For COVID-19 Disputes, Consider Mediation, Not Litigation

As governments across the world shut down cities and businesses, lawyers are poring over contracts, researching case laws and statutes to advise their clients whether they can legally excuse performance of their contractual obligations on grounds of force majeure – a common clause in contracts that frees parties from obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as war, strike, epidemic etc. occurs. These circumstances are sometimes described as Acts of God.

Just this week, New York Post reported that a Brooklyn Jewish school sued a hotel for refusing to refund a $2.3 million deposit for a Passover trip that was canceled over coronavirus concerns. The hotel declined to make the full refund despite a clause in the contract that provides for 100% refund in the event of cancellation for disease outbreak.

Many other lawsuits will follow as a result of the pandemic . For example, as many commercial properties have fallen into disuse because of state and local orders mandating closure of non-essential businesses, landlords may have to resort to litigation to get rents from tenants who will argue that they did not use the property during the emergency order and are therefore not obligated to pay rent. Even essential services that remain open will struggle to pay rent as revenue has decreased, in some cases, by as much as 95%. Cheesecake Factory, one of the biggest restaurant chains in the U.S., foreshadowed what is to come when it made headlines last months by announcing it has written to its landlords that it will not be paying rent for any of its 294 restaurant locations in the month of April due to “tremendous financial blow” to revenue dealt by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

Some local governments have taken steps to mitigate the fallout and hardship caused by the pandemic on its citizens. Los Angeles City, for example, approved a temporary ban on evictions, and for renters who are unable to pay because of the pandemic, waived late fees allowing them to make up late payments for up to a year after the expiration of the emergency order.

Small businesses that do not have the clout of Cheesecake Factory to negotiate a release from their contractual obligation, and people who live in cities that have not offered protections like the one ordered by the city of Los Angeles, may find themselves facing lawsuits for contracts breached during the pandemic.

While our first impulse when there is a breach of contract is to file a lawsuit, this may not be the time to do so. Because we live in an ever-increasing connected world, a delay by a supplier of raw materials from China -where the outbreak first occurred – could cause a delay by a manufacturer of summer wears in Los Angeles who has a contract to supply the apparel by May 1 to a store in Canada. The ripple effect caused by the delay from China will inevitably cause delay in delivery of the finished product in Canada. That is where mediation comes in. Recognizing the timeline and effect of the crisis on businesses all over the world, considering the need to continue business relationships with long-time partners once this is over, and the need to avoid legal costs are factors that should motivate people and businesses to consider mediation. Another factor to consider before filing a lawsuit is that winning a lawsuit can sometimes be like winning the battle and losing the war as 80% of judgments in the U.S. are not enforced. Losing parties either hide their assets, appeal cases – sometimes as a delay tactics – or declare bankruptcy denying the victors the “spoils of war.”

This article is timely because sometimes parties do not know other alternatives to litigation. Once, both parties whose case settled within two weeks of coming to the agency I work, which offers free mediation services for a particular industry, told me they wished they had come to the agency first before wasting over a year and hefty attorney fees in lawsuit. It has also been my experience that sometimes parties are reluctant to settle after a protracted lawsuit as whatever concession they may have agreed to make in the beginning have been expended on attorney fees. So the earlier one takes advantage of mediation, the better.

Mediation is better than litigation in that in mediation both parties emerge winners as a mediator often acts as a facilitator, helping parties brainstorm creative solutions to crisis by assisting parties understand the other’s concern which can easily be addressed through a mutually beneficial solution.

For example, in a mediation session, a commercial renter whose business was shut down as a non-essential service may explain to the landlord that paying three months rent for a period when there was zero revenue will lead to the business’s bankruptcy or eventual closure. The landlord, on his own part, may explain that he stands the risk of losing the property if he defaults in his mortgage payment three months straight. In this scenario, if the landlord pays utilities for the business and did not have to do so for three months thus saving on maintenance cost, parties can agree that the tenant pays only the equivalent of the landlord’s mortgage which may be less than half of the actual rent. A solution like this is a win-win for parties.

The above solution contrasts with what will happen in court where a judge will be saddled with the difficult task of interpreting the parties’ contract and reaching a decision that may be biased based on whether the judge himself is a renter or a landlord in his personal life. Unlike in mediation, in Law, there seems to be no middle ground – except when equitable principles are applied – and one party must be declared winner over the other. Even judges do realize this shortcoming of the judicial process. During one settlement conference I attended in the midst of a lawsuit, a very experienced judge, encouraging parties to settle prior to trial, pointed out the unpleasant truth that the end of the judicial system is not necessarily justice but to bring finality to a dispute. In essence, a judgment issued by the court, may not in fact be just.

It is more important now than ever to use the services of a mediator to resolve disputes because courts, closed during the pandemic, will be faced with backlog and slew of new filings once they resume hearing. Also consider this: Most attorneys charge a 40% contingency fee. So even if you win a COVID-19 lawsuit and are among the lucky 20% able to enforce the judgment, except attorney fees is awarded, you may still end up with only about half of your damages which you may have well received timely if you settled your claim with the other party without involving a lawyer.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and wants to consider mediation, please contact Office of the Los Angeles’ City Attorney Office for their free mediation service. Please note that I do not work for this particular agency but benefited from their mediation training several years ago.

Anne Mmeje, an attorney, works as a mediator in public service.

New Immigrant to the United States? Here are Ten Tips to Establish and Accelerate Your Career

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Last month, a co-worker, an immigrant to United States like myself, got a promotion. It was her second promotion since joining the organization two years prior and each promotion came with significant salary increase. Before joining the organization, she suffered the garden-variety challenges immigrants face due to language barrier and accent including underemployment. Her promotion reminded me again of why people flock to America from all over the world to pursue the American dream. Indeed United States in one of the few countries that give people equal opportunity regardless of their background.

This post is for immigrants who are in the U.S. legally and are eligible to work. If you have a non-immigrant status, you may consider studying these STEM courses that may qualify you for a 24-month extension of your post-completion Optional Practical Training employment.

