Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), Mr. Francis Erhabor has emerged the lead Integrity Icon of 2019 in a workplace honesty survey conducted by the Accountability Lab Nigeria, an organisation committed to “naming and faming” honest government officials in Nigeria.
Other icons honoured at the award event, which held on 21 January 2020 in Abuja were: Kacheilom Betram Roberts-Ndukwe, a teacher at GSS Andoni in Rivers state; Tina Odinakachi Iirmdu, a lecturer at the University of Jos; Christian Ahiauzu, an ICT unit head at the University of Port Harcourt; and Tani Ali Nimlan, an assistant director at NAFDAC.
Accountability Lab Nigeria said the event, which was the third edition in a row was in line with fulfilling its goal of promoting accountability, transparency and greater participation in governance across the country.
CSP Erhabor recalled that he enrolled into the police at the age of 17, and was prepared at entry with two eyes opened, and a vow never to collect bribe.
Mr. Francis Erhabor said he has been in the Police Force for over 30 years.
He said sometimes his life is threatened, “but the beautiful thing is that at the end of the day, I earned respect, I got confidence not only from my colleagues but also from outside forces.”
“I got appointed into the force as a Cadet Inspector on the 2nd of April 1990. I was just 17 plus when I got into the academy and graduated at the age of 19 as an Inspector and confirmed.
I was passionate about the job, and vowed to be a change agent. I took a vow before God, and because of stance against corrupt practices, many of my colleagues don’t like to be selected into any team I lead.
The issue of my being here today started from when I entered the job, I took a strong vow, I knew my system thrive in corruption and I said to myself, ‘If I would in any way corrupt myself, I told the Lord don’t humiliate me in secret, show me on big time televisions like NTA, BBC, and CNN.”
He said he was prepared to be disgraced “even if it is ₦20 which we were synonymous with.”
While according to Mr. Christian Ahiauzu, a particular case in question was his rejection of ₦2.5 million by a company bidding to be internet service provider (ISP) for his university, as well as turning down packages from erring contractors for cover.
Kacheilom Betram Roberts-Ndukwe recalled how she fought against illegal charges for transcript, and monies demanded to look for “missing” files, leading to her inglorious sack from the first public school where she taught.
Also, Tina Odinakachi Iirmdu, who at a time was hired as a WAEC examiner, recalled how in 2009 after marking, later got a fresh bank alert amounting to ₦1.2 million after she was earlier paid her marking allowances, but had to return the sum to Jos office of the Council, and also turning down a blank cheque offered by a student’s father in order to upgrade his scores.
On her part, Mrs. Tani Ali Nimlan narrated how an importer attempted to bribe her to prevent inspection of a container, purported to be carrying life-saving drugs, but was confirmed through test, to be concentrated hydrochloride acid.
Earlier in his goodwill message, Ambassador of Sweden to Nigeria, Carl-Michael Gräns described integrity and transparency as the two strong pillars that democracy relies on to survive. “The issues of transparency are not for civil servants alone,” he said, adding that MDAs, CSOs, businesses, private sectors and diplomatic communities must continue to strengthen human rights and push for equality, openness and freedom.
Delivering his keynote address, Joe Abah, the Country Director for International Development (DAI), defined Integrity as “being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values.”
He said in a society like Nigeria, “people that are honest and morally upright are regarded as fools, instead of Icons, while those that are dishonest and untrustworthy are seen as sharp and smart, instead of thieves.”
The Country Director of Accountability Lab, Odeh Friday, said the summit and award project kick started in 2017.
He said five icons have been celebrated each in 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively. He said the nomination of awardees “is done by the citizens as a way of promoting accountability in Nigeria.”
According to Odeh Friday:
“We basically go out to source nominations from the citizens who tell us the people working in the public service that they know are doing amazing things, working for the good of the people they are serving.”
According to Mr. Odeh, the selection process involves independent judges from the civil society space, retired civil servants and governance experts.