Chuck Nduka-Eze demanded an apology from the Nigerian government for the genocide during the Nigerian-Biafran War.
He would have followed this path whether or not his mother was shot and murdered during the brutality because of his passion for pursuing difficult cases.
“I grew up with that in mind, with that sense of tragedy,” he said. “It seemed to me it was natural to want to do something about it.”
Nduka-Eze is a practicing lawyer in London but will be speaking at USF Wednesday at 11 a.m. in MSC 3709 for “Violence, Memory and Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Conference,” a three-day event hosted by the USF Humanities Institute.
Nduka-Eze grew up in Nigeria but traveled to England to get his education. He graduated from the University of Warwick in Coventry, United Kindom.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Nduka-Eze became a lawyer because of the impact he could make in people’s lives.
“You are the mouth piece of the voiceless, really,” he said. “You represent those who can’t be represented. I like that aspect.”
After practicing for 11 years in England, he returned to Nigeria in 1998 to begin his toughest case.
When Nduka-Eze started working on his case, Nigeria was transitioning from a military dictatorship to a democracy, he said, so serious matters that were once kept quiet now were being uncovered.
Nduka-Eze presented his case to the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission in Nigeria, a judicial commission of inquiry, not a court, which is made up usually of eight to 10 members. His main focus was to raise awareness about the victims of the genocide and receive a formal apology from the government.
“Since those events happened in 1967, there have been no acknowledgments by the authorities that these events occurred,” he said. “There have been no discussions about what to do even by way of reparation, creating the necessary awareness and seeing what can be done to support the victims.”
The case failed.
“The recommendations and the reports that (the government) were supposed to submit, which was the purpose behind the whole (case), has still not been published in over 14 years,” he said. “That’s what it takes to get things done in some places, it’s very difficult.”
In his presentation at USF, Nduka-Eze is stressing the failure in hopes of receiving feedback about options on how to move forward with his case. He has begun exploring the possibilities of taking legal action, however, to get a court document asking the government to publish the request.
Nduka-Eze met anthropology professor Elizabeth Bird and history professor Fraser Ottanelli about two years ago in Nigeria. The professors conducted studies on the genocide and asked Nduka-Eze questions, Bird said.
Bird, director of the Humanities Institute, said there are over 60 scholars who will speak over the three-day timeline, which took a year to plan.
“The purpose was to bring together scholars from around the country, around the world, who are working on similar issues but from different disciplinary perspectives,” she said, “and hope to talk to each other and come up with interesting conclusions or ideas and suggestions about how to address these pressing issues of violence and post-conflict resolution.”