Easiest Way to Get Transcripts From Nigerian Universities

In 2014, I wrote about ways Nigerian universities can make transcript issuance speedier and more effective. I’d read somewhere that some Nigerians abroad have had to travel back to Nigeria just to obtain their university transcripts. Around the same time, I also had transcript issues with my alma mater.

I suggested institutions digitizing students’ academic records, having application requirements on their websites, and making it possible for students and alumni to apply for their transcripts online from the comfort of their homes.

In the comments section for that post, other people expressed their frustrations and  experiences trying to obtain transcripts from Nigeria universities.

I’m doing this update because recently I have had two Nigerian friends tell me how the perceived stress of getting transcripts from Nigeria is discouraging them from furthering their studies or landing their dream job.

From my research as of July 2017, University of Nigeria Nsukka independently maintains its own i-transcript system. The school charges N15,000 to deliver transcripts within Nigeria and N35,000 to deliver outside Nigeria. UNN alumni can make their applications for transcript online  through this link.

For alumni of institutions that do not allow them to apply for transcripts online on the school’s website, EXT-NG Nigeria is a good alternative. EXT-NG has partnered with many schools to make online application for transcripts possible.

Good news is that EXT-NG also offers online application services for people whose institutions are not partners.

I used EXT-NG services in 2016 to obtain my transcript from Madonna Univeristy, Nigeria and I was very happy with their services and the result. No stories. I just paid them and waited for my school to send my transcript.

Given the difficulty and cost of traveling down to one’s former institution, bribing school clerks and registrars’ secretaries (you may have to buy them malt and pay “signing fees” besides the official fees, especially for public institutions) to do their work, and making more multiple trips to follow up, then EXT-NG is well worth it. And the price, in  my opinion, is very reasonable as it includes the institution’s fees, EXT-NG’s own fees for sending someone to the school (for institutions that insist applications must be made manually at the school), and the cost for delivering to the recipient school.

Before using the service, EXT-NG allows you to input information about the sending and receiving institution so you know if that’s what you can afford. The system gives you the price right away before you put in your personal information. For example, sending transcript from Abia State University Uturu to University of Johannesburg South Africa will set you back N53, 510.00 (all fees and charges included).

I commend Nigerian entrepreneurs like EXT-NG who are helping provide Nigerians efficient services where the government and its institutions failed.

Tell us your experience obtaining transcripts from Nigerian universities.

If you landed on this page because you are trying to obtain your transcript from a Nigerian university, I wish you the best of luck and wish you success in your career and academic pursuits. Ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

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These Nigerian Celebrities Prove that Unrelaxed Black Hair is “New School”

chioma akpotha

Before the dawn of 21st century, afro-textured hair was unpopular. In Nigeria, it was associated, in a derogatory manner, with Deeper Life Christians. But in recent time, the trend which was once seen as unsophisticated is now popular among elites. A hair type which once characterized women deemed not well-versed in the ways of the world is now worn by the most knowledgeable.

According to Wikipedia, “going natural,” is now so popular that hair care suppliers have seen a rapid decrease in the purchase of relaxers, the chemical hair straightener. An industry that was once worth an estimated $774 million in relaxer sales have gone down 26% over the last five years, says a 2013 numbers report. Sales are estimated to decrease to 45% by 2019. Brands are lowering their production of relaxers and instead are producing more natural-friendly products.

Bringing it close to home, I present to you ten (or twelve, depending on how you count it) influential Nigerians who are leading the Natural hair movement.

1. Chimamanda Adichie
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I her 2013 novel, Americanah, Chimamanda made a case for accepting black women’s hair the way it grows from their scalp. Walking her talk, Chimamanda now rocks her hair in stylish natural ways.

Here’s what Adichie has to say about natural hair:

“Many of us say our natural hair is too hard, too difficult. But that’s because we weren’t taught how to care for our hair. I have discovered the wonders of coconut, castor, shea, even honey for softening hair. Trick is add it when your hair is wet! You get wonderful softness!

Relaxers are not about softness. They are really about texture. Otherwise there are ways to soften hair without permanently changing the texture of hair.”

2. Genevieve Nnaji
Genevieve-Nnaji-London-Natural-Hair-November-2014-BN

Genevieve Nnaji is perhaps Nigeria’s most influential actress. With over two million Instagram followers, her influence is widely felt when she sets or associates with a trend. While I didn’t find any statement regarding natural her attributed to the the rather reticent actress, popular Nigeria blogs, including Bellanaija have carried numerous headlines of Nnajis’ transition to natural hair.