If you are eligible to work in the U.S., below are tips I and others have used to get professional level jobs in the U.S. These are things I wish I knew earlier and now happily share with friends. Also keep in mind I am in California and will use mostly examples from here. If you are in another state, do well to find comparable opportunities in your state.

1. Get Your Social Security Number, Drivers License and Establish a Credit History

This may sound like common knowledge but you would be surprised at how many people delay getting these timely in a way that impacts their career. Almost every job application requires a social security number and drivers license number. The common pitfall here is applying for a drivers license first when you are not ready for the behind the wheel driving test. It may take as much as two years to get a drivers license, depending on how soon one passes the test. Why wait two years when you get an ID card within weeks of arrival to the United States? So I will recommend that since an ID card costs less than $40, in California for example, to apply for an ID card the same time you apply for a drivers license as it requires no test, This will help you apply for jobs without much hassle while wait to get your drivers license. In the same vein, apply for a credit card as soon as you qualify. Having a credit history will come in handy not only when you are applying to sensitive jobs that require a credit check, but also in housing.

2. Evaluate Your Credentials

One of the reasons immigrants have difficulty penetrating the job market in the U.S. is employers’ inability to assess foreign credentials to determine their U.S. equivalence. You can eliminate this challenge by having your foreign transcript evaluated by reputable organizations like World Education Services and use it in your job applications alongside your original certificate from your home country. While I was able to get my law license in California within one year of migrating to the U.S., my delay in timely getting my transcript evaluated (which was not required for my bar exam) set me back several years in accessing non-attorney opportunities. So I encourage you to get your transcript evaluated within the first few months of coming to the U.S as that may be all you need to get that entry level job that requires only a college degree.

3. Get Re-certified

If you are in a profession that required a license in your home country, you may find that you will need to get re-certified to be able to practice in the U.S. If you are not particular about living in a specific U.S. state, you may want to research which U.S. state has the least barrier to re-certification. For example, when I moved to California in 2011 and I was already licensed in Nigeria, all I needed to get licensed in California was to submit a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the California bar and pass the bar exam. That means I did not have to enroll in Law school again or incur tens of thousands of dollars in student loan to get a Juris Doctor. But most other states require enrolling in a U.S. school to be eligible to take the bar exam. Once you determine the state that is most favorable to you, take immediate steps to Get your U.S License. Once you do, you may be able to compete with your peers who studied in the U.S.

4. Prepare Your Resume and Apply to Whatever Job You Can Find

Because you are new to the U.S. and have no U.S. education or work experience, many employers will not be too enthusiastic to hire you. They worry that you may not quite understand how things work in the U.S. and may commit a blunder in the course of your work. Imagine mistaking New Mexico, a state in the U.S., for Mexico, U.S. southern neighbor when your job requires you to determine eligibility for a public benefit based on nationality. So, there’s good reasons for employers to be hesitant about hiring you. However, within those few months of your arrival, there are opportunities that require more brawn than brain. Employers with these opportunities hire in volume and always have vacancies. Their hiring needs increases more when they operate 24/7 and need to fill three or four shifts per day. Retails, airline catering companies like Gate Gourmet, restaurants, security (mostly guards) etc. are just some of the industries that require minimal skill. More recently, Amazon has entered the game. Its warehouse jobs most times do not even require interviews, only online applications, and still pay a minimum of $15 per hour. The key to getting these jobs even though you don’t have a U.S. job experience is to indicate you are available to work any shift, if you are. These jobs are just stepping stones to where you want to be but will in the meantime provide you U.S. work experience and references. It also acquaints you with how things work in the U.S. thereby preparing you for future jobs.

While you may engage in gigs like driving Uber and Lyft, I recommend you find a job even for a few hours a week in a structured environment so you would have people to give you references when you are ready for professional level jobs.

Another job I will encourage you to look into at this time is substitute teaching. Substitute teachers fill in for regular teachers in public, charter and private schools and pay about $140 a day for less than eight hours of work. And there is always need for substitutes. I have friends who have done substitute teaching without a prior U.S work experience. In California, all you have to do is pass the CBEST, a one-day exam that tests basic skills, and I think do a live scan. Then you apply with agencies like DirectEd Educational services and get assignments for everyday of the week you are available and wiling to work. DirectEd, for example, treats its teachers as employees and even offer them benefits after some time with them. I love substitute teaching for the additional reason that its flexibility will help you pursue your other goals.

5. Immerse Yourself in U.S. Culture

During the first months of your immigration to the U.S., in addition to doing all over the above, try getting yourself acquainted with as much information about the U.S. as you can. Remember, job applicants who have lived all their lives in the U.S. most likely know all the fifty states and will not commit the Mexico mistake referred above, know the difference between a personal and cashier’s check, and all the nitty-gritty of how the system works which gives them an advantage and make employers perceive them as more competent. You can bring yourself up to par by watching talk shows, movies etc. and by making daily conscious effort to assimilate as much information as possible. Also take advantage of training introducing immigrants to U.S culture by provided by non-profits .

6.Network with Professionals From Your Home Country Who Have Successful Careers in the U.S.

Making conscious effort to network with other immigrants from your home country who have smoothly transitioned into the U.S. workforce will get you miles ahead in your quest to establish a career in the U.S. You can achieve this by requesting informational interviews, reaching out to them to prepare you for interviews, and simply applying to work with them. I have done all three in the past and all the people, all attorneys, I reached out to were gracious, kind and helpful even though I was a stranger to them at a time. Because they have been there, done that, they understand the challenges immigrants face and are often more than willing to share their time, wisdom and experience . People from your home country are also more likely than others to give you opportunity because they understand how your credentials from your home country compares to ones obtainable in the U.S. So go ahead and google “Japanese attorneys in Los Angeles”, “Nigerian accountants in Houston” or whatever applies to you and reach out to these professionals who understand your unique experience and life journey. The worst they could do in not respond to you, but that does you no harm, but prepares you for the many more rejections that await. Also consider Upwardly Global, a non-profit that helps immigrant professionals transition to careers in the U.S. One of my friends benefited from their service.

