Integrity Icon Nigeria is an annual campaign run by Accountability Lab Nigeria which seeks to name and fame honest government officials, thereby encouraging integrity in the public service. It is currently in its third installment in the nation and recently underwent a rebrand (from Integrity Idol). The objective of this campaign is to change the narrative that corruption is the norm and encourage responsibility and public service accountability, by creating a network of active change makers. Ejiogu Obinna shares the progress of the campaign so far

The selection process for Integrity Icon Nigeria 2019 has concluded and the finalists selected. On the 3rd of May, our panel of judges had heated deliberations on who would be the most worthy nominees for our top five finalists. The judges included Ms. Ese Okwong, an experienced Chief Superintendent at the ICPC, seasoned journalist and Executive Director of PRIMORG Mr Agbonsuremi Okhiria, Veteran Broadcaster and On-Air Personality Dr Inya Ode and lawyer and recognised public speaker Saadatu Hamu Aliyu. Rounding up the group were internationally-renowned development journalist Chibuike Utaka, Badejo Kemebradikumo Elizabeth, a Principal Superintendent at the ICPC, and Ms Achenyo Alfa, an experienced legal expert and consulting professional.

Having pored through the nominee stories during the previous weekend, the judges lauded the screening work done by Accountability Lab, saying that they felt a personal connection with the nominees. The meticulous selection process saw them use a 10-point system to score the nominees on different criteria. After the compilation of scores, the strongest contenders garnered the highest percentages on the score sheets.

Mr Okhiria said he was influenced by people who came into contact with “opportunities” for corruption every day – and then turned a blind eye. Meanwhile, Dr Ode gave her personal preferences as “those who play an active role in the community”. Mr Utaka said he opted for candidates who were able to stand the test of time on multiple occasions. The judges also found that the nominees with strong recommendations from colleagues, subordinates and superiors fared well. These nominations were useful as they included first-hand experience of integrity-related actions. The judges concluded to prioritize stories “that impact other people even when they are not around”.

We have summarized some of these nominee stories for your consideration. How would you rate these following stories if you had the opportunity of being an Integrity Icon Judge?

  1. Finalist number one is a staff member of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and undertakes Marketing Surveillance in six geopolitical zones. She has also worked with the Ministry of Health and gotten recognition from the former DG of NAFDAC, the late Mrs Dora Akunyili, as the second best state upholding the NAFDAC bylaws.
    She would go out to the market frequently to check products, verify their NAFDAC registration numbers and shut down companies that breached regulations. She was also part of the team that brought about the United States food loan – currently being implemented.
    Instances of acting with integrity in her career include being offered bribes by drug smugglers – and turning them away. She was on duty at Lagos’ main airport, meant to seize any drugs coming into the country. She and her team were both offered cash to look away, in order to prevent the verification of goods. Instead, she ensured that she and her team did their job properly.
  2. Finalist number two is currently a Chief Superintendent of Police and former winner of the Youth Alive Integrity ICAN award who boldly proclaimed that “the day I take a bribe, I should be disgraced on NTA”. He’s proud to say that he hasn’t taken a bribe in his 29 years as a government officer. “Integrity for me is ‘walking my talk’,” he adds.
    He was previously a pipeline commander where his monthly fee from the Federal Government was 37,500 Naira, which often did not come promptly. He was once offered a bribe of 1.5 million Naira while his men were offered 500,000, both weekly, to do the wrong thing. He refused taking the bribe and also stopped his men from doing so, which earned him several enemies. But he stood his ground and survived on his 37,500 Naira salary. The DPO, his boss, searched for him and pleaded with him to assist in improving the standards of the whole division.
    In his division, bail is absolutely free and no policeman dares take bribes from anyone. They’ve earned the community’s support as a result.
    He’s also given back to society by establishing a school outreach program. Being from a polygamous home and joining the police force at the age of 17 committed him to the school outreach program where he mentors young adults and encourages them to be assets and not liabilities to society.
  3. Our number three finalist works for the Network Infrastructure Unit at the University of Port Harcourt and was awarded as Best ICT Staff Member by the University. He is known for reviving non-functioning network equipment and refusing extra compensation. Due to his attributes of honesty, commitment and consistency, his life and that of his family have been under threat a couple of times. His wife has also been threatened at her place of work and asked to warn her husband about his “excesses” at the office.
    There was an experience he encountered in 2012, when he was asked to supervise the supply of electric doors at the University. The contractor offered him the sum of 2.5 million Naira in appreciation of the contract being given to him to handle, but he rejected this, saying he was only doing his job as a supervisor. A week after the completion of the job, all the doors stopped working. He contacted the contractor immediately to redo the work, noting that if he had collected the bribe, he may not have had the guts to recall the contractor to do the job again.
    He has been able to reduce costs associated with external contractors to a bare minimum. He’s also trained others so that even if he leaves the university, there are other adequately trained ICT personnel who can handle the ICT activities of the school. In order to improve accountability, integrity and transparency at work, he was also able to build software that tracks online payments, registration and other internet-related activities within the jurisdiction of the school.
  4. Finalist number four is a teacher at a government secondary school in Rivers State who previously worked with the Ministry of Education. She is a resourceful person for her community.
    She is proactive and usually puts in extra time – even on her off days. She stands for what is right and goes as far as spending her personal finances to meet the needs of various students at the school, including school fees, uniforms and bags.
    Her major concern is the students’ welfare. Some of the students are orphans and have no one to help them with school requirements and this makes learning difficult for them. She steps in whenever she can.
    Once there was an incident involving a teacher whose name was always seen on the voucher for monthly payments but never came to class to teach. She was only seen during the taking of biometrics. After much questioning of colleagues, the nominee found out that the lady was actually a banker and was in collaboration with my principal to share her monthly pay. This conspiracy was brought to light because of the nominee’s fight for transparency.
  5. Number five is a lecturer in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Jos who started a mentorship program in 2011. She once returned a huge sum of money paid to her in error as an examiner at the West African Examinations Council.
    Because she works in a school environment, she has had instances where students approach her with huge sums of money to alter results or change their grades. One of them offered her a blank cheque, saying he was from a rich family and willing to pay anything because his parents were expecting a high grade. She told him she didn’t care who his parents were and that her job would not be marred because of them.
    During her third year of working in the civil service in 2010, one of the students who tried to bribe her for higher grades was a gang member and ‘cultist’. On the lecturer’s way home one day, he and his gang trailed her and threatened her with a gang. But she says she remained steadfast and told them she wasn’t intimidated guns. She grew up in a university environment as her mum previously ran a restaurant at the University of Jos.  During strikes and unrest, she became accustomed to weapons and threats.
    She received publicity for not accepting money that wasn’t owed to her by WAEC and her profile increased. Many of her students saw her on TV and this is what ultimately led to her mentorship program. She also set up scholarship programs for young girls from her hometown.

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