3. Kate Henshaw
kate

If you consider that it’s been twenty-three years since When the Sun Set, Kate’s first movie, you will realize that this Nollywood beauty is aging gracefully, not that she’s too old at 45.

Besides sharing her fitness routine with her Instagram followers, the beauty also discusses her natural hair journey on her page. In a recent post she wrote: “We are all different. Genes and all. We all will not have thick, long hair.. some are soft and curly, some are wiry and coarse. The important thing is to maintain good hair routines that will keep your hair healthy.”

4. Dakore Egbuson
dakore

Long before her colleagues joined the natural hair trend, Dakore Egbuson wore dreadlocks– a hair style that made her unusually visible in the industry. Although the gorgeous mother of two cut her dreadlocks a few years ago, she still wears her natural hair.

She had this to say about cutting her locks: “I made up my mind that I wanted to wear dreadlocks, and when I was tired of it, I decided to cut it. My husband did not want me to cut my hair; he wanted our children to meet me with the hair. I dance to the beat of my own drum and my path is different from every other person’s. I have my own mind; if I let people shape my opinions of myself, I will not be authentic to myself.”

She deserves credit for seeing the beauty in natural hair long before the rest of us started appreciating it.

5. Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha
chioma akpotha

Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha, the Nigerian actress with the girl-next-door disposition, started her natural hair journey in 2014.

Pictured above (middle) with her Wives on Strike colleagues (Uche Jombo, left and Omoni Oboli, right, who also happen to be naturalistas), the actress wrote about her natural hair journey in her Instagram page some days ago thus:

“@YellowSisi got me gushing all over my hair yesterday , all day! Her “special” touch makes you wonder how she really does it! For anything that has to do natural hair @yellowsisi is there for you. Follow her and you’d be glad you did. For my not so secret to my healthy hair, stay tuned for a post on the products I have used from when I transitioned till this point!. #naturalhair #TeamNatural”

In another post a week earlier, the Early Marriage actress wrote about how she almost gave up midway into the journey: “I’ve been feeling good about my hair all day. It’s been quite some journey from Dec’14 . I did a not so big chop in December 2014 and started the perm to natural transition. It was hard and quite tiresome. I almost gave up especially when it was difficult to comb when the new growth started coming in March 2015.

Now when I look back I’m so glad I didn’t give up! I absolutely love my hair. So with 1 year and 4months on, I believe I can fly.Once you set your mind on something and don’t give up, with time you’d get there gradually.” #NaturalHair #Naturalista”

@YellowSisi, The Instagram user she gave a shout out to also has Kate Henshaw as a client. No doubt, she seems to know her onions.

6. Nse Ikpe Etim

nse ikep etim

I fell in love with Nse Ikpe Etim the first time I saw her on screen. The banker-turned-actress in one of the most influential Nigerian natural hair promoters. She had this to say about her natural hair:

“I don’t wear dreadlocks, it is just my natural hair that you are seeing. I twist it and loose it when I choose to. I do not fix a weave-on because it is artificial. I carry my hair most of the time, except when I have to attach something else to it. If I am playing a role in a home video film, I wear another hairstyle.”

As I can’t miss an opportunity to emphasize the need to follow one’s passion, here’s what Nse said about quitting her banking job for acting:

“I don’t think I remember the year I quit banking. But when I decided it was not longer what I wanted to do I had to leave. I was doing the same thing everyday. I was not passionate about it and I think if you want to earn a living, you should be passionate about what you do.”

She is inspiring in so many ways.

7. Sisiyemmie

Sisi-Yemmie-Bn-Fro-Friday-July-2016-BellaNaija0025

By now, you know how much I love Sisiyemmie. I listed her in my favorite people on the web here.

In an interview with Bellanaija the beautiful blogger who wore her natural her even for her wedding said she will never go back to relaxing her hair.

When asked what she loved most about natural hair, she said: “I love how versatile natural hair can be, I can have it straight today if I want and get it kinky tomorrow. I also love how thick it has become, well, thicker than when I was relaxed. There is a certain look you have when you’re rocking well styled natural hair-you look healthy!”

If you haven’t checked her out, please check her website here. I haven’t missed an episode of her more than now 50 weekly vlogs!