7. Volunteer

Because volunteer opportunities are unpaid, non-profits are more likely to view your application favorably than for-profits. Volunteering with non-profits in your field gives you a relevant U.S. job experience and references for your future job applications. If you are in the legal field for example, courts, bar associations, legal aid clinics, religion based non-profits providing basic legal services in immigration, eviction, accessing government benefits etc. are just some of the organizations to consider. If you are in the medical field, you may find volunteer opportunities in hospitals. If you stay long enough with these organizations and get your re-certification in the U.S., these non-profits may eventually offer you a paid position as they will prefer you to an outsider who will have to learn the ropes.

8. Government Jobs

If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this: government jobs are relatively easier for qualified immigrant professionals to get because the process is often fair and not tainted by implicit biases present in private sector. Government jobs often require written exams first, guaranteeing a fair process. And some positions require only a high school diploma. Some people are surprised when I tell them they can get a job in public sector without a U.S. education. Except for a few sensitive positions that require citizenship, most positions are open to anyone with a permit to work in the U.S., of course with the relevant qualification. For example, as of time of writing, the State of California’s job website. Jobs.ca.gov had 3,493 vacancies available across the state. The positions available range from entry-level positions to jobs that pay six-figures. All you may need to apply is your evaluated transcript showing your foreign education is comparable to the one required for the position. If the job requires only a high school diploma, taking your GED instead of evaluating the foreign equivalence may be cheaper and faster.

9. Get a Degree or Masters in a high-demand Field

If rather than do all the above you would rather get a U.S. education, I will encourage you to consider financial aids, scholarships and community colleges to reduce the cost. Also be sure to check Bureau of Labor Statistics to ensure the degree you are going for is growing faster than average. As of October 2019, when this article is written, STEM, IT and healthcare are in high demand. Do not get a degree in a field with high unemployment rate as that will leave you saddled with student loan debt without corresponding job to pay it off. Again, I recommend using your foreign degree to get a job in the U.S. first, test the waters and determine if another degree will be worth your while.

10. Start a Business

Immigrants have a unique opportunity to develop business ideas because of the advantage they have of knowing how things are done elsewhere, in their home country, and the potential for them to exchange products and services between two countries based on demand on supply. Indeed, studies have shown that immigrant-owned businesses engage in more international activity than their counterparts. For example, an immigrant from a third world country where labor is ten times cheaper than in the U.S. can start an outsourcing business in the home country. They can also in turn export consumer goods which tend to be cheaper in developed countries than in underdeveloped countries to their home countries.

The tips above helped me and other people I know further our careers in the U.S. I hope they help you too. Whatever your immigrant story is, whether joining a spouse, fleeing from a war or just simply looking for a greener pasture, I wish you success and encourage you not to be deterred by the initial challenges you may face. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. If you have any question, please email me at annemmeje@yahoo.com. I am not there yet as I am still climbing the rungs of the career ladder but I will be happy to, from my little experience, help you get started on this exhilarating, but sometimes bumpy journey. Ciao!

Amazon Ships to Nigeria. Here’s a Real Time Test to See the Restrictions and Shipping Rates

Amazon is my second most favorite brand. The first is Google: personal assistant, map, dictionary, teacher etc.

I love the two brands because they are reliable and most helpful. With just a click of a button, Amazon literally brings any item I need to my door step saving me what could have been several futile trips to multiple stores or months-long wait. Here are two examples. I live in Los Angeles. Once, I was invited to be part of a panel to discuss cultural considerations in divorce proceedings in California. I got on Google, then Amazon and ordered a Family law text book I used in Nigeria during my law school days. It was the primary resource I used to prepare for that presentation. Imagine there was no Amazon, I don’t believe I could have found a store in Los Angeles that sold a textbook on Nigerian Family Law. My only recourse would have probably been to have family in Nigeria buy it for me while I endure a wait time ranging from weeks to months all the while praying it arrives in time for my presentation.

Consider also my back to school shopping for tens of items on my kids’ lists this past summer. What’s an easier way to find a “white 1-inch 3-ring binder” than Amazon. I ordered all the items on the lists, except one, from Amazon . My first grader’s list included this “green Plastic 2 Pocket School POP Folders with Metal Prongs Fastener Clasps”. When I tried to order it on Amazon, I saw it came in a pack of six. I needed only one. I saw a cheaper option that came with multiple colors in a pack. I went for it since my kindergartner needed a color other than green. But the cheaper pack had no green folder needed by my first grader. I figured the color did not matter. On the first day of school, I sent my first grader with a color, other than green, from the cheaper pack I bought. She came home that day with a sticky note from the teacher that stated they required a green folder. How do I pay $16 for six green plastic folders when I needed just one that should not cost more than a dollar? I am Nigerian. I am smart, the Abishola (of CBS’s Bob Hearts Abishola) way, who would rather go to work sick than use her sick leave so she could cash out her sick leave at the end of the year. So the next day, I sent my daughter to school with a $2 or so green folder that had no prongs but had pockets. Surely, the pockets would secure loose sheets as good as the prongs. The sticky note came again. The green folder had to have prongs. The teacher, a lovely lady, recommended I go to Staples, among other stores, to find the exact one she needed. I went to Staples and found a folder that met most of the specifications but was slightly bigger mostly for office, not school, use. It was back to school season and Staples had run out of the exact one I needed. I bought the office one anyway and figured the teacher would not complain because she referred me to Staples. I made sure to include a note it was from Staples. She did not complain. I will cut the long story short but must mention I eventually ordered the $16 “green Plastic 2 Pocket School POP Folders with Metal Prongs Fastener Clasps” from Amazon and have them sitting somewhere in the house as I write. The moral of the story is that Amazon has proven to be my best recourse when I want to order a unique item.

I love Amazon also because of the reviews. Oh the reviews! The same way I don’t order a book without checking it out on Goodreads, I don’t order anything from Amazon without reading the reviews, not just glancing at the stars rating. I also read the questions and answers for tips on sizing, etc.

Because of how enamored I am of Amazon, when I learned they ship to Nigeria, I was elated because I figured my friends and relatives in Nigeria will now discover the awesomeness that is Amazon. I have had to order a laptop from Amazon U.S for shipping to a Nigerian relative in South Africa. I figured that now that Amazon ships to Nigeria, it will be easier for Nigerians to buy quality products directly from Amazon to Nigeria. I had in mind not to recommend buying garden-variety products from Amazon, but slightly expensive ones and one-of-a-kind products that justify the shipping cost. But first I decided to attempt ordering in real time before recommending.

