMA NNANNA KALU HEALTH

 

We sent a journalist to the Enugu hospital where Chinwe is on admission to get the full story. This is his report.

BY ANTONY ETIM, CHAMPION NEWSPAPERS ENUGU

Dr. Mrs Chinwe Uzoma and her sons

As children and mothers celebrated the 2012 Mothers Day on Sunday, May 12; Echeme and Ole Robert Kalu were wondering where on earth is their mother, Dr. (Mrs) Chinwe Uzoma Nnana Kalu. Meanwhile Uzoma was lying unconscious at the Memfys Neuro-Surgical Hospital, Kilometre2, Enugu Onitsha Express Way, Trans Ekulu Layout, Enugu, Enugu State. Uzoma and her two children have not seen themselves for more than a year. The bedridden medical doctor for more than two years now have been denied the opportunity to discharge her motherly duties to her children who are between the ages of six and eight years. It is not really the sickness that made this impossible rather it was the alienation from her kids that led to her present medical condition.

Sometimes in November 2009, Uzoma has return from work at the Livingword Hospital in Aba, where she worked as a medical doctor. As she entered the family sitting room, her co-wife and the first wife of her husband as if on cue took Echeme and Ole upstairs; and immediately the kids were out of sight and ear shot, her husband descended on the mother of her two sons and beat her into a pulp. He has special canes; belts and other instruments of torture that he uses on his hapless wife anytime he wants to abuse her. This wife not the first time that he was beating Uzoma, domestic violence was a regular occurrence in this family especially when they children are not around. He always makes sure that his sons are not around anytime he wants to attack their mother so that they would not beg him to spare her or join her in crying. When the beating became unbearable, as it seemed her husband was determined to beat her to death that fateful day, Uzoma escaped to the residence of her mother in law for refuge. She left her matrimonial home with only the clothes on her back which she wore to work that day. She has not return to her home since that day.

Uzoma stayed with her mother-in-law till August 2011 when she became ill and was taken to LivingWord Hospital Aba but when her condition did not improve; her father Tony Meribe, a Laboratory Technician in Umuahia requested that she should be moved to Umuahia so that her parents and sibling can watch over her. She was first admitted at Ngozi Hospital Umuahia, from where she was moved to Obioma Hospital still in Umuahia and another unnamed hospital in Umuahia and later the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, where her youger sister work as a nurse. Uzoma went into coma on Sunday November 27, 2011 and was rushed to a hospital. She was later discharged on December 22, 2011 to join her parents and siblings for the Christmas celebration.

All the period that Uzoma was sick and was being transferred from one hospital to another, her husband did not visit her or pick her hospital bills; it was her parents and siblings that were settling the bills. When Uzoma’s family sent message to her husband that his wife was in coma, he retorted that the wife did not go to the hospital from his house, which indirectly means that they should channel their message to his mother, Chinyere, whom Uzoma has been staying with before she got ill according to Emeka Meribe Uzoma’s brother. Emeka recalled that when he telephoned his brother in law to inform him that his wife is paralysed and is in a hospital in Enugu, he, mockingly, replied that he ,too, is paralysed. Emeka recalled that about January 2012, the husband came with his elder brother and a pastor to their house in Umuahia and gave a cheque of two million naira to Uzoma’s parents that their daughter should take that and start life afresh and forget about the marriage because he  is no longer interested in the union any more.

When her condition did not improve, Uzoma sought for medical facility, where her case can be given utmost attention. On Tuesday, March 13, 2012, she was admitted at the MEMFYS Neuro-Surgical Hospital, Kilometre2, Enugu Onitsha Express Way, Trans Ekulu Layout, Enugu, Enugu State. Emeka, who is looking after her in the hospital is a final year Political Science student of Abia State University, Uturu and would be taking his final examinations from May Monday May 28, 2012. Divided, between his sister health and his education, Emeka looked worried and emaciated. Interactions with him showed he is willing to sacrifice his education for his sister to live. During our interactions, he was taking excuse every five minute to dash into the ward and look at his sister. Uzoma currently is on life support at the hospital and between March 13 and May 13, 2012 her bills for drug and treatment are above N3.5 million and the management of the hospital is contemplating throwing her out as her family and siblings seem unable to foot these bills and her continued stay in the hospital.