8. Yagazie Emezi

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Yagazie was also among the people I listed as one of my favorite people in the web. The young Nigeria who combines photography with art has an unusually long natural hair because of her Malaysian gene which she inherited from her mother.

Speaking on natural hair, Yagazie said in this clip : “Good hair all has to do with hair care, good hair has to do with how you take care of your hair regardless of whatever hairstyle you have on or what length your hair is…It doesn’t always mean that because you have long hair that you have healthy hair.”

Given how gorgeous Yagazie’s hair is, she’s definitely one to take hair advice from.

9. Eki Ogunbor

eku

Eki joined BellaNaija team this year and she has become a favorite of many even landing an endorsement with a luxury homeware company.

About her natural hair journey she said, “I transitioned for 6 months but I did the big chop after. I did this because I wanted to get a feel of my hair texture before committing to the journey and I did the big chop because I really wanted to see what I’d look like with really short hair. My family was really shocked when I cut off all my hair, others were really angry because I had long relaxed hair.”

About her hair routine she wrote, “I always have one protective style or the other which I get done at O’Naturals natural hair salon and they take good care of my hair there because I don’t always have time to do it myself. They also advice on the hair care routine that’s best for the style I have on and how to prolong it’s neatness till my next visit. Between protective styles, I wash and deep condition with different products like the Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla range, the Cantu Shea Butter range especially the co-wash shampoo and Herbal Essences Hello Hydration range. I also use a lot of Coconut Oil (hair and scalp), Castor Oil (mostly scalp) and Shea Butter (hair, to seal in moisture).”

Eki is definitely one to look out for.

10. Adanna Ohakim

Adanna o

I saved the best for last. Adanna doesn’t just rock natural hair, she teaches others how to take care of it. I’m wearing a kinky twist I braided myself. Thanks to Adanna and her many tips.

Seeing these pictures may inspire you to consider transitioning. When you decide. here’s a list that contains natural hair salons and beauty shops in several cities in Nigeria.

If you are in Lagos, I think O’Naturals is a good place to go. People recommend it.

So what are your thoughts?

P.S If you are a hair dresser who works with natural hair, please write your contact in the comments section so people will find you. Black hair rocks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Chika Ugonwa, Lagos Immigration Lawyer and Entrepreneur

Chiks pic
Chika

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ada 1
Ada Opurozor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ada 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are welcome.

How to Apply for Transcript from University of Nigeria, Nsukka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHINAZA ANUSIONWU: TEN DANGERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA EVERY TEEN SHOULD KNOW

Editor’s Note: This post is a contribution by a teenage guest writer Chinaza Anusionwu. I figured that as a teen she would do justice to the topic more than I could. She didn’t disappoint. I hope you show it to all the young people in your life so that they will be more careful with what information they put online.

Social media are computer-mediated tools that allow people or companies to create, share, or exchange information, career interests, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks. However, there are subtle, everyday dangers of social media that are either unknown, being ignored, or minimized. Teens need to be educated and appropriate boundaries should be set for them to feel safe. The dangers of social media for teens include:

1. Emotional Implications: Psychological experts warn that social media sites can have emotional implications for kids who are already suffering from low self-esteem or confidence. Such children may judge their success by the number of friends they have on Facebook or if they are included in a specific group of people. This may lead to further diminishing of their confidence

2.Lack of Interpersonal Skills: Children spending too much time online may consider a virtual relation a substitute for a real one. By spending more time online they often ignore the importance and the appropriate behavior related to face-to-face contact. Hence, the set of interpersonal skills that are necessary for the success in the real life may not develop properly

3.Social Media Makes Self-Harm Worse for Teens: Despite efforts of social media sites to curb the amount of disturbing material their users post online, images of self-harm, like “cutting,” continue to surface on sites like Instagram and Tumblr. Teen posting images of disturbing behavior online is not new. Pictures of dangerously thin people, usually girls, appear as “thinspiration,” motivating people with bulimia or anorexia to avoid treatment. Other images involve dangerous trends: In April, teens posted pictures of themselves trying the “Kylie Jenner Challenge,” sucking their lips inside a glass to give them an inflated look like the reality star. The glass can break under the pressure, requiring stitches; the suction can create severe bruising and tissue damage. Teens have posted videos of the “Cinnamon Challenge,” where they swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking anything – which can be dangerous to their lungs.

