By Elizabeth Uwandu
Luck has smiled on 27-year-old Ugochukwu Ibere, whose story of benevolence went viral last year when he gave out all the sausages he was hawking to prison inmates being driven to a destination along Marina, Lagos, as Rite Foods Limited opened a shop stocked with Bigi drinks and cartons of sausage rolls for him.
Ibere’s act of kindness was discovered by Mrs Adenike Ajitena who sighted him during a traffic jam giving out all his wares to the outstretched arms of the inmates.
Speaking at the opening of the shop, Rite Foods Managing Director, Mr. Seleem Adegunwa, represented by Mr Adesewo Joseph, Regional Sales Manager, Lagos, said the company decided to reward Ugochukwu for giving out the little he had to help humanity.
“ This gesture is part of our Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR. Rite Foods Limited is opening a beautifully branded shop, painted, branded with a signage of his business name ‘Ugochukwu Ibere Stores.’ And the company is further starting him up in his business with tools such as deep freezer, generator, stabilizer, free 100 cartons of sausages and free 100 cases of drinks. This is in addition to paying the rent of the shop for two years”, Adegunwa said.
“ Aside our products being proudly Nigerian and truly worldclass, we are passionate about rewarding Nigerians who show exemplary feats such as Ugochukwu.
“ Mind you, this is not the first time we are doing such a gesture. We have other CSR projects we engage in. Again, this is not a one off stop event. This is a continuous effort.”
Ugochukwu told Sunday Vanguard during the event, “ If I was told that this will happen to me, I will not believe it. Now, I am a proud owner of not only a shop but also a warehouse.
“ I encourage everyone to give. You might not know where help will come.”
Speaking to Bella Naija after the story broke, last year, the Lagos hero, as he was tagged then, said, “A few years ago I worked as an apprentice in a cosmetics shop. I was supposed to receive a payment at the end of my term. But I was warned by other employees that the owner would find a reason not to pay me. He’d always invented reasons to fire his boys right before their payment.
“So I made the decision to quit. But when I told him, he dragged me to the police. He told them lies about me. He told them I’d stolen so much money. And they tortured me. They tied my hands and legs and they hung me from the ceiling. They beat me. I went deaf from all the slaps.
“ For ten days I was given no food. My fellow prisoners would share little bits of their meals.
“Honestly I was about to die. And I started to pray to God. On the tenth day, the guards decided that it would cause too much trouble to let me die. They told my employer: ‘After what we did to him, he must be innocent. Because he’d have confessed if he was guilty.’
“They released me into the world like a madman. And I’ve carried the memory ever since. I promised myself that if I ever found someone in a similar situation, I would help. So when I learned that prisoners pass down this road, I chose to hawk in this location. I waited until I finally saw the truck, and I pushed all my food through the bars. My fellow vendors couldn’t believe it. They asked me who would pay me for the food. I told them: ‘I didn’t do it for any man. I did it because of what God did for me.”