The head of Ford Foundation West Africa and one of Nigeria’s civil society leaders, Innocent Chukwuma, has been reported dead.
This news is coming as the civil society and human rights community is still grappling with the death of Yinka Odumakin.
Chukwuma, who was 55 years old, passed away late on Saturday, April 3, 2021, after being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, an aggressive cancer of the blood.
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His friend, Edetaen Ojo in a message said, “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. May his soul rest in peace.”
A longtime associate, Professor Chidi Odinkalu said that he stood no chance by the time diagnosis came through, noting that the acute myeloid leukaemia, aggressive destroyer of blood and bone marrow, that claimed Mr Chukwuma’s life was diagnosed at end-stage.
Chukwuma, who died in a Lagos hospital was survived by his activist wife, Josephine and 3 children.
In a reaction to his death, the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi said, ‘’Still distraught from Yinka Odumakin’s demise, Bisi and I woke up to the most devastating shock of Innocent Chukwuma’s death. Inno was an outstanding colleague and friend from our days at the barricades. Our thoughts are with Josephine and the children. May he rest in peace.’’
Still distraught from Yinka Odumakin's demise, Bisi and I woke up to the most devastating shock of Innocent Chukwuma's death. Inno was an outstanding colleague and friend from our days at the barricades. Our thoughts are with Josephine and the children. May he rest in peace. JKF
— Kayode Fayemi (@kfayemi) April 4, 2021
Mr Chukwuma left a broad mark of selflessness around the 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 the 1980s and 90s, Mr Chukwuma later established the CLEEN Foundation in 1998, with the mission of promoting public safety, security, and accessible justice through the strategies of empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programmes, and publications, in partnership with government, civil society, and the private sector.
In 2012, Ford Foundation announced him as its lead in West Africa, resuming in 2013 and, over the period, he 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 Nsukka (UNN).