The Divisional Police Officer, Itam, Akwa Ibom State Police Command, Francis Erhabor, says he has never taken a bribe in the course of his work as a police officer.
"The issue of my being here today started from when I entered the job, I took a strong vow, I knew my system thrive in corruption and I said to myself, 'If I would in any way corrupt myself, I told the Lord don't humiliate me in secret, show me on big time televisions like NTA, BBC, and CNN," Mr Erhabor said recently.
He said he was prepared to be disgraced "even if it is N20 which we were synonymous with."
Mr Erhabor was one of the five 'icons' awarded at the Integrity Icon Award Summit in Abuja on Monday.
The summit was organised by Accountability Lab in partnership with Luminate, MacArthur and Ford Foundation "to identify and celebrate Nigeria's most honest government officials".
Others awarded include Tani Nimlan, Assistant Director of NAFDAC; Christian Ahiauzu, head of ICT Unit University of Port Harcourt; Tina Odinakachi, a lecturer at the University of Jos and Kacheilom Roberts-Ndukwe, a secondary school teacher in Rivers State.
Integrity Icon is a global campaign by Accountabilitylab that is powered by citizens in search of honest government officials.
It hopes to inspire a new generation of effective public servants.
Integrity Icon began in 2014 in Nepal, spread to Liberia in 2015 and "has now evolved into a global campaign that is active in Nepal, Liberia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Mali, South Africa and Mexico.
Mr Erhabor said he has been in the Police Force for over 30 years.
"I got appointed into the force as a Cadet Inspector on the 2nd of April 1990. I was just 17 plus when I got into the academy and graduated at the age of 19 as an Inspector and confirmed," he said.
He said sometimes his life is threatened, "but the beautiful thing is that at the end of the day, I earned respect, I got confidence not only from my colleagues but also from outside forces."
Delivering his keynote address, Joe Abah, the Country Director for International Development (DAI), defined Integrity as "being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values."
He said in a society like Nigeria, "people that are honest and morally upright are regarded as fools, instead of Icons, while those that are dishonest and untrustworthy are seen as sharp and smart, instead of thieves."
How we nominate
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, the Country Director of Accountabilitylab, Odeh Friday, said the summit and award project kickstarted in 2017.
He said five icons have been celebrated each in 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively. He said the nomination of awardees "is done by the citizens as a way of promoting accountability in Nigeria."
"We basically go out to source nominations from the citizens who tell us the people working in the public service that they know are doing amazing things, working for the good of the people they are serving," he said.
According to Mr Odeh, the selection process involves independent judges from the civil society space, retired civil servants and governance experts.
Meanwhile, one of the 2018 Icons, Aremu Kehinde, who is currently undergoing the mandatory national youth service, said the 2018 recognition "spurred him on to strongly believe that Nigeria can be better."
"With or without the award, I was already fixated on my path in life but then, having that award reinforced not just me, but has helped to convert others into living a life of integrity," he said.
Also, Magdalene Igbolo, who is currently the Head of Department of Sociology, University of Abuja, was among those who bagged the Integrity Icon Award in 2017.
She said it was a moment of joy being celebrated for standing up for the truth, and for trying to do what is right at all times and to know that she was nominated by students.
"It means that there is something that they have seen that I didn't even recognise," she said.