Celebrating Josephine Ugwu, the airport cleaner | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Celebrating Josephine Ugwu, the airport cleaner

Posted: Apr 8, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


By Funmi Falobi

Senior Reporter, Lagos

She exhibited exceptional attitude that put her in the limelight and renewed Nigeria’s image in the international community. Miss Josephine Ugwu, the cleaner at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, in February this year, returned  $27,000 and other currencies which added up to N12 million suspected to have been left behind by a passenger, to Aviation Security (AVSEC) of the airport. Ugwu, who demonstrated integrity par excellence was rewarded with a N7,200 salary increment.

Ugwu works for Patovilki Cleaning Services, a concessionaire engaged by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to keep the airport environment clean, and was on a monthly salary of N7,800 before the incident. However, the reward for her honesty came when the Presiding Bishop of the Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Bishop Mike Okonkwo, gave her an undisclosed amount of money in cheque during a special resurrection service to mark the Easter celebration. Okonkwo explained that Ugwu exhibited uncommon honesty at a time many believe that honesty is alien to Nigeria.

Speaking before handing the cheque over to Miss Ugwu, the bishop charged Nigerians to emulate her and noted that in spite of all the negative impressions of the outside world about Nigeria, there are still many citizens of the country that are honest and trustworthy. “There are still Nigerians that will stick to the path of honesty and self-contentment, no matter what they are passing through; and Miss Ugwu is an example of such people”, he said.

Ugwu, who thanked the bishop and TREM for the reward said that it would not only comfort her, but also spur her to do more, having been rebuked by many for returning the money to its owner.

Undoubtedly, Ugwu’s attitude has again brought to the fore the importance of honesty in this corrupt world especially as Nigeria is said to be ignobly enmeshed in corruption. With her singular attitude, the nation’s image in the world has also received a boost.

In her reflection, a Lagos-based lawyer and member of African Women Lawyers Association, Mrs. Nihinlola Aluko-Olokun, said that Miss Ugwu displayed an uncommon honesty and that there were still honest citizens in Nigeria. According to her, “Even though honesty is a scarce commodity, there are still those who are honest. They are those that are not privileged to have full flare of publicity, no media hype. Even when we see those who are honest, they are in the minority. We still have honest people in the country. She displays uncommon quality that there’s a God who sees the heart of men. She doesn’t believe in eye service. Her honesty made her do it.”

Executive Director, Humanity Family Foundation for Peace and Development, Mrs. Adekemi Adeyeye described her as exemplary and a role model in the nation. “Beyond honesty, she has the fear of God because the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. There are certain things you will not do when you fear God. And as a child of God, when others can, you can’t. There are so many things she could do with the money but she fears God. She’s exemplary, a role model to mothers, children, youths and the citizens at large. What she did was a very rare one. It is not as if everybody is corrupt. In our own little corner, one should exhibit honesty and fear of God,” she said.

The National Orientation Agency (NOA), in recognition of her outstanding sincerity, awarded her with the NOA Citizens’ Responsibility Award. Announcing the award in Abuja, the Director-General of NOA, Mike Omeri, said that such honesty was typical of the true Nigerian and was in line with the national core values as enshrined in the constitution. “She is one of the many Nigerians who, through their noble character while performing their routine duties, show their commitment to the national pledge of faithfulness, loyalty and honesty. She deserves to be honoured and celebrated as an icon of doing the right thing,” he said.

Ugwu, an indigene of Obukpa in Nsukka Local Government area of Enugu State, is an orphan. The National Diploma graduate of Our Saviour Institute of Science, Agriculture and Technology, Enugu, had since been promoted to the position of a supervisor at her workplace.