Medical Director of MEMFYS Neuro-Surgical Hospital, Professor Sam Ohaegbulam said it is not true that the hospital has concluded plans to eject Uzoma from the facility. Ohaegbulam stated that the management of the hospital feel short changed that the family has not been able to settle Uzoma’s bill and the patient is still occupying a bed and is receiving medical attention. The Professor explained that it is not fair that the hospital would reject patients who are willing and ready to pay bills because there is no bed space while a patient who cannot pay is occupying a bed and cited an example of one of the telecommunication companies in the country who staff was rejected because there was no space. Though the hospital may not reject Uzoma because of negative publicity and potraying the hospital management as insensitive, Ohaegulam noted that the cost of drugs and running the facility is capital intensive; and added that he has advised the family to transfer Uzoma to a government owned hospital where the bill would be lesser. He said that Uzoma’s husband has not reach the hospital management and pointed out that it was not the husband that brought Uzoma rather it was her family and they were briefed on the cost implication; therefore the hospital has no business reaching Uzoma’s husband for the settlement of her bills. Ohaegbulam refused to disclosed the nature of Uzoma’s ailment and the diagnosis as well the exact figure of her indebtedness to the hospital and insisted that this information can only be given to members of her family who brought her or with their permission.

END

Where Are We? And Where Are We Going?

What a mad week its been! Its been dominated by a domestic rearrangement. I’ve moved out of my beautiful but expensive home. Down sizing to an equally beautiful less expensive home. The voyage of every entrepreneur. Forgive me if I’ve been less than attentive as a result. For the next few weeks I’m a hotel resident. Feels like a holiday. Room service. Housekeeping. And clean sheets and towels everyday.

Professionally I’ve been working two pro bono women’s cases including Uzoma’s on top of my regular case load, closed my first major corporate client account, started probate on my fathers estate and finally found a stoke broker I’m comfortable with. Its been a productive week. My only regret? I didn’t take more time to write.

Earlier in the week we commissioned the SE regional editor of Champion Newspapers to go to see Uzoma and interview her brother who is with her at the hospital and the medical director of the hospital. He sent picture and a thorough narrative which we’ll post to a page on our website shortly. We’ll also publish a detailed update on our progress with Uzoma’s matter.

Its all been very intense. We’ll be resuming yoga classes soon as we come back from Open Forum 2012 in Cape Town South Africa. Yes we’re going to be there discussing money power and sex, our three favourite words. We’re also attending a World Bank Gender Dialogue session in Abuja on Monday. This shall be a working weekend and another busy week!

The OpenForum 2012 is not a porn convention. From the Open Forum website –

“From May 22 – 24, the OpenForum 2012 will provide an unprecedented opportunity for activists, academics, businesspeople and policy-makers to take a critical look at the factors that will influence the African democracy and governance agenda over the next decade, debate the paradox of unequal growth and turn innovative ideas into action that promotes real change”

It will discuss financing development in Africa, the civil sector and the private sector as well as rights of women and minorities including gay rights. With a theme like Money Power and Sex we’ll have more than enough opportunity to discuss marriage, divorce and rights within the family.

http://www.openforum.net/

The World Bank Gender Policy Dialogue also provides an opportunity for professional development and sharing innovative ideas.

According to the invitation and the website the Gender Policy Dialogue aims to:

1.        Provide a multi-stakeholder platform for discussion and debate on the findings of the latest research on gender, including the 2012 World Development Report and the DFID/British Council research on Gender in Nigeria

2.        Explore options and best practices to mainstream gender in strategies and policies;

3.        Support the agenda of the Government of Nigeria to implement innovative gender equality programs in different regions of Nigeria

http://www.theeagleonline.com.ng/life/3105-fg-world-bank-dfid-hold-gender-policy-dialogue-in-nigeria

Big crowded events with lots of people. We always find them nerve racking. A colleague asked last week how shy introverts can manage the crowds. Now, no one believes for one minute we’re shy, arrogant maybe but never shy. But we were. According to all our personality tests we’re a mix of extrovert/introvert. We enjoy meeting people but we don’t know how to ‘work a crowd’.

