Human Rights Defender in Nigeria: Patrick Barigbalo Naagbanton
Patrick Barigbalo Naagbanton was born in Rivers State, Nigeria. He trained as a journalist before working as a trade unionist at the Port Harcourt factory of the Union Dicon Salt PLC where he was elected chairman of the workers union, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). He was eventually fired for campaigning for improvement in working conditions. Naagbanton recruited many workers to join human rights/pro-democracy groups like the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Campaign for Democracy (CD), and Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR). Under military rule in Nigeria, Naagbanton was repeatedly arrested and harassed. In 1996, he was arrested while trying to mobilize students and activists. He was held in solitary confinement for over a month. Naagbanton served as a board member of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), representing the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, he also worked with the Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FOEN) documenting, researching and campaigning against human rights and environmental degradation in Nigeria. In late 2005, he joined the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) as its coordinator. CEHRD is a rural-based and rural-focused non-profit organisation formed to respond to the environmental, human rights, rural health, and underdevelopment problems facing the Niger Delta. CEHRD serves as a bridge between the rural communities of Nigeria and their rights by empowering them through education and assistance. As Patrick Barigbalo Naabanton has said, "The Niger Delta cries for justice… there is the need to redress the fragrant violations of the rights of the people of the delta as experienced in the region over the years." CEHRD undertakes research, campaigns, advocacy and litigation on behalf of victims of human rights violations. It coordinates anti-arms proliferation and unregulated arms trade campaigns; monitors small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their misuse in the hands of government security forces and militia and their consequences on the people, especially women and children, and works towards its prevention, minimization and eradication through research and campaigns. Naagbanton remains consistently vocal on issues of human rights and environmental issues and continued to contribute opinion articles and writing news and features for several newspapers. In recognition of the role in promoting and defending victims of rights abuse in Nigeria, Naagbanton received the Indianapolis University human rights award in 2001; and in 2002, the Rivers State branch of the CLO conferred on him the Saro-Wiwa award for human and environmental rights defender.