4.Sexting: Sexting is sending and receiving sexually explicit messages, primarily between mobile phones. The Pew Research Center commissioned a study on sexting, which divides the practice into three types: exchange of images solely between two romantic partners, exchanges between partners that are shared with others outside the relationship and exchanges between people who are not yet in a relationship, but where at least one person hopes to be from behind their bedroom doors. More than 1 out of every 10 teenagers has sent a nude or semi-nude picture of themselves to others online – a “digital tattoo” that could haunt them for the rest of their lives. Hope Witsell A 13-year-old who grew up in Sundance, Florida, forwarded a nude photo of herself to a boy she liked. That image found its way to other students, resulting in name calling, cyberbullying and Hope’s suicide.

5.Cyberbulling: “Cyberbullying” is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. Victimization of young people online has received an increasing level of scrutiny, particularly after a series of high-profile suicides of teenagers who were reportedly bullied on various social networks. In 2013, for example, a spate of suicides was linked to the social network Ask.fm, where users can ask each other questions anonymously. The deaths of teens who had been subject to abuse on the site prompted Ask.fm (which was acquired by Ask.com in 2014) to launch new safety efforts. Twitter, likewise, announced plans in April to filter out abusive tweets and suspend bullying users.
Here are some real life incidents: Jessica Logan a petite, blond-haired, blue-eyed Ohio high school senior committed suicide after a nude photo of herself she sent to her boyfriend was distributed around the school. Sarah Lynn Butler. A seventh grader from Hardy, Arkansas, voted Queen for her Fall Festival committed suicide after she was teased at school, and later on received bullying messages on her MySpace page. Hannah Smith a 14-year-old from Leicestershire, England hanged herself in her bedroom following taunts on the Ask.fm social networking site. Phoebe Prince. A 15-year-old Irish immigrant from Massachusetts hanged herself two days before the winter cotillion dance at her school, because she was cyberbullied.

6.Social Media Use in Teens is Linked to Poor Sleep and Anxiety: The pressure to be available 24/7 on social media may lead to poorer sleep quality as well as an increased risk of depression and anxiety in teens, according to a new study. In the study, researchers asked 467 teenagers ages 11 to 17 about their use of social media during the day and at night. In other tests, they examined the teens’ sleep quality, self-esteem, anxiety and depression. They also looked at whether and to what extent the kids felt the pressure to be available on social media all the time. The researchers found that using social media at any point was significantly related to decreased sleep quality, lower self-esteem, increased anxiety and depression levels in the study participants.

7.Online predators: Internet-facilitated sex crimes against minors involve deceit and begin with adults communicating with children over the Internet with the goal of coercing them into illegal sexual activity. Sometimes the sexual abuse happens face to face. Chat rooms, instant messaging, Internet forums, social networking sites, cell phones, and even video game consoles have all attracted online predators.
In 2002, 13-year old Kacie Renee Woody met David Fuller in a Christian chat room. Fuller, age 47, told Kacie that he was 18. They courted for a bit, but Kacie fell in love with another boy and broke up with Dave. One night when Kacie was home alone in her Greenbrier, Arkansas home, Fuller had come into her house, covered her face with a choloroform-soaked rag, and dragged her into a minivan. Fuller drove from California to Arkansas and stalked Kacie before the abduction. He knew when she got home from school, when her father left for work, and when she would be at home alone. Kacie’s friends were worried about Kacie giving out information freely to people that she had met on the Internet and even spoke to a counselor at school about their concern. It was too late in Kacie’s situation. Fuller took Kacie to a storage unit, raped and killed her, before turning a gun on himself.

8.Cyber-stalking: Stalking is defined as the obsessive monitoring or attention towards the victim that may harass him or her. Cyber-stalking can be done in many different ways using social media. Sometimes, an ex-boyfriend or spouse may get angry at the breakup of a relationship and use social media to pursue the victim. In another case, a relationship that was developed online gets sour and the personal information shared can be used by the stalker. Or, someone may also fall victim to a random cyber stalking attack.
Kristen’s story is just one of the many cyber stalking stories that have recently made the news. It seemed like an innocent Facebook message from a former college classmate, but one that left Kristen Pratt fearing for her life for several months. She is in her early 20s, and like other women her age, she is active on social networks. Patrick Macchione made contact with her for the first time in 2009, several years after they were classmates at the University of Central Florida. She thought he was just someone who was trying to catch up; only to find out later that he would be stalking her online through emails, texts, and online videos. Macchione was able to contact her even after she changed her phone number. He bombarded her with messages on her Facebook and Twitter account. He also uploaded 27 YouTube videos all directed to her, telling her he loved her, which later on turned into threats after she ignored him. Pratt filed an injunction against Macchione but he continued to harass her online. Although Macchione was arrested and jailed for four years, Kristen continues to live in fear and believes that she may no longer get rid of this fear for the rest of her life.

