We are profoundly saddened by the loss of our dear colleague Innocent Chukwuma, who passed away on Saturday, April 3 in Lagos. Innocent had recently been diagnosed with leukemia and was just beginning emergency treatment.

As the Director of Ford’s West Africa office from 2013 to 2021, Innocent led the Foundation’s work in the region with admirable humility, grace and exceptional knowledge of civil society and governance challenges and opportunities. In addition to being a dedicated and admired leader in his office, he built solid partnerships with donors, civil society leaders and public and private sector leaders.

Innocent was a skilled grantmaker and a dedicated thought partner to our grantees in the region and beyond. Most recently, he played a pivotal role in the growth of impact investing in West Africa to help leverage private sector resources towards meeting Sustainable Development Goals. Innocent’s expertise and ability to forge meaningful partnerships helped catalyze private and public sector entities to launch the Impact Investors Foundation, which aims to promote the growth and excellence of impact investing in Nigeria.

Before joining the Ford Foundation, Innocent 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 held various posts within the Civil Liberties Organization, one of Nigeria’s first human rights organizations. Innocent was the recipient of numerous honors, including the Reebok International Human Rights Award, and served as visiting lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague, Innocent Chukwuma,” said Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. “We will forever cherish his memory as a champion for justice and equality in West Africa and around the world.”

Innocent is survived by his wife Josephine and three children: Chidinma, Amarachi and Nkechi.

Tributes in honor of Innocent and his life of service may be sent to [email protected].

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The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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