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Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero: Josephine Ugwu

It might be no news that, Josephine Ugwu, a staff of a cleaning company at the Lagos Airport, in 2015 found $12,200, which a passenger forgot inside a toilet in the facility and returned it to security officials at the airport. But this is not a mere story; it is not one that the pages should be flipped as though nothing happened at all. She is also, not to be regarded as a common woman, rather, as a rare breed, with an integrity that surpasses that of so many other people in a blinding speed.

Four years after returning $12,200 of a passenger found in one of the toilets at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. The Nigerian Government rewarded a cleaner, Mrs Josephine Ugwu, with an apartment and an award for her honesty. The government said it gave Ugwu the apartment and award in recognition of her integrity in the discharge of her duties.

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Ugwu: A Great Character and Rare Breed

Right in the midst of all the political brouhaha in this country are rare personalities and character traits that the likes of Josephine Ugwu exhibited. Josephine was an airport cleaner with a salary (as of then) of N7,800 naira. She returned a passenger’s luggage containing hard currencies to the tune of about N12million naira. As expected, her actions were characterized by numerous opposing juggles in the social media world, especially amongst fellow Nigerians. While some sang a lot of praises and dished out accolades for this woman, others, on the other hand, viewed her with disdain and insulted her personality, referring to her as a poor woman, whose poverty mentality has caused her to ‘miss’ God’s given opportunity to her, to become an overnight millionaire.

Rewarding Her Honesty

Such honest conduct and rare display of impeccable character cannot and must not be overlooked. The extent to which she can be rewarded cannot be accurately quantified and qualified by the mere mortals. Though it is recorded that her employer rewarded her with a 94.8% increase in salary: a commendable effort by the employer to reward honesty and an effort that should be appreciated. It is, however, questionable if that is sufficient reward, especially if the figures of her salary stated above are to go by. It is also reported that the Lagos State House of Assembly decided to honour her. Some time back, the Lagos State House of Assembly actually ‘honoured’ her with an award and gifts, while several other organisations also applauded her honesty. It is also recorded that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria offered her a job in one of its departments, Aviation Security.

A statement by the General Manager, Corporate Communications, FAAN, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, said,

“Ugwu was subsequently given automatic employment by the authority in recognition of her honesty and exemplary conducts.

– Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, FAAN

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The sufficiency of this honours and compensation is in itself a sufficient challenge. What honour or compensation can be enough for such a woman, especially with the prevailing economic and moral standing in the country?

Recently in Abuja, Ugwu had a handshake with President Muhammadu Buhari where she received an award. She was given a brand new apartment in Lagos for her act of honesty and integrity.

 Ugwu, is more than an example, she is a brand and an ambassador of what the Nigerian spirit is, or at least should be. She must be promoted as such.




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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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