Corporal Bashir Umar, of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) returned €37,000 – roughly N15 million – which someone lost at the Aminu Kano Airport, in Kano. Three days ago, he was an aircraftman (ACM) in the NAF, but he has received double promotion to the rank of Corporal, and given a special decoration in a ceremony, by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar himself. In this brief encounter with Daily Trust Saturday, he narrates the events before – and after – his incredible act of honesty.
‘Some people insulted me for giving cash back’
Daily Trust: Can you recount the events of the fateful day, leading to when you found the money?
Corporal Bashir Umar: We were coming back from patrol, in the evening. I saw an envelope on the side of the road, then I picked it up. I was with other people, but I refused to let them know what was inside the envelope. I saw a phone number on the envelope, so when we got back to the barracks, I called it. A man answered, and I told him we found a package, and he responded that ‘yes, a brown envelope, with the name Alhaji Ahmed written on it!’ Then he said the enveloped belonged to him, and that we should meet that evening, to which I said no problem, that he should come to the Air Force Base and collect the money.
The man came, parked his car outside, and I went to meet him. I then gave him the package, and he told me the contents, €37,000, which he counted and confirmed was complete. He was very grateful, and asked me what reward I wanted from him, because I have assisted him greatly, adding that not many people would have returned the money. I told him I don’t need anything from him, because my job pays for all my needs. I told him he lost his property, I found it, and now I have returned it, simple. So, he left.
Later, we were discussing it with my course mate Abubakar, who is also my roommate, as he heard me talking with the owner of the money on the phone, and how I said he should and collect it. It was Abubakar who started telling people; that was how information about what happened got out.
DT: Did it even remotely cross your mind to keep the money for yourself?
Corporal Umar: Not for a second in my mind did I think to keep it, because my father has always taught me not to touch other people’s property, as he’s also warned me against taking drugs and womanizing. That’s why I don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to me. So, I’ve always kept my promise to my dad.
DT: Since you returned the money, what kind of reactions have you received from family and friends?
Corporal Umar: Some people have been insulting me. Some even said I will never be a rich man in my lifetime. But others have also applauded me; I have heard all kinds of talk on the issue. But I don’t regret what I did. Rather, I am even happier having returned the money.
DT: How do you feel about the recognition and praises you have been getting, even on social media?
Corporal Umar: I am very delighted, because those insulting me will realise the folly of their ways. And to those praising me, I say thank you.
DT: What advice do you have for Nigerians who stumble upon lost or misplaced items, especially valuables?
Corporal Umar: Wherever and whenever you find other people’s property, you are supposed to return it to them. You should know that if you take even 5 naira from someone, on Judgement Day, you would surely pay it back.