So how much does it cost to ship to Nigeria? It’s about 9 pm October 25, 2019 Los Angeles time. Let me try ordering this currently discounted $900 Apple laptop to see what the shipping fee is… It’s now in my cart. I am shipping to Festac, Lagos Nigeria…..nine minutes later: while trying to check out, I received a notification the item could not be shipped to Nigeria at the address I provided. I was also prompted to provide a phone number, an identification number for recipient and tips, if any, that will help locate the address. Hmmm… did Amazon find it too risky to ship a $900 Mac air to Nigeria? I tried a $329 Apple Ipad and three minutes later got the same notification and upon clicking on “See More” link saw the following

Can’t Ship to this Address

This may be because:

  • Dimensional shipping limits – standard shipping to these regions are limited by the overall shipping size which include a maximum length or girth of 108 inches and maximum weight of 70 lbs.
  • Large and/or oddly shaped items may not be eligible for shipping.
  • Hazmat – certain hazmat items (including but not limited to lithium batteries) are restricted from shipping to these areas.
  • Restricted Product – Products offered for sale on Amazon.com must comply with all laws and regulations and with Amazon’s policies. For more information see Restricted Products.
  • Address type – certain address types preclude shipping speeds, due to carrier capabilities.
  • Amazon may be restricted from shipping to your country due to government import/export requirements.
  • You are shipping to a U.S. freight forwarder but your order contains items that are restricted from exportation.
  • Amazon may be restricted from shipping to your country or location due to manufacturer restrictions or warranty issues.
  • You may have chosen an offer from a seller who doesn’t offer international shipping. Try looking for another seller.
  • You may have chosen an offer from a seller who doesn’t offer shipping to your address due to the nature of the product (Perishable, Heavy/Bulky, Hazmat). Try looking for another seller or a similar product.

I don’t know which of the above reasons led to Amazon’s decision not to ship the Apple products. I tried to ship Omojuwa’s Digital: The New Wealth Code, which I have also ordered myself and hope to review soon and ..got estimated delivery date ranging from five to 38 days with corresponding ships fees. I proceeded and the shipping and handling fee came up to $13.98 for the $30 book, the cheapest shipping rate, with delivery date estimated from November 21 to December 2nd. I checked it all the way out and got the notification that it had been ordered. I cancelled the order. This was only a test. The ID was also required and the order would be cancelled if the ID is not provided within forty eight hours of the order.

Now that we have seen Amazon delivers some items to Nigeria, and for relatively reasonable shipping fee in my opinion, (I also heard Nigeria Vlogger Dimma Umeh, who frequently orders from Amazon, say in one of her videos that Amazon usually refunds part of the shipping fees after delivery as they overestimate the fees at check out to be safe, so it is safe to assume one may get a partial refund from the $13 shipping fee), what items could one reasonably order from Amazon to Nigeria. I will recommend items that are not readily available in Nigeria or you worry about getting a knock off version of in Nigeria. Attempt placing any order you would like and Amazon will notify you, before you make payment, if they can’t deliver it to Nigeria. I will also suggest ordering as many items as possible at one time as that significantly reduces the overall shipping fee. This Africa shipping rate from Amazon below makes it clearer.

Product CategoryPer ShipmentPer Item
Books, VHS videotapes$6.99$6.99*
CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, Music Cassettes, Vinyl$6.99$4.99*
**Jewelry, Watches, Clothing Items$6.99$3.49/lb
**Baby, Toys$6.99$3.49/lb
**Automotive, Computers, Electronics, Home, Personal Care, Kitchen, Outdoor Living, Sports, Tools, Shoes$6.99$3.49/lb
Video Games Consoles$6.99$3.49/lb
**Luggage$9.99$4.99/lb
Any combination of the above itemsHighest applicable per-shipment chargeAs above

The link above also provides additional information for expedited shipping and priority courier shipping.

For Nigerians in the U.S, also know you can order your African food stuffs like this African Abacha from Amazon. You can also order top quality laces like this $50 5-yard lace for your weddings from Amazon. Same goes for books from your favorite Nigerian authors including Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart . Some of the items qualify for two-day shipping with Amazon.

I hope you found this blog useful. If you have ever ordered from Amazon in Nigeria, I will like to know what your experience was. See you in my next post.

PS: Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. All prices listed were current as of the time of the report.

Easiest Way to Wash Bitterleaf – Updated 2019

In 2014, I wrote about the time-consuming drudgery of washing bitterleaf. In that post, I expressed hope that a machine will be invented for that purpose.

It’s October 2019 and to my knowledge, there’s still no commercially available machine dedicated for washing bitterleaf. But there are indications people are working on it. For example, recently I got an email from a student in a U.S. university saying they were working on designing a bitterleaf washing machine. There was also news a few years ago of two brothers in Nigeria who came up with a rather crude one. I commend the brothers’ ingenuity and hope that soon they will get resources to help them refine their invention and make it commercially available.

While we wait for that to happen, I will share with you two machines people are already adapting to wash bitter leaves.

Food processor

Who knew? To wash bitterleaf with a food processor, I recommend this $45 Amazon Choice processor. First, boil the bitterleaf for about eight minutes. If you have ever washed bitterleaf manually, you know that boiling bitterleaf is always a backup plan for improperly washed bitterleaf as it takes away the last traces of bitterness. For the food processor method, boiling comes first. After boiling the leaves, attach the dough blade, instead of the knife blade, to prevent shredding. Then put the bitterleaf in the processor bowl, add just enough water to cover the leaves, and turn the knob to max. Watch the processor do its thing. Bring out the leaves when you think it’s done and rinse. And you have your perfectly washed leaves. This video from Dooney’s Kitchen will make it clearer.