‘Working a crowd’ sounds so contrived and insincere. We rarely leave an event with loads of budding relationships but we always come away with at least one enduring and mutually profitable friendship. Now that we work for our own small business we don’t have to report how many people we met and how we’ll be following up. Our objective is at least one genuine relationship. If we’re lucky a small nexus (2 or 3) for a possible alliance/collaboration. (Reminder to self – print more business cards)

Our research on prosecuting rape in Nigeria is almost done. We’ll finish the book proposal for that soon as we can too, see if anyone will publish it. The Abuja Family Law Clinic is not reaching the numbers we want. Will have to take it on the road. New strategies to consider for next quarter. The Women’s Legal Defence Trust Fund will also be launched next quarter. Just watch this space. We’re looking for an program assistant. If you know anyone that’s good send them to us.

Its been a mad year but its been a good year too. We’re making the progress we need to make and chasing the dream. The journey is strewn with diversions, pit stops, hurdles and mini quests. And among all the thorns are more than a generous number of roses. End of the 2nd quarter is a good time to review and adjust.

A bien tout mon amiee!

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How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria – Grounds for Divorce: Adultery & Intolerability

There is only one ground for divorce in Nigeria, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. There are 8 different ways to establish irretrievable breakdown. One of those is adultery.

You would think no woman married to a Nigerian man would ever have trouble getting a divorce. Nigerian male sexual entitlement is cliche. So is female snooping. Snoopy wives are smart wives only if they are compiling the evidence for a divorce.

Personally I never could understand the snoopy wives that looked for and found incriminating evidence only to immediately confront their man, fight and then put him in the dog house as in deny him sex till he begs forgiveness or buys her an expensive present.

If I were to start snooping its because I’m compiling evidence good enough to take before a court of law. Certainly not snooping for the sake of snooping. So what is evidence good enough for a court? What would convince a judge that adultery happened?

Adultery is voluntary and consensual sexual relations by a party to a marriage with a third party during the marriage. Note: rape or sexual intercourse while insane or impaired by alcohol or drugs is not voluntary and does not constitute adultery.

Adultery is usually proven through circumstantial evidence like familiarity and opportunity, sexually transmitted disease, visits to brothels, confessions or birth of a child, DNA tests and cohabitation with other than spouse. Direct evidence is rare.

The case law reveals a lot of gender bias. There are lots of cases cited about women having a child at a time her husband was unavailable to have caused her pregnancy. I’m on the look out for cases where a man having a child is presented as proof of adultery on his part in an action for divorce.

In one case it was held reasonable to assume familiarity and sexual intercourse between a woman and man that were seen returning late from a night club and kissing in front of her home. However in another case it was held photographs of a naked man and woman lying on top of each other did not prove sexual intercourse happened.

So witness evidence has more weight than photographic evidence unless presumably its of the pornographic variety. You will need reliable witnesses. The type that everyone believes before they even say anything. Earnest looking. Mature. Too proud to accept money to lie.

A cynical person might say you won’t find them and may even suggest (gasp in horror) you bribe Uncle Nasiru and Uncle Bitrus to say they saw Mama Nkechi kissing one man under the mango tree. I’m sure many a divorce in Nigeria is procured with methods just as deceptive and creepy. Don’t go there.

Time to step up ladies. We have an uncanny sixth sense that tells us when our man is cheating. A strange scent on him that stays no matter what he does to wash it off. Our conscious mind doesn’t always know it even. Its primal and wild. And it sets us sniffing to catch the scent.

If you’re looking to get a divorce collect and start to store the evidence when you go snooping around. Forward emails and SMS to and from lovers to your in box, do try not to leave an obvious trace. If you find her number and call her to leave your man alone record it. You might get lucky and she’ll say something admitting the affair.

And yes, if you can sneak up on the lovers photograph them having sex at that hotel down the road from your house. Shameless man. Couldn’t even go far away to have his sleazy affairs. That’s okay, that means there are probably lots of witnesses in the neighbourhood, you should find one or two willing to testify.

Avoid the witnesses that expect to be paid ‘transport’ which is a euphemism for bribe. They will say anything you want them to but will collapse under cross examination because they will over embellish the truth.

Avoid the religious conservatives and fanatics. They’ll preach the word of God that said you should not divorce but should bear your marriage like a martyrs cross. That attitude can get you killed. They’ll never come to court anyway so don’t waste your time..

