Nigeria’s Human Rights Chief, Odinkalu, shortlisted for prestigious human rights award

Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu

The Chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, has been shortlisted for the 2014 Human Rights Tulip, the Dutch government’s highly-prestigious human rights award.

Mr. Odinkalu is among 30 nominees for this year’s edition of the award. An online voting, which ends October 10, is currently on to prune the nominees to three. An independent jury will then select the winner of the award from the three leading contenders.

Mr. Odinkalu, who heads the Africa Programme of the Open Society Justice Initiative, is a recognised defender of human rights in Nigeria and Africa. He is one of Africa’s foremost human rights lawyers whose perseverance, doggedness and passion for the truth has shone light in the alleys where darkness holds siege across the continent.

Through his courage and determination, Nigerians and the world have known the truth about the unlawful Apo killing, the Baga Massacre, ongoing inquiries into cases of illegal demolition and forced evictions, and dozens of other gross violations and abuse of human rights across Nigeria. Panels of Inquiry set up by the National Human Rights Commission have uncovered the many facts and truths that authorities wished to conceal from the public. Chidi, who has presided over many of these inquiries, has himself being the subject of harassment and threats. Yet he has remained resolute in speaking loud and clear against immunity to impunity.

Mr. Odinkalu’s crusade against Impunity cuts across Africa. His unflinching drive led to the March 2014 landmark decision by Africa’s highest court, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in Arusha, Tanzania, that journalists have the right to practice their vocation free from intimidation or fear of death. The court held that the failure of a government to diligently seek and bring to account persons responsible for the assassination of a journalist intimidates the media, has a chilling effect on free expression, violates the human rights of journalists, endangers truth, and should not be allowed.

As part of a multinational legal team before the African Court, Mr. Odinkalu represented the widow and survivors of Norbert Zongo, publisher of L’Independant newspaper, who was savagely killed in 1998. Zongo at the time of his death was investigating a murder linked to the brother of Burkina Faso’s president.

In West Africa, his efforts, through the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) led to the June 2014 ruling by the Nigeria-based regional court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that The Gambia failed to conduct a meaningful investigation into the murder of Deyda Hydara, the founder of The Point newspaper, who was brutally killed in 2004. Mr. Hydara, a regular critic of The Gambia president, had received multiple death threats in the months leading up to his death.

Mr. Odinkalu remains a defender of Human Rights Defenders across Africa. His achievements are numerous. His affiliations globally speak of his laudable character.

Right groups in the country are mobilizing support for  Mr. Odinkalu ahead of the October 10 count down for votes.

“The voting process takes about 30 seconds and is completed with just three clicks by following this link:, and you can all chose to support Chidi for the exceptional work he is doing for humanity” an advocacy flier announced.

Supporters are encouraged, according to the call up advocacy campaign, to “use your various information dissemination platforms to call on our audience to vote for him” and the status of the country is brought in to reinforce the campaign. “Imagine the world’s most populous black nation rallying in one voice to support a tested and proven human rights crusader.

“Nigeria and indeed Africa need many more the likes of Chidi Odinkalu. I have just voted for him. We all should!” the statement argued.

For more on Professor Chidi Odinkalu:

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