At the Wole Soyinka Awards for Investigative Reporting on Sunday, December 9, 2018, emphasis was placed on the dangers journalists are exposed to while discharging their functions, just as John Momoh, the Chairman of Channels Media Group, owners of Channels Television; Waziri Adio, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI); and 12 journalists were honoured.
The event, held at the NECA House, Alausa, Lagos was attended by several dignitaries, including Bimbo Oloyede, veteran broadcaster; Ralph Akinfeleye, professor of Mass Communication; Umaru Pate, professor of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano; Ayo Obe, lawyer and human rights activist; Femi Falana, human rights lawyer; Lanre Suraj, Executive Director, Human and Environmental Development Agenda; Michel Deelen, Deputy Ambassador to the Kingdom of Netherlands; and Russell Brooks, US Consulate, Public Affairs Officer.
In his opening remarks, Jiti Ogunye, Board Secretary, WSCIJ, congratulated the category winners and the honorary award recipients for the feat. He noted that the award is held annually on December 9 –the World Anticorruption Day and eve of the Human Rights Day – to call attention to the significance of the media generally and investigative reporting in particular, to attaining good governance, accountability and social justice.
Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, with ‘The Kemi Adeosun expose’ published on Premium Times, won the online category. Premium Times’ Kemi Busari emerged the runner-up for the piece, ‘Investigation: The appalling, risky state of Nigeria’s multi-billion Naira nuclear technology centre’. Oladeinde Olawoyin, also of Premium Times, was commended for his two-part story, ‘Investigation: Inside Nigeria’s Drivers’ License Fraud and How Officials Dupe Applicants’.
Mojeed Alabi emerged the winner of the print category for his two-part story, ‘Exposed! Nigeria’s Deputy Speaker In 1.1bn Water Contract Scam’, published in the New Telegraph on 24th and 25th May, 2018. Mojeed is a second-time winner, having won the award in 2016. He was also the runner-up for the category in 2017. The piece, ‘FG’s school feeding programme: The truths, half-truths and outright lies, saw Chinwe Agbeze of BusinessDay emerge the runner-up in the category. Chinwe was commended in the same category in 2017.
For the photo category, Kolawole Aliu, a 2017 runner-up, won for his photo, ‘The Menace of Lagos State Task Force on People’, published in the Leadership Newspaper. As there was no runner-up for the category, Elliot Ovadje of The Nigerian Tribune was commended for his work, ‘Slums around us’, published in Saturday Tribune.
In the television category, Sharon Ijasan of Television Continental clinched the first prize for her story ‘Funding basic education in Nigeria’. Azeezat Olaoluwa, also of Television Continental, was runner-up with her story, ‘Failing health sector: Pregnant women seek cheaper alternative’. The television category had no commended work.
Chinelo Ozoalor of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Enugu, was the only journalist recognised for the radio category. She won the category for her report, ‘NECO Paper Leak Enugu’.
Meanwhile, judges found no entry suitable to win the editorial cartoon category. However, two journalists — Cornelius Emenike of New Telegraph Newspaper, for his editorial cartoon ‘Allowances for senators and governors’, and Bennett Omeke for his editorial cartoon ‘Corruption in NNPC’ published in the Punch Newspaper—were commended for their editorial cartoons.
The winners, runners-up and commended works got cash prizes of N200,000, N100,000 and N50,000 respectively, plus a certificate of commendation. In addition, winners got award plaques, and will proceed on an all-expense-paid international study tour in 2019.
For the honorary awards, John Momoh received the Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence for his over two-decade commitment to media excellence as evidenced by the success of Channels TV. In his acceptance remark, John Momoh, observed that journalism in the country is currently under attacks, and appreciated the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism for the award.
Waziri Adio was conferred with the Anti-Corruption Defender Award for his consistent public stance against corruption, evidenced by the work he is championing on transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s extractive sector. Adio is the 10th recipient of the award. Accepting the award, Adio said the struggle against corruption and those who champion it can be seen as crazy. He expressed his happiness to be in a company of people who have blazed the anti-corruption path he is treading today. He thanked his family for not making undue demands of him and his friends for supporting him.
Umaru Pate, the Chairman, 2018 Judges’ Board, applauded the finalists for the quality of their reports among 136 other entries received across the six categories. According to Pate, who is also a professor of Mass Communication, a lot of the entries depend on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and other government agencies for information, rather than those conceived by the reporters themselves.
Abdulaziz Abdulaziz was announced as the 2018 WSCIJ-Nigerian Investigative Reporter of the year. He dedicated the award to the team at Premium Times, whose input made the story and the award happen. He celebrated the courage of Nigerians who asked for action on the report.
Iyanuoluwa Bolarinwa of BudgIT read a statement by the Coalition of WSCIJ, Civic Hive and Gavel to ‘Stop suspect parade’ by the Nigerian Police Force and other security agents, in reaction to a video that went virile on the social media on the parading of a woman for allegedly impersonating the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari. He urged editors to take the oxygen out of the practice, by not covering the parade of suspects. He referred to the practice as barbaric, unnecessary and a violation of fundamental human rights. Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, also declared the practice has already been pronounced illegal at four rulings in different Nigeria courts.
Kininso Koncepts enlivened the ambience of the award ceremony with a musical drama. The performance was a satire on Nigeria, doling out different messages – from ethnic conflict, to domestic violence, fuel scarcity and vote buying.
In his closing remarks, Dapo Olorunyomi, WSCIJ Founder, observed that in the history of journalism, there was never a time when journalism was under more attacks than it is today. He also canvassed for funding support and media ownership of the programme to ensure its sustainability.
Held first in October 2005, to develop investigative tradition among journalists, the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting has produced 91 finalists, eight investigative journalists of the year and 20 honorary awards recipients so far.