9.Identity theft: Identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person’s name and perhaps to the other person’s disadvantage or loss. The person whose identity has been assumed may suffer adverse consequences if they are held responsible for the perpetrator’s actions. Identity theft occurs when someone uses another’s personally identifying information, like their name, identifying number, or credit card number, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
One of the big problems with social media sites is that children often do not fully read or understand the privacy settings of their accounts. They are unaware of the risks of disclosing unnecessary personal information. According to a recent survey, 20% of the youth think it to be perfectly safe to post their personal information and photos online. Such kids may easily become victim of identity theft.

10. Explicit Or Violent Imagery: Spending a lot of time on social media sites like Facebook can be dangerous, as often as a result of political events around the world, explicit and violent imagery get shown on the discussion threads. Often it is very difficult to moderate such content due to its viral nature. This may have a negative effect on the minds of children, leading them to have a sadistic and defeatist view of the world.

A Reader Sent Me This Heartbreaking Story About His Sister in Response to My Blog on Immigration-Marriage Fraud

Editor’s note: When I was writing this post I was worried that it may come off as judgmental, that people who engage in the act condemned in it will dismiss it as a self-righteous post by someone who has never been in their shoes, a privileged girl who would not understand what leads a man to rob a woman of her heart, wealth, and body. After I published the post, I did get a comment that stopped short of saying just that.

However, this story a reader sent me is further proof that marriage fraud leaves it its wake victims who cannot wrap around their head the fact that a man who slept with them for years never in fact loved them; that all the while he said he loved them, he was merely tolerating them; that all the while they went through the highs and lows of marriage, the man secretly cursed them wondering when the green card will arrive in the mail.

I’m no saint. I have had my share of missteps in life as has each one for us. That said, I hope that sharing stories like this will deter someone from using women as objects that can be dispensed with after they have served their purpose. Below is the story a reader sent me. I’m sure you will be moved by it as much as I was.

‘Hi Anne, I read your write up on marriage fraud. My younger Sister and my only sister got married to this guy six years ago. He was working in one of the big banks in Nigeria and they had a daughter together. Two years after their marriage, my sister’s husband (Odili, not real name) was nowhere to be found. We searched for him everywhere and even reported to the police. We informed the family, but we noticed they were not as worried, then we suspected they knew something about his whereabouts. Though this was difficult to conceive because my sister and her husband had no fight or misunderstanding prior to his disappearance. He was supposed to be on leave at that time so his office couldn’t do much. After a few weeks, his elder brother called my sister to inform her that her husband was in the US. But Odili never called or wrote until after four months. He wrote me a personal letter apologizing for his actions and giving me a list of baseless reasons why he did what he did.

‘My sister always believied that one day he will come back to his senses because she thought he loved her and he didn’t have the face for confrontation at that time. It was later when she searched for their marriage certificate that it dawned on her that Odili was gone for long time or maybe forever. Tell me, how do think my sister was able to cope? What about her daughter growing up without a father? What happens to the loan Odili collected from the bank to buy a car? It was tough for me because I was always traveling from the north to the west just to give my sister some comfort in those difficult times. At one time she contemplated suicide but thank God that the Holy spirit spoke to her.

‘The bank was after my sister for the loan Odili collected and I hadn’t such money at that time. Years later my sister has moved on with her life accepting her fate and hoping for the best life has to offer. My sister is doing fine but she isn’t interested in marriage anymore (so she says) though I know she needs a man in her life. It’s not easy bringing up a child alone.

‘Subsequently, a lady (an African American) called my sister crying. She first got in contact with my sister on Facebook. She was in pain because she was married to a Nigerian man (Odili) who was already married in Nigeria. Odili promised her heaven on earth and she was madly in love with him. Today we hear Odili has left this American woman and he is planning a “real” marriage with a “real” woman. Odili’s friend called my sister to confirm Odili is marrying another woman in Nigeria.

