Innocent Chukwuma, Nigerian Civil Society Leader, Dies Aged 55

The civil society leader had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a cancer of the blood and blood marrow.

Founder of CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that promotes public safety, security and accessible justice, Innocent Chukwuma passed away on Saturday evening, according to his associates. He was 55 years old.

The civil society leader had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a cancer of the blood and blood marrow.

“With profound shock & 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,” announced his close friend and executive director of the Media Rights Agenda, Edetaen Ojo.

Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist Chidi Odinkalu said in an interview with Premium Times that Chukwuma was a treasured companion and faithful friend.

“I knew him for nearly 35 [years and] I am grateful for the privilege. In all things, as my late mum always said, we must learn to give thanks … he was a man of decency,” he told the paper.

He added that Chukwuma was only diagnosed with the disease on Friday night and was scheduled to begin chemotherapy the following night. He “passed before the needle could be inserted,” Odinkalu explained.

“In managing this work, he has addressed issues of democratic and accountable government, freedom of expression, and sexuality and reproductive health and rights,” states Chukwuma’s profile on Ford Foundation websites.

Innocent is a globally renowned advocate for human rights and good governance. Before joining the foundation in 2013, he founded and led the CLEEN Foundation, to promote public safety, security, and accessible justice in West Africa. 

“CLEEN was the first African nongovernmental organization to receive the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. In addition, Innocent has held various posts within the Civil Liberties Organization, one of Nigeria’s first human rights organizations. He was also the chair of the Altus Global Alliance, a global network of nonprofits.”

The profile added that he had received many awards including the Reebok International Human Rights Award. 

“He 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 holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Leicester and a bachelor’s degree in religion from the University of Nigeria,” it said.

Chukwuma was a father to three daughters.

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Head of Investigations at HumAngle. ‘Kunle covers conflict alongside its many intricacies and fallouts. He also writes about disinformation, the environment, and human rights. He's won a couple of journalism awards, including the 2021 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2022 African Fact-checking Award, and the 2023 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.

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