Portable Washing Machine

I will vouch for this method because I have eaten bitterleaf washed with a portable washing machine and in my opinion, it came out perfectly fine. I will recommend this $70 Costway mini portable machine similar to the one I was gifted. The only recommendation is to to use the machine’s delicate wash setting and only do the rinse and spin cycle to reduce shredding. Do as many cycles as you feel necessary and since we are being creative anyway, it may not hurt to boil the leaf first to reduce the washing time.

The above methods reduce the stress of washing bitterleaf by at least 80%. Do give them a try and let me know what you think.

Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Also note that Amazon now ships to Nigeria.

How Nigerian Universities Can Guarantee 90% Graduate Employment Rate

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This 2016 report from Stutern, the most recent report I found on Nigerian graduates employment rate, reveals as follows: only 50% of Nigerian graduates are employed full time; 3 out of 4 employed graduates earn less than N50,000 ($125) on their first job; more than 80% of Nigerian graduates cannot buy a car from their first salary – only 12% can; and the average first year salary of a graduate of University of Ilorin equals fifteen times their total tuition.

Before now, Nigerian universities, which were mostly public universities, had no incentive to improve their graduates’ employability because demands for their programs far exceeded the supply. However, as more private universities spring up, 79, according to National Universities Commission’s website as of the time of writing, which charge students millions of Naira for tuition, there’s urgent need, more than ever, for institutions to prove an academic program with them is worth the investment. And what better way to prove that than to show that a high percentage of their graduates get employed in their field of study soon after graduation?

Given the large loans students obtain for studies, sometimes running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, schools in the United States already appreciate the need to prove enrolling with them yield a high ROI (Return on Investment). A friend who got admission into a U.S. Law school, and had yet to start his academic program, was already connected to future employers by his Law school. Contrast this with my experience at a private university in Nigeria where the school never once prepared me for job hunting.

As the competition intensifies among Nigerian private schools to retain students from wealthy homes who can afford the luxury of a private university education, Below are five ways schools can improve their graduate employment rate.

  1. Run School-Owned Businesses and  Non-Profits

Schools are supposed to be catalyst for innovation and development and are charged with conducting researches to benefit their host communities. Nigeria’s high unemployment is due to insufficient economic activity. A university that starts a for-profit business could use student labor at a cheap or no cost, try ideas and develop knowledge that can be patented and transferred to the community. As Nigeria tries to boost agriculture production for example, and schools are knows to own large acres of arable land, a school could charge its Engineering Faculty with inventing mechanized equipment for farming, its Agriculture Economics department with managing the farm , Marketing Department with advertising the proceeds for sale and requesting grants from government, Accounting Department with managing the finances and its Biochemistry Department with manufacturing fertilizers and pest control. This may sound utopian but is doable.  And is being done. A Senior Catholic Seminary in Eastern Nigeria has a productive piggery, poultry and produce farm run by seminarians.

To benefit their host communities, schools can also run non-profits. This not only help students gain valuable work experience, but improves a school’s reputatoion. For example, rather than doing mock trials, Law students can run non-profit clinics tasked with providing minimal legal services, for example, applying for bail for indigent inmates, reducing or fulfilling stringent bail conditions etc. Law clinics can also have dispute resolution sections that settle disputes between members of the community. Law schools can partner with the state and courts in this regard as the courts have interest in decongesting prisons and managing caseloads. And you would be surprised at how much, with the benefit of exuberant optimism –even if irrational — of youths, students can accomplish with little guidance . For example, my proudest moment till date as an attorney was about nine years ago, when as second year lawyer I got a criminal case against an accused person, who had been detained for months, dismissed pro bono, without any assistance from a senior attorney.

To support the point above, Best Value Schools has this to say about University of Munich in this article about schools with high employment rates: The key to the Technical University of Munich’s graduate employment success is that many of its jobs are homegrown. What does this mean? Well, as TUM’s facts and figures page points out, TUM has directly generated over 800 start-ups, providing over 14,500 jobs, with many positions going to graduate students. In fact, TUM has been supporting it students’ businesses for 130 years. 

2 Hold  Career Fairs

A school usually needs so many professional services like accounting, banking, legal, IT etc. to function. My undergraduate private university in Nigeria never held a career day for us. A school intentional about improving its students’ employability can start its first career fair by having businesses and firms it patronize, hold fairs in the school to interview and employ the best talents in the school. It becomes a win-win both for the businesses, which gains top talents, and the school, which places its students in gainful employment. A school that gives a business hundreds of millions of Naira worth of business a year should not hesitate to ask the firm to return the favor by employing one of its own. Having career fairs also prepare students for real world interviews.

3. Mandate Internships

I never did an internship during  my undergraduate days. I did, however, in Law School and shortly, I will tell you how the Law school internship benefited me. Internships benefit businesses who get students’ services, with the fresh ideas that come with it, for free, as most are unpaid. In return, students get practical experience in their field of study, make valuable network, and if they distinguish themselves, get employment offer from the employer in time for graduation. For example, after I finished Law school, I went back to work with the law firm I interned with during Law school. As I already had a relationship with the firm, no interviews were required. While I did not make much money working there, my experience there prepared me for a successful career. Here’s another example from the Best Value Schools article previously mentioned, this time, about MIT: “Even among other world-leading universities, MIT stands out. This is due to the way students get full-time jobs through MIT’s support. MIT has a few not so secret weapons that students can leverage. One such tool is MISTI, MIT’s award-winning international internship program. This ensures that all of its students have the opportunity to find intern work across 25 countries. MISTI covers all expenses, including flights, which means students can stop worrying about money and start focusing on achievement. But what impact do internships really have on employment? The answer is lots. In fact, the leading means of an MIT student finding full-time work after completing their studies was a direct result of an internship.”

The same Best Value Schools article also said of University of Oxford: 95% of graduates are in employment or further study within six months of completing their degrees. One of the innovative features of the University of Oxford is its micro internship program, which runs for one week in every term of study, allowing students to quickly gain some useful experience.

