• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Seinye Lulu-Briggs: 65 cheers to an altruist

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I was pleasantly surprised when I met her a year ago in Accra, Ghana because she was not what I had imagined she would be. The relentless smear campaign against her had left me with a false image. I had expected a young woman in her 40s, a ‘gold digger’ so to say, who had married O.B. Lulu-Briggs, the late Kalabari high chief and statesman, because of his wealth.

But I was mistaken. I had drawn a mental picture based on the nonsense churned out endlessly against her by detractors in the media. That September afternoon, I saw a graceful woman of over 60, soft-spoken, logical and brilliant. Our about 30-minute interaction was time well spent before I hurried to the airport for my return trip to Lagos. Since that first meeting, I have continued to see different sides of Seinye O.B. Lulu-Briggs, a consummate entrepreneur, altruist, global citizen, mother, and diligent worker in the Lord’s vineyard, who clocked 65 years on Thursday, September 21, 2023.

A mother and grandmother, Lulu-Briggs’ life centres on her God, whom she serves conscientiously as pastor of the Chapel of God International Worship Centre, Old G.R.A Port Harcourt; her family; her businesses—La Sien Bottling Company Limited, Soliyama Limited, Moni Pulo, Rachael Hotel, and philanthropy.

The O.B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation, established in 2001 to honour and institutionalise her late husband’s prolific and legendary giving, has become a foremost non-governmental organisation positively transforming the lives of the underserved in Rivers State, the South-South and Nigeria. The non-partisan NGO continues touching people’s lives through five areas: care for life, free medical mission, education and scholarships, access to clean water and sanitation, and microcredit and entrepreneurship. The OBLBF, whose works contribute to attaining 10 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, has spent close to N3 billion to touch lives positively. The testimonies of the beneficiaries about the foundation’s impact on their lives have been heartwarming.

In April, after the 38th edition of a 5-day free medical mission of the foundation in Ikuru Town, Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, Immaculate Isaiah, a fish monger, narrated how the NGO saved her from the pains of a ruptured navel. “I have been to three hospitals at Ngo and Bori, and all the doctors recommended a surgical operation to remove the rupture in my navel. Money has been my challenge, as the least the doctors ask to be paid is N350,000. I do not have much money, and nobody agreed to lend it to me. However, the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation came and carried out the operation. What the doctors wanted to do at N350,000.000, the O. B. Lulu-Briggs Foundation has done it free of charge. They have changed my story”, she said.

After the devastating 2022 Nigerian floods that claimed 662 lives and displaced 2,430,445 people across the country, the entrepreneur and altruist fondly called ‘Chairman’ swiftly mobilised her team into action to assist people affected by the catastrophe in Akinima and Elem-Sangama communities in Rivers State.

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“We can’t leave our brothers and sisters in such dire conditions. They are suffering, and we can’t close our eyes to their plight. We have to move fast and do all within our ability to assist our brethren who have become isolated due to the water volume,” she said in a meeting with her staff before the strategic interventions. People in the two communities received relief items, including food, toiletries, medication, treated mosquito nets and wrappers. The Foundation’s medical team also attended to those with health challenges.

Beyond assisting people affected by disasters, Lulu-Briggs, a committed giver, has many interventions, including support for families of fallen soldiers, school adoption and rehabilitation, and support for correctional facilities and inmates. She also ensures that her companies accord host communities respect and support.

She is a stickler for due process and will never cheat anyone, as one saw firsthand. Earlier this year, her oil and gas company, Moni Pulo Limited, launched the Abana Host Communities Development Trust in line with its long-standing commitment to supporting its stakeholders and communities. The Trust complied with the 2021 Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) and has been serving Moni Pulo’s Effiat and Mbo host communities in the Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, socially and economically empowering and uplifting the communities.

Moni Pulo’s previous interventions over the years included the Effiat Community footbridge and 800 market stalls in Ewang, Udesi and Ebughu communities, the provision of over 3200 scholarships, school renovation, provision of new school desks and educational materials at Community Primary School, Utan Brama, Effiat. The company also established a state-of-the-art ICT centre at Community Secondary School, Unyenghe, providing 70 motorcycles and fishing accessories to businesses in Effiat and Mbo communities.

The internationally renowned industrialist, who chose to have a low-key 65th birthday, lives by Proverbs 11:24, which encourages giving. “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly but comes to poverty”, says that important verse. This might be the key to her wealth.

There are several Nigerian philanthropists, but none compares to Seinye O.B. Lulu-Briggs, a firm believer in service and altruism, who denies herself comfort to help others. Happy birthday, Dear Chairman.

.Abodunrin writes from Lagos