Look for witnesses that are genuine in their sympathy for you and sincere in wanting to help.. You’ll always find one at least. If you look. Look hard but be aware some may not want to be seen to be involved in the ‘break up’ of a marriage. Assure them its broken and dead already and this is the funeral.

If you’re not good at snooping around (and a lot of us aren’t) outsource the evidence gathering to a trained professional or private eye. Yes we do have them, they’re just not in the yellow pages. Private investigators are a growing trend in Nigeria. If you can, use them. Ask around.

If you know the area boys and are good with them they will help you too but may lack credibility in court. If its photographic or video evidence the person who collected it should appear in court recounting the details of how he or she got the evidence and the events shown.

The standard of proof is by preponderance of evidence and not beyond reasonable doubt. Parties to a marriage are also entitled to damages from the adulterous spouse assessed according to the financial support lost due to the breakdown of the marriage as a result.

If you’ve been married a while and your husband has been having adulterous affairs and you seemed by your conduct to tolerate them the court may conclude you condoned the adultery unless you can also prove you find it intolerable to live with your spouse as a result.

Don’t forget to get names and addresses of the women you have reasonable grounds to believe are having adulterous affairs with your husband. They must be included in the action as co-respondents. They will need to be served court processes and may also be liable to you for damages. Get as much info as possible.

Of course here we can go into what constitutes a broken marriage and this will depend on why you got married and why you stay married. I guess the definition of a broken marriage will differ depending on whether you married for love and companionship or for family and security.

For a lot of Nigerian women adultery by their husband is tolerated and is not considered enough reason for a divorce unless it is so obvious and so detrimental to her and her children by which time it may be to late. ‘You want to move out so the other woman can finally move in?’

Like I said already it all depends on what you want from life and from marriage. On that I cannot advice but if you don’t file when you see your husband in an affair that actually threatens your home and life you may find yourself thrown out before you can secure your rights.

Note that for adultery to prove irretrievable breakdown of marriage it need only happen once and it has to have happened in the three years before your petition. Also a petitioner (that is the person asking the court for a divorce, the other fellow is the respondent) cannot use their own adultery as proof.

Once you’re able to establish adultery you have to also prove that you find it intolerable to live with your adulterous spouse. What matters is what you find intolerable and not what ‘a reasonable man’ would feel.

How do you establish intolerability? We’ll look at that in my next post.

Ciao

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How to Get a Divorce in Nigeria

First of all what type of marriage do you have? There are two types of marriage in Nigeria. Statutory marriage and customary marriage.

A statutory marriage is contracted in a marriage registry and in some Churches eg the Catholic church marriages are recognised as statutory.

Customary marriages are contracted under the native law and custom of the brides paternal family. Not the groom. Marriage under Sharia is treated as customary marriage.

There is no such thing as a religious marriage recognised under Nigerian law. If your marriage was in a church that is not recognised by the courts under Matrimonial Causes case law it is considered a church blessing of a customary marriage.

If you’re not sure whether your church marriage is recognised speak to a lawyer or to your church administrator.

The type of marriage you have will determine the appropriate court to go and the lawyer you should hire. If its a statutory marriage you’ll need a lawyer with experience at the High Court.

A divorce in a customary marriage is initiated in a customary court or area court. Look for a lawyer with experience in those courts.

Choosing a lawyer is a very personal experience. Some lawyers do not take divorce matters on principle. Others believe it is their duty to reconcile a couple on verge of divorce and insist on mediation.

Personally I assume that by the time a party to a marriage comes to me for legal options the marriage has already broken down irretrievably. Mediation can be emotionally exhausting for parties and their lawyers.

I also think its wrong for a lawyer that is expected to represent a clients in litigation to first play role of judge and mediator.

In Nigeria before someone visits a lawyer to discuss their legal options family, friends and church have usually tried and failed to broker a reconciliation. Don’t let a lawyer brow beat you into something you don’t want.

Choose a lawyer that listens to your needs and puts them first, not his church, not his religion, not his messianic ego. Assess his or her understanding of matrimonial law and whether it meets your needs.

In my practice I meet clients whose previous lawyers had convinced they couldn’t get or didn’t deserve maintenance or settlement or custody. They felt uncomfortable with the lawyer but didn’t leave immediately.

If you’re not comfortable with the advice your lawyer is giving you go to another one. Keep talking with different lawyers till you find one you are comfortable with.

