Frontline civil society leader, Innocent Chukwuma, dies at 55

Innocent-Chukwuma

The head of Ford Foundation West Africa and a frontline activist, Innocent Chukwuma has died.

He passed on late Saturday night of blood cancer, his friends announced. He was 55.

“With profound shock and sadness, I regret to inform you that Innocent Chukwuma passed away a few hours ago, in the evening of April 3,” his friend Edetaen Ojo said in a message shared on Twitter. “May his soul rest in peace.”

“He stood no chance by the time diagnosis came through,” added another long-time associate Chidi Odinkalu, who also noted that the acute myeloid leukaemia, aggressive destroyer of blood and bone marrow, that claimed Mr Chukwuma’s life was diagnosed at end-stage.

He was survived by three children, one of whom graduated in law and was called to the bar last year.

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Mr Chukwuma left a broad mark of selflessness around West African civic space after spending decades advancing the cause of a better society for the long-suffering population of the region.

After playing active roles as a political activist and community organiser against the brutal dictatorships of 1980s and 90s, Mr Chukwuma later established the CLEEN Foundation in 1998 to press for lasting reforms in criminal justice and other critical areas of lack in Nigeria and West Africa.

In 2012, Ford Foundation announced him as its lead-in, West Africa, resuming in 2013 and, over the period, established a workable, decent and productive relationship with leading civic groups and government agencies across the region.

The ˜Ford Foundation described Mr Chukwuma as the recipient of numerous honours, including the Reebok International Human Rights Award. He was also cited as having served as visiting lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he designed and taught a course on the management of nonprofits in the Global South.

He held a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Leicester and a bachelor’s degree in religion from the University of Nigeria in the country’s South-East.

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