‘Anne, this story is another side of the one you told. I have never taken time to narrate the story in detail as I have done now. I am doing this because I am ready to forgive Odili and I appreciate your work. Share if you may, as I know so many women are in same problem all because of this “American dream”. Thank you for taking time to read. God bless you.’

P.S: I immensely thank the reader who shared this story. He also requested some words of advice from readers to his heartbroken sister. Personally, I’ll keep the victims in my prayers. Our reader’s sister is a child of God and I know that God will give her strength to recover from this heartbreak and ultimately fulfill God’s plan for her life.

Don’t Count On Your Kids To Do It; Here’s the Surest Way to Immortalize Yourself

Recently, a popular Nigerian blogger made headlines for acquiring a house worth about half a billion naira. Recently too, a Nigeria doctor resident in the United States made headlines for a different reason: He built hundred houses for widows in his village in Anambra. Because the latter story is so good, I will share some excerpts:

“Maduka replaced every thatched house in the area with three or four-bedroom bungalows and about 100 of such buildings are currently in place in the community. They belong to the indigent natives, especially widows. All such buildings carry green aluminum roofing sheets for easy identification and beautification of the place.

Dr. Godwin Maduka is the founder of the Las Vegas Pain Institute and Medical Center. Dr. Maduka completed his Graduate Medical training at the Harvard University School of Medicine in Anesthesia and Critical Care and Pain Management. Explaining his philanthropic gesture, Maduka said:

‘I embarked on all these to save my people from my ugly experience while growing up. I grew up in a home that when it rained, it rained more inside than house. Wealth would be meaningless if it cannot be used to better the lives of the people around the custodian. The wealthy must provide jobs for the youths; build skills acquisition centres for willing adults, market stalls for men and women, if society must be secure.'(Emphasis mine).

Maduaka has opened up Umuchukwu by building schools, hospitals, churches, security posts, industries, police station with modern working tools. He believes that government alone cannot give resounding development due to its meagre resources when compared to the volume of social, economic amenities expected by the people. (Emphasis mine).

Umuchukwu, one of the most backward and remote communities in the state, was totally denied any meaningful government attention. Nkerehi, as it was then called, was in abysmal destitution. Maduka’s gesture compelled former governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, to construct two roads connecting Umuchukwu with other communities.’

Mr. Maduka’s story is arguably the most inspiring story I ‘ve seen in Nigerian news in months. His example shows how responsible use of wealth entails redistributing it for the benefit of those who are not as privileged as the custodian. While One can argue that one has a right to use one’s wealth as they want because it is their ‘sweat’, the truth is that fate does play a role in how much opportunity one gets to be successful. If one has a university degree for example, it is usually because one has parents that could afford it. If education gives one a better shot at success in life, and one doesn’t choose one’s parents, then it will be illogical to say for example, that a medical license that gives one an opportunity to make ten times more than an okada rider, who wasn’t as privileged, is not an act of fate. Even if one is not inclined to charity out of a sense of obligation, one should consider investing in the dregs of society to lift them out poverty since they commit most crimes, crimes of which the wealthy can be victims. Either way, the rich owe the poor.

If it is true that success comes from a source other than ourselves, then as good stewards, we should account for it. And I find that God does bless people who use their wealth in the service of others. Last year, an old classmate from secondary school and a friend, told me how every year, she goes back to our alma mater to give N50,000 to the best science student as a grant to help them in their university education. Mind you, my former classmate made this donation from her salary as a lecturer, and she was less than thirty years at the time. Recently, she got an admission in Uk for her doctorate degree and she is studying there now. With a brain and a big heart like hers, I am very convinced that God will give her enough resources to carry out all her good intentions. I once told her, and I strongly believe it, that she will make as much impact as the late Dora Akunyili. She is just one of the many examples of people who do good get rewarded with even more success. I can’t keep track of how many charities Bill Gates is involved in. Growing up, I also saw examples from my parents and other relatives of how those who give are blessed more.

Redistributing ones wealth while alive may mean leaving a little less for one’s children, but that is perfectly okay. I used to have qualms with government taxing an estate during probate, but I no longer do because I now appreciate the reasoning behind it. Why allow people leave wealth that will last five generations when it can be used to take care of those already here? And why should someone enjoy the hard work of another by mere reason of accident of birth? While it is the responsibility of every parents to see that their children are set up in life, there is no obligation to leave anything behind. And with the prevalence of children fighting over property left by their parents, there is even a greater incentive to put one’s wealth to good use while alive.