4. Develop School Curriculum In Partnership With, and  With Business Communities in Mind

Churning out graduates in fields that are not in high demand perpetuates the cycle of unemployment. Schools who partner with big employers determine what their labor needs are and develop curriculum to fit the business’ needs. This enables the school to feed its graduates into these businesses with little competition from graduates from other schools who may not be knowledgeable about the unique needs of the businesses. For example, most top schools in the U.S. are producing more IT students to meet the business needs of the four tech giants Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apples. For our purpose in Nigeria, Stutern report also found that Computer Science, Economics and Electrical Engineering are the most employable degrees in the country. A school intentional about getting its graduates employed will conducts its own research, promote, and encourage its students to enroll in fields of studies that are in higher demand.

5. Nurture their Alumni

I know a Nigerian university that charges over N50,000 for each transcript application by its alumni (keep in mind less than 25% of Nigerian graduates make this much in a month in their first jobs), water mark same transcripts with the receiving institution’s name and indicate in the cover letter that it is only to be used for the institution, so alums pay the school each time they need a transcript. I know someone who applied to this school four different times for different purposes including employment and graduate studies. Did I mention this school did not have a working email on its website for the institutions and employers to verify the transcripts, causing their alums to lose opportunities? Meanwhile, this school, to the best of my knowledge, has no program whatsoever intentionally geared at ensuring its graduates find employment after leaving school. Not only should a school actively seek to find job for its graduate to increase its ranking, it should offer all support necessary including offering recommendation letters and references to alumni with as little hassle as possible. Moreover, the alum over time become wealth creators themselves and a school that treats its alum well will know when they are capable of hiring other alums and encourage them to do so.

Most of the schools listed in that Best Value School’s List of 30 Colleges Most Likely to Land You an Enjoyable Career have over 90% employment rate within six months of graduation and some have over 70% of graduates with job offer at the time of graduation.

Covenant University Ota – A Nigeria Case Study

The Stutern article lists Covenant University as the school in Nigeria with the highest employment rate at 90%. A look at the school’s website shows the following

A. The school has a center for Entrepreneurial Development Studies (EDS) “a custom-built programme in Covenant University. The programme is an all semester programme and compulsory for all students of the University irrespective of the student’s chosen field of study. It involves both theory and practical. The operations of the programme are housed in the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Studies (CEDS). The Vision of the Centre is to empower Covenant University graduates entrepreneurially in a bid to make them productive and contribute significantly toward national socio-economic and human development. To develop an entrepreneurial spirit, skills and knowledge in the students of Covenant University and others in the external context so as to empower them to become wealth creators. To empower the entire community in a bid to alleviate poverty in its entire ramification.”

B. The school holds career fairs, and have an Alumni Career Services that help the school’s alum find jobs.

C. The school has Hebron startup lab, an initiative created to help student entrepreneurs successfully launch their startup into the market.

In conclusion, as Nigerians increasingly have more options for graduate and undergraduate studies, universities that yield high ROI will continue to be sought-after, and they can in turn charge premium tuition. A school must be intentional about its graduates’ employability to charge premium fees. It makes business sense then to employ the tools discussed above. With the proliferation of schools, both online and in campus programs, a school that is not intentional about proving its worth will inevitably slip into oblivion.

For consultations contact: Anne Mmeje (annemmeje@yahoo.com)

Intern Nigeria Survey

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After a seeming long wait since Nigeria’s election on February 23rd, Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, announced that President Muhammadu Buhari will have another four years to take Nigeria to the “Next Level”. The announcement was met with mostly mixed feelings. While the president in the past four years successfully, for the most part, defeated Boko Haram and increased agricultural output, the economy suffered depression under his leadership and is still recovering.

After all is said and done, however, the burden lies on Nigerians, individually, to do what we can to build our country. For the past month, I have been researching on how to help Nigeria’s teeming unemployed youths find job. I launched Intern Nigeria, which I wrote about briefly before. The goal is to help job seekers find jobs. I haven’t figured out everything yet, but for a start, please answer the questions below, if you can, to help us know exactly how to help. My target is to help people who are currently unemployed, who earn zero income. If you are underemployed, you are already on the right track, and would not need my help much. If you are employed or an employer of labor, please also help in answering the questions and provide ideas on how to tackle unemployment in Nigeria.

1. What university degrees in Nigeria guarantees immediate employment after graduation the most?
2. What trades/skills do not require a formal education, are in demand, require minimal capital, and are easy to learn and set up?
3. What skills are in high demand but have little supply?
4. If you are unemployed, what is the greatest challenge you face in finding a job or owning a business?

Obviously, I don’t have monetary resources to solve these problems but my little research in the past month revealed that some States, including Lagos, offer training to unemployed people and provide loans to small businesses. I also believe that when we start looking for answers, God provides the resources.

Please feel free to leave a response in the comment section or email me at annemmeje@yahoo.com. I also have the  survey up on my Facebook page and will use answers from all platforms to decide the next steps to take.

Thank you.

Introducing Intern Nigeria

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I have developed new interests since my last post on this website in February, 2018. Chika remains a smart immigration advocate you can trust with your immigration needs.  I now work as a mediator in public service and in the coming  years, hope to grow further in that field. Trading the delays, cost and adversarial nature of litigation for the speedier, cheaper and peaceful alternative to resolving disputes has been fulfilling. I still maintain my law licenses in California and Nigeria. Indeed, my legal background prepared me for my current role in peacemaking. If you ever have need for an informal mediation and all disputing parties consent, shoot me an email.

In addition to my day job, I have developed interest in helping people find jobs, especially their first jobs. My husband always jokes that I could start career counseling professionally since I have fun doing it. I  still have several rungs  to climb on the  career ladder but I have gleaned a lot from my experience applying for several jobs to be in a position where I can help others starting out. In that spirit, I am introducing Intern Nigeria, a project where I will be providing tips to up-and-coming job seekers on how to find jobs. In subsequent posts, I will be doing a survey to find out what challenges job seekers in Nigeria face, so I will address them in  future posts. I will also write about how my career has been helped greatly by people who mentored  me. I will also  do a post on volunteering, interning, and staying busy while waiting for the  ideal job.

I hope you will come along with me on this ride as we tackle unemployment, which is arguably the greatest challenge facing Nigeria. Through this project, I hope  to connect job-seekers and employers.

Expect my subsequent posts and join Intern Nigeria on Facebook for updates.

