By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
MONDAY 3 August 2020 was a unique day for Mrs. Josephine Nchetaka Chukwujama-Eze, a teacher at Notre Dame Group of Schools, Enugu, a Catholic Mission institution owned by the Congregation of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The mother of three was at a friend’s hair-dressing minding her business when the unexpected happened.
An ignored text message that beeped on a phone at 4:50pm bore a message that would rattle her. “I didn’t check my phone as I dismissed it as one of those unsolicited messages with which network providers inundate hapless Nigerian subscribers,” she said.
Moments later when she opened the message, she practically froze. Before her eyes was this shock – a credit of N13,946,400 from Sankiya Global Investment Ltd. What? She looked again. The credit alert was still in her account as if it was daring to her to make a decision.
Nearly N14m? Sankiya who? For what purpose? Why did Sankiya send the money to her? Which business did she do – she is not into business – that could have generated this money?
What would you have done if you were in her shoes?
Her immediate instinct was to call her husband of 19 years, Chukwujama Eze, a journalist trained at IMT, Enugu, who later became a lawyer. The couple had no confusion about what to do with the money. “So, we’ll return the strange money to your bank tomorrow?,” the husband asked her over the phone. “We would have done so today if it were within banking hours,” she responded.
Mrs. Chukwujama-Eze was at the Zik Avenue, Enugu branch of Zenith Bank, the next morning. Her account is in that branch. The Branch Manager and staff profusely thanked her for her honesty. She did a letter authorising the bank to reverse the credit of N13,946,400 to Sankiya Global Investment Limited, a private limited liability company, which according to Google, is based in Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria.
A debit alert at 2.23pm on the same day, Tuesday 4 August 2020 concluded the transaction and put a seal of confirmation on her honesty. The couple went home happy with the jointly-made decision.
Was anyone under pressure about what to do. What could have been the motivation for returning the money without being asked? Was the couple afraid of being found out or did not need the money?
“I felt pity for the person that transferred the money because I knew it was an error,” Mrs. Chukwujama-Eze said. Did she not have need for money? Would the money not have solved those problems?
“Of course, I have many needs like any other person,” she answered, “but the point remains that the money was not mine. I could not take money that was not mine because I had needs”
News of her honesty on hitting the social has drawn different reactions with most of them mocking her for returning the money which some termed “an answered prayer”. They blamed her for not acting appropriately. They would have wanted her to keep the money. How did she know that the Almighty did not want to use the situation to take care of her needs? Or change her situation as some churches preach? What was her point in returning the money?
“I just wanted to satisfy my conscience. There was no other reason. I did not return the money to to impress anybody. If I was thinking of impressing people, I would have thought of what they would say,” she replied. “Without waiting for their reactions, I knew what most people would say. It did not bother me.”
“Mrs. Jesus Christ. Angel. Saint,” were some of the deriding comments on the social media. Some were outright in their attacks, calling her, “Pretender. Hypocrite. Pharisee”, while others rated her “Naive. Foolish. Stupid. Yeye”. Other comments were, “Godly woman. Role model. Credible character”.
“I didn’t return the money to impress the puritans or to be crucified by enraged compatriots. I wanted to satisfy my conscience, that was very important to me. It was also important to demonstrate that despite the hard times in Nigeria, there are still a multitude of incorruptible and God-fearing country men and women out there, both at home and in the diaspora,” Mrs. Chukwujama-Eze said.
People, she noted, had their rights to comments as they wished. She said their opinion would not affect her decisions were the situation to arise again. She would return the money no matter the number of times such error is committed, not minding her circumstances.
The husband added, “The truth is, if any of us wanted to keep the money, the other would have vehemently refused. If it is me, my wife would have mobilised and ganged up with my relations against me until I yielded. If it was her, I would have done the same. As a last resort, I would have invited the police. But we know each other very well. We have made the speculations mere academic exercise or hypothesis because each of us found the idea of keeping the money ridiculous, opprobrious, and reprehensible”.
What a couple!
Chukwujama-Eze, who grew up in Olido, Enugu-Ezike, in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, is immensely proud of his wife. “I keep celebrating her. She has made me proud.” He said his journalism career in News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, TELL Magazine and BBC cemented character and shaped my worldview. He is grateful to have a soul-mate. in his wife, who sees the value of honesty and practises it.
People have extended the jokes about returning the money to him. “One of my good friends (whom I shall hereinafter refer to as “Original Naija Bandit”) jokingly accused me of committing a mortal sin by allowing my wife to return almost N14m in a corrupt country like Nigeria,” he told Opera News. “My forgiveness, according to Bandit, lies in my confession before any priest of my Catholic faith.” He laughed off the joke.
Jokes apart, the family insists that, “our good name is more important than silver and gold.”
If you were in search of honest Nigerians, they are popping out by the day – Mrs. Josephine Nchetaka Chukwujama-Eze, a school teacher, is one of them.