Meet Mr Imeh Usuah, the cab driver who returned N18 million ($112,500) left in his car
Imagine that you are a struggling taxi driver, close to 70 years in age, but still laboriously struggling to make ends meet with a large family to contend with!
Imagine that one day, `fortune’ smiled on you, and somebody forgot money, especially the much-sought-after foreign currencies, in your cab!
What would cross your mind immediately – to convert the booty, especially as such could conveniently buy you six new cars for your trade, or would you return the money to its owner?
Sixty-six year old Imeh Usuah, a cab driver who has been plying the airport route in Abuja for nine years, did not think twice before making up his mind to return the forgotten N18 million, to its owner.
He may have acted in line with a quote from an Irish writer and poet, Oscar Wilde: “Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.’’
Not that Usuah, from Akwa Ibom, is rich, but he has been living within the limits of his income without compromising morals, he says.
A father of six, he lives in a rented apartment in Pegi on the outskirts of Abuja with his family and he has just managed to send two of his children to tertiary institutions.
He had to relocate to the abode when the Federal Capital Development Authority demolished his house at Aleita, FCT, where he had lived for years.
Usuah’scase was compounded when he lost his job in 1999 in a construction company which led to his taking up commercial driving.
Fondly called Jaja by his admirers, Usuah says he has driven three cars since he started the job but they were taken from him at the end of the agreement entered into by their owners.
It was during one of his recent trips to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, that he picked a foreigner who forgot the money in foreign currencies.
“When I came back to the airport after taking the foreigner to a hotel, I went to wash my car; and the man who was to wash it called my attention to a bag, asking me to remove it so that it would not be soaked in water.
“The money was kept in a bag under the seat of the car by the side of a laptop and I informed the chairman in charge of car hiring service at the airport before I decided to return to the hotel.
He said when he got to the hotel, he asked after the foreigner and gave him the bag, adding that he did not know the value of the contents of the bag until it was announced.
He said: “the car I am currently driving belongs to me but I took it as hire purchase from Abuja Liaison Company which nominated me for the award, and I am still repaying the loan.
He said the award was as a result of his resolve to do the right thing when most people might have made away with it.
He said he had always been warned against taking something that did not belong to him by his parents.
He also stated that the Nigeria Network of Women was the first organisation to honour, and had also received an award from Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He appealed to Nigerians not to relent in doing the right thing, while calling on the authority to always reward good act as a way of encouragement.
It was also in the light of Usuah’s honesty that the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Mike Omeri, decided to honour him.
Omeri said on the occasion that every Nigerian with similar attributes would be honoured.
Attesting to his integrity, Alifia Momoh, a taxi driver at the airport, said he knew Usuah as a honest man three years ago, stressing that every Nigerian should emulate him. Another colleague, Mr Eruba Kingsley, described him as honest and upright.
“We should maintain a high standard in terms of morals which is justified by the law and principles of human existence; I believe we should insist on making the right thing as our watchword, “ Kingsley said.
He said when good gesture and hard work are rewarded, and corruption tackled, the nation’s moral values would be restored.
According to him, the country is home to many honest people in spite of various challenges, adding that leaders should endeavour to lead by example.
“The message this honest Nigerian has sent across is that in spite of the financial situation of individuals, there must be contentment and the preservation of moral values.”
Some Nigerians have also exhibited honesty in the past. A case in point is Mr Adeyemi Durojaye, a student of the Polytechnic, Ibadan, who on Aug. 13, 2010, reported the N9 billion lodged in his savings account.
According to the civil engineering student, he had less than N3,000 in his account before the staggering amount was lodged.
This rare honesty demonstrated by people such as Usuah and Durojaiye is an indication that many Nigerians can still be trusted, observers note.