Thank you,

Anne

Travel Smart With Attorney Chika Okoroafor: How to Get an Immigrant Visa to Developed Countries through Employment

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Anne’s note: The Travel Smart Series is written by Chika Okoroafor, an Immigration Lawyer based in Nigeria. I have partnered with her to create awareness of  legitimate ways to migrate to western countries. We hope that the series dissuade youths from third world countries from crossing to developed countries illegally. Many young Africans have lost their lives at sea in search of often elusive greener pastures. Most recently, six days ago, Washington Post reported that 26 female Nigerians, aged 14-18 years, were found dead in the Mediterranean sea. They died trying to cross from Libya to Europe.

So we have opened discussions on migrate visas and how it is important that intending migrants get in the right visa platform for migrating purposes. If you missed it, don’t worry, just click on this link. We kicked off with student visas as a migrant’s visa option. Because student visa is broad with plethora of options ranging from, choice of country, school, tuition fee etc., we said it is generally the more accessible migrate route.  Today, I will be discussing Migration via work visa.

Work visas are restricted obviously; no country will allow foreigners to take up employment where local workforce is available to do same. However, circumstances such as those listed below may warrant a state to open visa route to foreigners for work purposes.

  • Dwindling population: A dwindling population may be due to diseases, war, excessive birth control practice (country where you have more of senior citizens and minors have a dwindling labour population) or other catastrophes. If the country has to remain operational, it has to source its labour force elsewhere, hence the country will relax its work visa regulations and may add some incentives to attract migrants.
  • Set skill shortage: Where population is not an issue, a country may still be forced to open its border to economic migrants to fill in sectors where there are no or insufficient local workers with particular required skills sets.
  • Experts (or using the United Kingdom diplomatic mission term “exceptional talent”). There are work visas available, though highly restrictive, to individuals that are experts or individuals with exceptional talent in particular fields. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian novelist and feminism advocate, got her immigrant visa to U.S. through this category.

The above are a few reasons why work visas may be made available to foreigners.

METHODOLOGY OF WORK VISAS

Open poll: For example, via visa lottery. A country may throw an open poll for certain age group and/or set skills albeit temporarily.

Contract of employment: Since work visas are for work purposes, employers, where there are no local workers to fill up vacancies, are allowed by the state, via its regulations, to source for their work force from foreign countries. A country will ordinarily put in place regulations that will mandate an employer to fill up any vacancy with local worker. But where the regulation is relaxed for either of the reasons listed above or any reason whatsoever, a potential employer can advertise vacancies to the world directly or by proxy. Applications are taken from all over the world. If a foreigner is offered a job, necessary documents will be made available to him in his country of residence from the diplomatic mission of the employer’s country to process his entry permit into the foreign country.

ACCESSING A WORK VISA

From previous discussions, we have already established that entry permits are not a one size fits all.  Visa regulations vary from diplomatic mission to diplomatic mission, some may share one or two similarities in content and/or procedure. But to each diplomatic mission, compliance has to be absolute as assessment is strict.

For better understanding, I will discuss the intricacies of a work visa using the United Kingdom (UK) migrate work visa as case study. (Before I continue, if you are registered nurse, teachers specifically mathematics, chemistry, physics teacher or you know anyone who is and desirous of migrating for work purposes, you and/or yours may be closer to you dream than you think. All you need do is read on).

The UK has five main migrate route categorised in a point based system available to migrants from outside European Economic Area (EEA) who want to migrate to the UK to study, work, invest or train. The five routes are

  • Tier 1

This route is for applicants termed high – value applicants. They include investors, entrepreneurs and exceptional talents.

  • Tier 2

This route is for skilled workers with job offers in the UK.  (Our discussions will be on this category)

  • Tier 3

Route designed for low-skilled workers

  • Tier 4

Migrant route for prospective students over the age of 16

  • Tier 5

This route has 6 sub-tier made up of temporal work offers. This visa is awarded to youths from countries where UK has a reciprocal arrangement with. As such, UK youths also benefit from similar schemes from those countries.

Of the above routes, Tier 2 is the main UK migration route for skilled workers (including religious workers) migrating to the UK to take up employment; it’s a lot similar in content (not procedure/processing) with the Canada express skilled workers scheme.

Tier 2 is categorised into two:

The Tier 2 (general) Visa, for fresh employees, and

Tier 2 (inter-company transfer) for employees of multinational company who are being transferred to their UK business branch.

The Tier 2 (general) Visa

Key parties in this application are the UK-based employer, the foreign employee and the UK High Commission. Procedure is initiated with a contract of employment after the usual employer and employee protocols are observed. But for legitimacy, a UK based employer must have a valid sponsorship licence and it is also required that such jobs must be advertised to members of EEA before they can be offered to non-EEA immigrants, except the job type is listed in the Tier 2 shortage occupation list.

HOW TIER 2 WORKS

The UK government releases set of skills available to foreign employee in a Tier 2 occupation list and Tier 2 shortage occupation list.

An applicant who intends to reside and work in the UK via tier 2 visa must comply with the following pre-application requirements. Thus a tier 2 visa applicant must:

  • Have a job offer from a UK based employer (remember employment must be from an employer with a valid Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship licence);
  • Have a job offer that meets estimated minimum wage not less than £20,800 (there are few exceptions though);
  • Have a tier 2 certificate of sponsorship;
  • Confirm Job being offered is listed in the Tier 2 occupation list/shortage occupation list;
  • Meet English requirement test; a qualification equivalent to a Bachelors degree or higher, taught in English or English language test result; (eg TOEFL, IELTS, PEARSON etc)
  • Meet maintenance fund requirement (£945 held for 90 days in applicant’s account) and;
  • Must have a clear TB test result letter.

Whenever you learn that any application is point based (as Tier 2 is), it simply means that assessment is mathematical. An applicant earns points for each of the requirement listed above that he meets. For Tier 2, an applicant must meet up to 70 point on their Tier 2 point result. A point base application is strict, a half point short of the minimum required and an application is thrown out. It is also a somewhat predictable application for professionals who know their onions. An applicant or his handler must be pedantic while packaging a Tier 2 visa application. Also, because it is a point based application, an erroneously refused visa where applicant meets minimum point is reviewable. That is to say, an applicant can apply for administrative review of his denied tier 2 visa application, if the applicant is convinced that his visa ought to have been granted. If indeed the applicant met minimum point, on review, visa will be granted. A holder of a Tier 2 visa is allowed to migrate to the UK with his dependants (i.e spouse and children (minor) only) if applicant is able to comply with financial requirements.

