The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has expressed shock at the death of Barrister Oronto Douglas, Senior Special Assistant on Research, Strategy and Documentation to President Goodluck Jonathan, describing his demise as a loss to the nation and the human rights community.

Douglas died of cancer-related complications today (April 9) in Abuja.

As special assistant to the president, Douglas used the platform to continue advocating for the rights of Niger Delta communities suffering from environmental degradation and marginalisation. Despite his worsening health condition in the last four years he worked tirelessly for the cause of the down-trodden.

Along with Nnimmo Bassey, former chair of Friends of the Earth International and ERA/FoEN executive director, Godwin Ojo, Douglas co-founded ERA/FoEN in 1993, and has used this platform to increase environmental awareness and citizens’ response to environmental issues in Nigeria.

Oronto served as one of the lawyers of the late Ogoni playwright and activist, Ken Saro Wiwa who was executed by the Abacha junta on 10 November 1995. He is the first Niger Delta activist to have been hosted at the White House by a serving American President in the person of Bill Clinton.

“Oronto was a model of relentless and untiring defence of the oppressed and the cause of the environment, the cause for which he was molested and suffered greatly. He was the voice of the voiceless and a strong defender of freedom of speech. He was an epitome of peace, justice and the rule of law. Nigeria has lost a rare gem”, said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo.

“Nigerians and particularly the human rights community will never forget his dogged struggle during the military repression years particularly during the General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha years when the rule of law was trampled upon with impunity.

“We extend our condolences to Douglas immediate family and pray that God will strengthen them at this time of grief. As the nation mourns, the government and the people of this country should reflect and interrogate on those issues that Douglas stood for, lived for, and died for,” Ojo added.

Philip Jakpor

Head of Media