Bruno Kreisky Foundation

for Human Rights

Gani Fawehinmi (Nigeria)

Gani Fawehinimi was born on April 22, 1938 in Ondo, Nigeria. He was was a Nigerian author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer, politician and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He has been called the „foremost defender of fundamental human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria”. On January 15, 1965 he passed the Nigerian Bar. He put this skill to good use during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). He was often controversial, and he was detained for several months in 1969 due to his work in the Abashe-Obeya court case. Fawehinmi also attracted the public eye when he tried to find justice for the murdered editor of Newswatch, Dele Giwa.

He took on many pro bono cases, and focused largely on working for freedom of speech, especially that of college students. In the early seventies he became famous for defending Ayodeji and Amakiri, but still continued his work with students. In 1972 the Gani Fawehinmi Scholarship Scheme was created in his name to help college students in Nigeria. In addition to helping students with legal matters, he was also a professor and a writer and publisher of law books.

From May until June of 1992 he was imprisoned for “attempted subversion.” The public outcry in addition to judges’ statements ultimately led to his release. Upon winning the Kreisky Prize in 1993 he stated that, “although in my name, it is also an award for all human rights organizations in Nigeria”. In 1994 he founded the National Conscience Party, along with other prominent Nigerians. In September of 2001 he was given the rank of „Senior Advocate of Nigeria,“ which is the highest legal title within Nigeria. Gani Fawehinmi died on September 5, 2009 at the age of 71 after battling lung cancer. Shortly before his death he was honored with the “Order of the Federal Republic,” the highest national honor in Nigeria. He refused to accept the award, stating that he could not “ wake up in the morning and look at the insignia of honour bestowed on (him) under a government that persecutes anti-corruption efforts.” Though Fawehinmi has passed away, the National Conscience Party is still in operation and the “Gani Fawehinmi Solidarity Association” was founded in his name.