September 27, 2012 / 3:16 PM / in 7 years

Nigerian rights worker wins Norway human rights prize

OSLO (Reuters) - A Nigerian man who has fought against environmental destruction on behalf of poor Africans has won an annual Norwegian human rights award that sometimes presages the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Rafto Foundation said on Thursday it awarded Nnimmo Bassey, 54, its 2012 prize to recognize his fight for the right to life, health, food and water, particularly for those disadvantaged by the global oil industry.

“Nnimmo Bassey links human rights to the climate by demonstrating how climate change has the greatest effect on the world’s most vulnerable people, the very people who have contributed least to the problem in the first place,” the Bergen-based Rafto Foundation said in a statement.

The award comes as East Africa is going through a boom in oil and gas exploration and as several west African nations prepare to extract hydrocarbons.

“Nnimmo Bassey points to the injustices Africa has had to tolerate through the way the rich world has for many years exploited the continent’s large resources of fossil fuels,” the foundation said.

Bassey is the chair of Friends of the Earth International, a grassroots environmental organization.

Four previous Rafto laureates - Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, East Timor’s Jose Ramos-Horta, South Korea’s Kim Dae-jung and Iran’s Shirin Ebadi - went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in subsequent years.

Bassey in 2010 was also the winner of the Right Livelihood Award, which bills itself as the Alternative Nobel Prize.

Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; editing by Jane Baird

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