On this note, I recommend any prospective or intending work migrant to visit this site https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-k-shortage-occupation-list(Nurses and Secondary school Mathematic, Chemistry and Physics teachers, I already got you covered. Your skill set is on the list. So for nurses and mathematics, chemistry and physics teachers that is one step check off the requirements).

Dear Nigerian BSC. Nurses, my firm, in collaboration with other firms in the UK, is working out how to get job placements for Nigerian nurses. While we sort that out, we advise qualified nurses interested in migrating to the UK for work purpose, to visit and register on this website https://ireg.nmc-uk.org and forward your credentials to us. You will need to take some tests with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (UK).  Need any guidance during the process? Don’t worry. Just send us us an email at attorneychika@yahoo.com. Also 16,000 Nurses are needed in Australia. We will provide you with details in subsequent posts.

That is all we have for this session of Travel Smart Series. Thank you  for sparing us you precious time and data, to read, comment and share. Thank you for your emails. The comment session is open to you for questions, further or better clarification and inquiries. Till next time, keep smart and remember, sharing is caring.

 

Chika Okoroafor

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Anne Mmeje.

 

 

Twenty of My Favorite People/Sites on the Web

In other words, people and sites that distract me from blogging when I pick up the laptop to write. In no particular order, I present:

1. BellaNaija.com
uche pedro
Except I make a mental note to discipline myself, I refresh Bellanaija.com several times a day to see what new entry they have posted. The site is Nigeria’s leading blog on entertainment, weddings, career, politics, entrepreneurship etc. Because the site is run by the very decent Uche Perdo, it doesn’t malign celebrities. The comments on the site are always well-thought out. The site won an award in Los Angeles this year as Africa’s best blog. Uche has been featured in both CNN and Oprah Winfrey show because of the blog. Here’s an inspirational post Uche Pedro posted on the blog at the beginning of the year. It will give you an insight into the brain behind the site.

2.Goodreads.com
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Goodreads.com is the world’s largest community of book lovers. With so many books around, I visit the site often for recommendations, and ratings for books I am interested in reading.

3. Sisiyemmie.com
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I have watched all of Sisiyemmie’s more than fifty weekly vlogs. Last month, Sisiyemmie joined Tiwa Savage, AY, Juliet Ibrahim etc., for a sponsored trip to South Africa, and boy did she document the experience for her fans. Vintage Sisiyemmie! Her vlogs and blogs which document her life primarily in Lagos reminds me of why there is just no place like home. By watching her blogs, I know we now have Uber and GPS in Nigeria. She keeps me posted!

4. AbAjournal.com

ABA stands for the American Bar Association. The magazine keeps me up to date on what’s going on in the legal field. From it, I also get tips for law practice. I recommend it to all lawyers , practicing in the U.S. or elsewhere.

5.Smallstarter.com
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Smallstarter.com is a website dedicated to small entrepreneurs in Africa. If you consider that the founder is an African entrepreneur himself, you will see why he is in a position to give valuable insight and advice on starting a business in Nigeria. I also follow the site on Facebook. You will be amazed at how many business opportunities await entrepreneurs who are interested in investing in Africa.

6. Writersincharge.com
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Writersincharge is run by a young Nigeria who has made millions from freelance writing. I get valuable insight from Bamidele’s tips and nuggets of information.

7. Yagazie Emezi
Yagazie
I am not on Instagram but a day hardly passes that I don’t join Yagazie’s over 86,000 Instagram followers to see what she captured on the street for the day. While others put up beauty and luxury on Insatgram, Yagazie captures every day people through her lenses transforming the mundane into an amazing work of art. You can see this photo of her father’s old kitchen in Aba which she captioned “Stove on stove on stove – Remnants of Home, Aba 2016.”

8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigeria
The most prominent online encyclopedia, I use Wikipedia to find reliable information on subjects I’m researching. Anything not on Wikipedia is not notbale. On Wikipedia, you can learn about the 1917 apparition of the Virgin Mary in Fatima, or pokemon go. You choose.

9. AdannaDavid
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Adanna Ohakim is a medical doctor, has an identical twin, is married to a German, is a naturalista, lives in Ireland, is daughter of a former Imo State governor, and her mum and all her sisters are lawyers. I can’t help but be enthralled when I’m watching a life as interesting as hers through her weekly vlogs, with her more than 150,000 Youtube subscribers. Click the link above to watch her and her twin, Adanma.

10. Bryan Garner
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Bryan Garner is the editor of Black’s Law Dictionary. If you want to know the difference between every day and everyday, tweet him and he will tell you. Seriously, he answers questions on twitter and also gives writing tips on his handle. It was from him I took note of the difference between every day and every day, the former being each day and the later, common or normal.

11. AllNigerianrecipes.
abacha
The site has both video and written how-tos on most Nigerian recipes. It has been very useful for me.

12. wau.org.
The Word Among Us is a Catholic magazine. It features daily mass readings and contemporary stories for spiritual growth. I will love to visit it more than I do.

13. The Due Process Advocates.
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DPA is a Nigerian Facebook group with over 100,000 members. Although one may question some of the founder’s choices, I’m happy the group is helping secure justice for people who otherwise would have no one to speak for them.

Although I’m not on Instagram, I often visit the following Actors to see what they are up to

14. Genevieve Nnaji
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15. Eva Longoria
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16. Kate Henshaw
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I follow Authors 17. Chimamanda Adichie, 18. Chika Unaigwe, 19. Obioma Chigozie, and 20. Akaweke Emezie, on Facebook.

A post like this, written in less than two hours, may not have accurately captured all my interests. I do hope, however, that a site or person listed may become helpful to you in some of your pursuits.

Interests change over time and I imagine that if I do this list in next six months, some people/sites on the list would have been replaced by another. So tell me, what are your favorite people/things on the web?