The Honest Guard


Solomon Elusoji writes about a security guard who found and returned $10,000 to the admiration and wonder of many

It was another regular hot Wednesday in May 2016 and, as usual, Lagos was boisterous with a lot of activity. At a United Bank for Africa (UBA) branch in Oba Akran, Lagos, where Ibrahim Mohammed Ogbonago, worked as a security guard, a lot of customers streamed in and out. In the midst of the flurry of activities, a man walked into the branch to transact some business and left some 10 minutes later. It was soon after he exited that Ibrahim, who manned the gate on that fateful day, noticed something on the floor. He quickly walked the few metres to find out what it was.

As he bent to look further, he noticed that it was some currency notes. “Wow!!! Dollars,” he thought to himself. “One of our customers must have dropped this mistakenly.” On counting, he found out it was $10,000, and without even thinking twice, he quickly took the money to his supervisor, who then passed it to the Branch Operations Manager. Not long after, the customer, who had been paid the sum of $84,500, rushed back to the bank claiming that $10,000 was missing from the money he was paid; due investigations were carried out, and the missing money was finally in the hands of the rightful owner. He was indeed full of praises for Ibrahim and the bank, especially as he was sure that the teller had paid him correctly a few minutes before.

There is no doubt that Ibrahim displayed core values of honesty and integrity despite the unfriendly economic situations in the country. In fact, not a few Nigerians, including some youths who took to Social Media, condemned him, saying that was his stroke at good fortune, and that he was hasty in his decision to return the money. Others said he should have picked the money and ran away.

But apparently, the tenets that were instilled in him as a child by his parents as well as his tutors at the Young Muslim College, Ankpa, have remained with the young man from Kogi State. “I wasn’t tempted to take the money, even if there were no cameras around, I wouldn’t have taken it,” Ogbonago said. “I have always known since I was a child that what is not yours is not yours, and that if you picked something that was not yours, that is stealing, so it never crossed my mind to do away with the money.”
On hearing the news, UBA’s Chairman, Mr. Tony Elumelu, himself a strong proponent of the culture of integrity, invited Ibrahim about a month later to meet with him, and to praise and reward the uncommon gesture of honesty he had displayed.

Going all out to celebrate this meritorious act on his social media accounts, including Instagram and Twitter, Elumelu said, “Mohammed Ibrahim Ogbonago, a security guard at the UBA Group branch in Oba Akran, found $10,000 outside on the ground at his branch. In an unparalleled display of integrity, he decided to return the money. When I heard about this story, I knew I had to meet the man who despite facing rising petrol and transportation prices and “tomato ebola” returned such a huge sum of money without recourse to himself. It was a pleasant surprise to hear him tell this story and about how he came to be in the board room with us. Even more surprising was hearing him speak about his passion for governance and integrity in leadership.”
Continuing, Elumelu said, “Mohammed Ibrahim Ogbonago is an exemplary ambassador of the UBA spirit and it was fulfilling to meet and reward him for his conduct. The UBA Group management is proud to have this calibre of staff at all levels. Congratulations to Mohammed and keep up the good work.”

Even though a flurry of commendations followed Elumelu’s praise, not a few felt the security guard should have been given a greater reward than what he got. “If it were me I would take the money and cater for myself. What is a handshake going to do? This bank will eventually eat this money by themselves – they will not use it for anything tangible; just for their selfish pleasures alone,” an online commenter wrote on a popular blog.
However, little did people know that a lot more was coming to this staff, who demonstrated a high level of uprightness to the admiration of many.

Every year since 2008, UBA holds an annual award ceremony, tagged the UBA CEO Awards, to recognise, celebrate and reward staff for their various contribution to the growth of the bank in the area of ingenuity and creativity, as well as their industry, experience and passion to deliver excellent service to customers and continue to achieve exceptional results within the Group.
This year, over 10 Awards were given; there were winners who had excelled in innovation and execution across Africa, as well as those who were rewarded for their entrepreneurial abilities. However, the Award which stole the show – the Award for Excellence – went to Ibrahim, this same security staff who found and returned $10,000 cash belonging to a customer.

The UBA’s Group Managing Director and CEO, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, talked about how the $10,000 Ogbonago saw ‘could have changed his life and how he could have taken it’, but his upbringing, as well as UBA’s value and focus on integrity would never have allowed him to do so. He received a standing ovation, as well as rewards from dignitaries in the audience who came on stage to acknowledge him.

The Governor of Adamawa State, Alhaji Bindo Jibrilla pledged the sum of $5,000 and he also received a personal commitment of $10,000 from the Governor of Bauchi state, Alhaji Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar. The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who was also present at the event, said that Ogbonago’s name will be announced at the floor of the Senate during plenary and will be given the sum of N5,000,000 by the Senate. In the end Ogbonago received N11m as a reward for his integrity.

Elumelu who went on stage to congratulate Ogbonago personally, said that for a man who earns less than N2m as annual salary, Ogbonago exemplified someone who is committed to excellence in the execution of his duties. “This is an example to us all. Today, we stand here to celebrate a junior UBA staff member, who returned money that was misplaced and who, through this action, gained much more than he could ever have imagined. As a leading pan-African bank, this is what we stand for and we commend Ibrahim Ogbonago for living the principle of integrity.”

Indeed, it was a night to remember, an evening of reward and celebration, and perhaps, exceptionally, the story of how the integrity and honesty of a UBA security staff could become the role model of an African group with a staff strength of over 25,000 people and a symbol of the paramount commitment of UBA to its customers.

The GMD, Kennedy Uzoka, said: “We recognise and appreciate that there are so many staff members who have demonstrated aspects of each of our core values, but we have had to single out the very best. We celebrate our Lions and Lionesses who used their ingenuity and creativity, as well as their industry experience and passion, to work tirelessly to deliver excellent service to our customers and to continue to achieve exceptional results within the Group.”

The CEO of UBA Ghana, Mrs. Abiola Bawuah was chosen in the special award category of “Business Leader who defied all odds and opened up new opportunities for the Bank.” Bawuah was described by the GMD as “a relentless CEO who breaks barriers, extends the horizon and motivates, inspires and encourages others”, while the Managing Director of UBA Zambia, was also recognised at the event. But Ogbonago stole the show; the dividends of honesty.