EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: Silent Hero In Human Rights Advocacy

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With over two decades in active journalism in Nigeria,  Mr. Emmanuel Nnadozie De Santacruz Onwubiko has certainly come a long way professionally speaking. Over the years he worked for seven years as a sole senior Court /Judicial Reporter in the nation’s capital for The Guardian  newspapers.

He has maintained a consistent weekly column ” Rightswatch” in Leadership, a national newspaper based in Abuja.  He is a philosopher by professional training; a human rights activist, a blogger and a writer.  He was a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, an appointment made by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo and  at present he heads the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) a vocal voice in the advancement of peoples’  rights in the public space.   Onwubiko is a publisher, Editor-in-chief of Icons of Human Rights monthly newsletter and Executive Director of Paradise Found media company limited.   He is also Chairman of Epikaya Communications Limited, member Board of Trustees of the US-funded NGO called Heartland Alliance Nigeria and Board of Trustees member of the Association of African Writers on Human and People’s Rights. He is also a member of the National Think Tank of the Nigerian Catholic Secretariat in Abuja since 2012.

Onwubiko’s undeniable adroitness in advocacy made him to be appointed also by another President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, as a member of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peace in Northern Nigeria.   He was given several awards for meritorious achievements.

Born in  Kafanchan, Kaduna State, Onwubiko attended the Teachers College. His tertiary education was at the Catholic Claretian Institute of Philosophy, Maryland, Nekede, Owerri (affiliated to Pontificia Università Urbaniana Rome), where he studied philosophy. He attended Nigeria Institute of Journalism for his journalism training.   Onwubiko has been speaking on different national and international issues and has authored a book titled Politics and Litigation in Contemporary Nigeria, volume one and complete volume, 2003–2005. And he has also authored another new book titledWho Cares About Human Rights?

His activism began to gain national attention after the then Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, now Vice President of Nigeria suggested that the armed Islamic insurgents would extend their terror attacks to the southern regions if they were not contained in the northeast.   Onwubiko and his group had called for the probing of the Governor. This triggered a harsh response by another Northern Civil Organisation group, who accused Onwubiko for giving the terror attack by Islamic Boko Haram a tribal connotation.  Onwubiko and his group in their rebuttal insisted that though it has no empirical evidence to link the Borno State governor to the attempted terrorists incursions into the South-East but advised politicians to be typically clever and surreptitious with their public statements so as not to provide psychological motivation or instigation for would-be terrorists. The group he heads, HURIWA, has more than six thousand media releases on varied thematic issues of human rights.

Onwubiko’s pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation (NGO), Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on 11 May 2016 petitioned the European Union (EU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and foreign embassies over invasion of its office by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) over what was perceived as attempts by the government to intimidate him and his group over their outspoken stand against the government’s suppression of free speech.


Quite vocal and unrelenting HURIWA under Onwubiko’s leadership brought issues of human rights to the front burner as the group has not failed to comment on national issues verging on rights abuse.  In recent time, it has decried the subtle threat by the Defence headquarters against the group over her recent condemnation of the decision of the Chief of Defence Staff to set up a fact-finding team to Plateau State with regards to the recent upsurge in the bombardments of communities by suspected armed Fulani terrorists leading to the killings of over 200 citizens even as the military or police has failed to arrest the mass killers.


HURIWA had in a statement, criticized General Christopher Gwabin Musa’s response, highlighting the deployment of a Special Fact-Finding Team, led by retired Major-General Augustine Agundu, to investigate the root causes of the attacks. While acknowledging the military’s commitment to restoring peace, HURIWA contended that the CDS’s approach falls short of the decisive action required to apprehend the sponsors and perpetrators of the heinous acts. The civil rights advocacy group raised questions about the accountability and effectiveness of key security figures, including the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division Nigerian Army, the Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the Commissioner of Police in Plateau State.



The group has similarly condemned the large scale abduction of girls from internally displaced persons’ camp  in Borno State by terrorists even as HURIWA said the continuous attacks by terrorists on innocent victims they initially displaced from their ancestral homes, show that the reintegration of the so-called repentant terrorists is an exercise in futility. It insisted that it is a fraud for anyone to say that persons who participated in massive killings of citizens can choose to repent and then some kind of reintegration programme has the potential capacity to turn them into better citizens. HURIWA has therefore called for an immediate end to the reintegration programme.


Onwubiko’s activism has become legendry as HURIWA under his leadership gives attention to all human right abuse related issues.  Just recently, the group condemned Tinubu’s administration for being sympathetic to terrorists for lacking the political will to identify and prosecute terrorism financiers in the country.  HURIWA has done much for Nigerians with respect to seeking for the advancement of people’s right at all times.

Culled From The Book “Nigeria’s Silent Heroes”.

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