GENEVA – In a glittering ceremony showcasing resilience and hope, Zannah Mustapha, a Nigerian lawyer, has received UNHCR’s prestigious Nansen Refugee Award for 2017 for providing orphans of Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency with an education.
A star-studded event on Monday evening (Oct 2) at Geneva’s Batiment des Forces Motrices saw the modest former barrister turned property developer become the latest in a long line of “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” to be feted with the annual award.
Mustapha set up the school for orphans and vulnerable children in 2007 after witnessing growing numbers of children on the streets of the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri, the heart of an insurgency which has cost an estimated 20,000 lives and displaced some 2.3 million people.
— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) 2 October 2017
Presenting the award, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, hailed Mustapha, 58, as “a man of courage and a man of peace”, the same qualities as those possessed by Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner and the man after whom the award is named.
Mustapha set up the school after he feared growing insecurity and the ensuing military crackdown was producing a generation of children with no education and that this would, in turn, cause even more problems for one of the poorest regions of the country.
In his acceptance speech, Mustapha dedicated the award to the children, widows, teachers and his own family who, he said, had shown enormous courage in difficult times.
“We have witnessed…