They’ll all try to keep you as a client, some are more insistent than others. Just remember you don’t have to retain a lawyer just because you stepped into his office. Ask if the lawyer charges a consultation fee and pay it.

If you don’t like what you hear you can leave without lying that you’ll be back and without feeling you have to retain this particular lawyer because you just spent the past hour interrogating him.

Of course its also just good manners. If I had a penny for every smart alec that spends hours grilling me then high tails out when they learn our fees. In my practice I no longer see clients without charging a consultation fee. Just respect for our time and yours. Its deductible from our fees if we take the case.
If you’re reading this then you can also search the online lawyers directories. Most of us wouldn’t hire a staff at home or office without interviewing several candidates. Don’t choose a lawyer just because he or she is ‘a friend’. Be as vigorous in assessing their experience and advice.

Beware of lawyers that hustle you, you know the hustle when you encounter it. The ones more intent on getting your money than explaining to you your rights and how they will secure them. The ones that use fancy legalese talk that you don’t understand.

That’s the whole point. For you not to understand and for them to appear even more powerful and god-like. You’ll always have problems with the glib talking lawyer. They’ll never listen to you. Its all about them.

Once you’ve chosen a lawyer and paid the agreed fees do take your lawyers advice. Your lawyer works for now and that means paid to give you the best advice possible on how to achieve your goals during your divorce process.

In my next post I’ll write about various grounds for divorce to help you assess whether you have enough grounds.

Ciao

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UPDATE: Mrs. Uzoma Nnanna-Kalu Domestic Violence Victim Appeal

Uzoma is still in critical condition. She is no longer on ventilator and is struggling to breath. The medical director says he has done his best and is suggesting she be transferred to FMC Umuahia where there are no facilities to manage her case. She will only get care.

In the past 2 days we have raised NGN89,000 for her. We are grateful for all who donated so far. May God replenish each of you. We still have a long way to go. We need more. Please continue to share her story.

Our legal team is preparing to file papers on Monday and an investigative team is going to Enugu this weekend to visit Uzoma and meet with her doctors. We are creating a page on my web site http://www.lesleyagams..com where we will post updates, videos and pictures.

Please help us save Uzoma’s life. We can’t do it alone. Please send your donations to the Women’s Crisis Centre. Our account details are

Name of bank: Guaranty Trust Bank Pls

Beneficiary Name: Women’s Crisis Center

Account Number; 321 551 465 110.

Thank you and be blessed.

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Mrs. Uzoma Nnanna Kalu a Victim of Domestic Violence Currently on life Support Needs Your Urgent Assistance

Mrs. Uzoma Nnanna-Kalu is in an Enugu neuro surgical hospital fighting for her life. She presented with neurological symptoms in February 2012 and has steadily deteriorated since then.

Her condition could be the result of blunt force trauma to the head and a resultant blood clot. The doctors are hesitant to confirm the diagnosis.

Her husband has refused to pay her hospital bill or to visit or care for his wife and the mother of his two sons since she was admitted om March 13, 2012.

The medical director has said he can no longer continue her treatment unless it is paid for upfront. Her drugs, oxygen and her hospital bed and care are approximately NGN40,000 per day.

We need to keep her in a stable condition while we go to court to compel her husband respect her fundamental rights to life and dignity by paying her outstanding accumulated bills and committing to a thorough investigation and treatment of his wife’.

In addition we are compiling necessary documentation to get an injunction restraining the hospital she is in from switching off her life support if she needs it.

Please help us. Mrs. Nnanna Kalu is paralysed from the neck down and cannot breath properly on her own. She has been taken off the ventilator and is currently being supported on oxygen which her family buys at NGN12,000 per cylinder and lasts 1 or 2 days depending on her needs.

We are also assisting the neuro surgeon with diagnosis by connecting him with neuro specialists around the world that can help read the test and image results and tell us more about her prognosis and the cause of her condition.

If you know a neuro pathologist or radiologist that would be willing to donate his time to look over Ms. AB medical records and results refer them to me through my email address or phone number.

You can send financial support to Women’s Crisis Centre. GT Bank Garki Branch Account Number 0023731452.

A web page with updates and news will be added to my website in the next couple of days. http://www.lesleyagams.com.

Your support will ensure timely legal action on her behalf and pay for daily medical costs arising from her care.

Please help us save a life.

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