If people focus less on building wealth that will last generations, then they will be more open to taking up tasks that will help build their communities. It will be good for example, to see someone build a public library in my village in Akokwa. Having gained so much from the local library I have access to here, I strongly make a case for having public libraries in Nigeria. I remember once looking for public library in Aba and found none except a neglected one housed in a dilapidated building that proved to be no use. I left disappointed.

It can be tempting for the average person reading this to think that this post is not for them but for the Adenugas, the Dangotes and recently, the Ikeji’s (the last was to lighten your mood), but we can all take small steps. Take the library for example, if I were disciplined enough, I could make the library happen even though I don’t have financial recourses to build a brand new library. I already have access to books I could donate to my community: Between my seven siblings and I, we have used university books from the following disciplines: Law, two sets from Industrial Chemistry (one from a State university and another from a Federal university) Economics, Public Administration, Accounting and potentially three from Public Health, Philosophy and Theology. Surely, if I get these books together, we could start a small library in my village in a room donated by the community. For practically nothing, and if others follow our lead and donate, we will have a library in my village.

It is especially important that the private sector gets involved in building Nigeria because the waste in government cannot match the efficiency by private persons. I don’t know how much Dr. Maduka expended in building the houses but whatever it took, it would have cost probably 20 times more to actualize if same project was awarded by the government and still the houses may be abandoned at some point uncompleted. I also hazard a guess that the cost of Ms. Ikeji’s mansion may be more than the amount Dr. Maduka used to touch 100 families. I do not write this to put Ms. Ikeji down, she is involved in so many charities herself, I wrote it to remind myself that the $5 I spend for lunch may buy a family’s grocery for a week.

We’ll all love to leave our footprints in the sands of time. While many of us think leaving kids behind will immortalize us, truth is that our kids will be busy trying to immortalize themselves not us. Trust me, I know because my two daughters’ English names are derived from mine, not my parents’.

Having seen you can’t count on your kids to immortalize you; go ahead, build that hospital, school, public toilet, library, borehole, road, etc. And when you do, remember to have your name conspicuously and literally engraved on the project because hundred years from now, that may be the only reminder that you once lived. Even better, also have your parents’ name written on those projects too, because even though we can’t count on our kids to immortalize us, we definitely want to appreciate ours.

So do you have ideas of some project you wish you could undertake but which like me, you don’t have the funds to carry out? Please share in the comments section. You never know who might steal your ideas, and yes, we want them stolen.

P:S. I give credit to St Francis De Sales for this post. I prayed to him for inspiration while writing it. He is the patron saint of writers. Even if one person is inspired by this post, it would have served its purpose. I love and appreciate you, my readers. If inspired, please share.

I Missed Mass Once Because of Daylight Saving Time

So on Sunday, we got an hour of extra sleep because we switched our clocks one hour back. I know, it’s a strange concept for those who are unfamiliar with it. So in the U.S and some other countries in the world, the Daylight Saving Time concept is used to maximize daylight in Spring and Summer.

At a specified time in March every year, everybody switches their clock one hour ahead. The effect is that when the time should have been 7pm, it is 8pm. So in the peak of summer, you can still see with daylight till about 9pm. In the fall however, like last Sunday, we switch backwards so that as early as 5pm (when it should actually be 6pm), it’s already dark; there’s less outdoor activities in fall and winter so you might as well get home early by artificial early sunset. To help you remember which time of the year you switch back or forth, bear this in mind–You spring forward in Spring, and fall back in Fall.

Switching time back and forth comes with its downside. One Sunday in March, my family and I got to mass in the morning and noticed people were already leaving the church. We were confused until we remembered we had forgotten to switch our clocks forward the night before. So our clocks showed 8am while others who remembered to change theirs had theirs reading 9am. Masses take only an hour here so we missed the mass. I don’t remember if we did but we probably made up for it by going to an evening mass. That was the only time I’ve been affected by it. Thanks to phone companies who automatically update the times on phones or stories of missed appointments will be more common.

So my friends in Nigeria, it used to be nine hours difference between us but it’s now eight hours till March. We don’t use Daylight Saving Time in Nigeria. I don’t know if we have need for. Scientists in the house, over to you.

P.S. Readers who are in countries that use DST, ever missed an appointment because you forgot to switch your watch? My Naija peeps, it’s a strange and confusing concept right? Read more about daylight saving time here.