Today’s interview is with Mr. Oghale Enuku, a Startup Lawyer and Corporate Governance Consultant who runs his own law firm in Lagos. He advises clients from Nigeria and across three continents regarding the areas of law that relate to starting, protecting and scaling a business.
Mr. Enuku, what do you do as a lawyer in Lagos?
I advise entrepreneurs and MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) on the areas of law that relate to their business.
Are you often in court?
Absolutely. I take up a couple of court cases in family law, commercial law etc. I garnered extensive experience in litigation before setting out to start my law practice.
Do you also do criminal law?
Yes, I do take up cases in white collar defense.
What kind of criminal charges are common in Nigeria?
Here in Nigeria financial crimes, as well as theft (stealing) in general, are very common. There are all kinds of criminal cases.
What advice would you give a foreigner when getting in trouble in Nigeria with the police, is it dangerous?
Essentially all he needs to do is to get a lawyer, who can advise him on his legal rights – and he will be fine.
Are foreigners treated differently from citizens in Nigeria when it comes to criminal law?
It is the same. But I would say that foreigners might have some advantages because of diplomatic relations. So, the diplomatic communities in Nigeria could help them. But in general, it is the same.
What about when it comes to investments? Do I need connections as a foreigner so that I can do business or invest in the country?
If you are a legal resident or visitor, you can invest in Nigeria. But you need to make sure to act with proper documentation and to have a lawyer who can ensure, that all business acts are legitimate.
The visa you were referring to, does it have to be a permanent visa?
No, it does not have to be a permanent visa. You only need documents that allow you to stay in Nigeria. Therefore, a visitor’s visa is sufficient so you can invest. To do business in Nigeria, a foreigner will need more documentation.
What sectors do you think are good for investment (e.g. real estate, service, sector, agriculture, raw materials)?
I would say that the services industry is becoming very strong. A lot of foreigners are investing in companies that provide services here in Nigeria. Apart from that, there are also a lot of opportunities in agriculture and raw materials. Because Nigeria is trying to diversify from its oil economy to agriculture and other areas. So, the agriculture is a good place to invest. Actually, real estates as well. This is a very interesting market.
How can I buy real estate as a foreigner?
The visitor or resident visa is sufficient in order to legally buy real estates in Nigeria.
What are the difficulties or risks when buying real estate as a foreigner?
Fake realtors. There are syndicates involved in scams. Basically, you need a lawyer to help you to do due diligence. You would also need a lawyer to make sure that the property is officially registered in the public register. If you can do that, your property is secure, even if you live outside of Nigeria.
So, my property in Nigeria is safe, it cannot be taken away from me?
If you take the proper steps and engage a legal counsel, you can secure your assets like anywhere in the world.
Do also foreigners ask for your help?
I get requests for support from locals as well as from foreigners. I have several foreign clients who do business in Nigeria.
In what matters do foreigners ask for your help?
They often ask for legal help when it comes to business formation and compliance with the government regulations.
Can I open a bank account at a local bank in Nigeria? Are there any restrictions?
It is not difficult to open a bank account in Nigeria. You only need the proper documentation. In terms of security it is safe to keep money in Nigeria. The only reason why you can have issues is when your account is flagged by security agencies. For instance, if your account is flagging money laundering relations. But besides that, it is very easy to open a bank account.
In general, how strict is bank secrecy handled in Nigeria?
They do very well with bank secrecy. Although, this cannot be compared to offshore banking.
Can I also buy preferential treatment in some banks in Nigeria?
Yes, absolutely. Banks have private and concierge banking arrangements.
If I want to move to Nigeria, what are the main costs that I will face for relocation?
First of all, there is not so much bureaucracy. You just need to obtain with what we call a Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC). This costs about 2’000 $ per year. And it is quite easy to obtain, you can obtain it online by yourself. But moving costs aside, this is the basic official cost.
What about the taxes?
We have also taxes, with proper tax planning, taxes are not a problem in Nigeria. Especially regarding taxes, Nigeria is a good place to do business.
How do you see the economy in Nigeria in 10 years?
Now we are struggling because of the effect of the Coronavirus Pandemic which has brought a recession earlier than forecasted. I am confident that with proper management, the economy will stabilize in a couple of years. Nigeria is a sleeping lion; I look forward to its future.
Dear Mr. Enuku, which celebrity would you like to represent?
Oh, let’s see – Cristiano Ronaldo. He has an impressive business portfolio.
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