Winners emerge for 2017 annual Wole Soyinka Award for investigative journalism

Winners emerge for 2017 annual Wole Soyinka Award for investigative journalism

Sunday, December 10, 2017 7:26 pm

Soyinka and the winners

The 12th annual Wole Soyinka Award for investigative journalism held on Saturday, December 9 2017 at the NECA House, Agidingbi Lagos.

Mike Okwoche of TVC News was the compere and Footprints of David, a dance drama group, provided entertainment.
Several prominent Nigerians in Law, Academia and Journalism such as Femi Falana, Ralph Akinfeleye, Gbemiga Ogunleye, Ayo Obe, Oby Ezekwesili, Prof. Lai Oso, Char of the 2017 Judges’ Board and many others were in attendance. The Deputy Head of Mission, Kingdom of Netherlands in Nigeria, Michel Deelan was also present.

Prof. Ropo Sekoni gave his welcome address during which he Thanked Prof. Wole Soyinka for his support of the centre. The annual lecture of the centre had held as usual on Wole Soyinka’s birthday, focusing on the nexus between electricity and education, two major problems that need to be addressed nationwide.

He also mentioned that training had been provided for cartoonists during the year. With the financial backing of the MacArthur Foundation, the centre also conducted a development training for practicing journalists. The centre also partnered with Oxfam to develop a new initiative; food security and agricultural program. The categories of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Investigative Journalism have been reduced to six; print, television, radio, online, editorial cartoon and photojournalism as well as agricultural and food security category, supported by Oxfam.

The professor mentioned that years ago, there was an award for broadcast journalists who reported police brutality. Now, as SARS is in the news, with citizens exposing them for their numerous human rights violations and corruption, the centre supports the clamor of citizens for the reform of the Nigerian Police and other institutions.

The professor said that there is a need for judicial inquiry into the activities of SARS, before any reforms can be done. “It is not the reorganization that will come before the inquiry. Citizens deserve to know what the nuances of this corruption are. There is also need for a new vision and structure of police in our country.”

He also spoke about the slave trade in Libya. “the unfortunate return of slave trade requires thorough investigation of the Nigerian side of the faces behind human trafficking. Africa cannot afford a third slave trade. The first was masterminded by the Arab world and the second by the Western world has done enough damage to Africa. Nigeria cannot afford to have its citizens sold to Libyans or anyone else for that matter.”

Musa Abdulazzeez, Head, Influencing and Public Engagement, Oxfam in Nigeria gave a goodwill message after Prof. Sekoni’s speech. He began by acknowledging everyone present and giving a brief insight into what Oxfam is about. Oxfam was founded in 1942 during WWII when the Greek Blockade was in place. Oxfam has been on Nigeria since 1967.

Present in more than 100 countries, Oxfam works to find practical and innovative ways to help people lift themselves out of poverty. Oxfam also helps to rebuild lives in the event of a tragedy. Oxfam is one of the organizations responding to the current humanitarian crises in the North East.

He describes Nigeria as “a wealthy nation of poor people”. Oxfam also tries to transform negative attitudes towards women and foster a better relationship between men and women.

The Footprints of David entertained the audience with a dance drama that highlights brutality of Nigerian citizens by members of the Armed Forces. The drama highlighted how soldiers act lawlessly and brutalize the citizens they are meant to protect.

Motunrayo Alaka, Coordinator, WSCIJ gave a statement on brutality of citizens by state security agents. He began with the story of Lucky John, a bus driver who went missing. An anonymous caller informed his wife that her husband was in SARS detention. She went there and the IPO claimed that he had been arrested because the phone number of an armed robber was found on his phone. She was asked to pay a N200,000 bribe to secure his bail.

After a month going back and forth, she got to know that her husband had been killed extra judicially by the SARS operatives when a police source confirmed it. However, the police spokesperson claimed that he had taken them to the hideout of armed robbers and that he was killed in the shootout that ensued.

The story of Lucky John and others titled ‘extrajudicial Killings, story of SARS and robbery suspects’ was written by Juliana Frances (sp) and it won the overall prize of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Investigative Journalism in 2014.

According to Motunrayo, the article corroborates many another independent reports, including that of Amnesty International. It also supports the #EndSARS EndSARSBrutality and #ReformSARS hashtags currently trending on Social Media.

On the part of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, right from the maiden edition in 2005 till date, many reports and photos on the subject of police brutality have won the prize.

She concluded her speech with “the poor welfare and the neglect of members of the Nigerian Police is well known to all. As the cliché goes however, ‘two wrongs never make a right’. Frustrated citizens have taken to Social Media and have promised to move to the streets to protest these aberrations. They have given life to the immortal words of Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka ‘the man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny’. The hashtag #EndSARS may be too harsh, #EndSARSBrutality and #ReformSARS may be more like it.

If we take the ‘end it’ advice as a way of resolving our plethora of aberration, there’d be so many things to end, including maybe Nigeria itself. Yet the hashtag depicts how deeply people have been affected, Nigerians have had enough. We hereby call on the Federal Government on this World anticorruption day and eve of World Human Rights Day to decisively put an end to these unacceptable continuous corrupt practices and reign of terror. This is one change that must become a reality for the Nigerian people. This harassment must stop, Nigerians deserve more.”

Professor Lai Oso, Chair of the 2017 Judges Board gave the Judges’ comments. He said the entries range from very well written investigative stories which made good use of data and statistics to poorly written and pedestrian ones. On the print media he said “it seems the industry is in transition with most entries in that category not necessarily investigative in nature. It appears much still needs to be done in the continuous education of our reporters for them to know that ordinary feature articles are not synonymous with investigative stories.”
as for online journalism, he describes it as the new kid on the block, although he expresses concerns that it may have gotten carried away by poor judgement.

“Most of the online entries are verbose and unrestricted in terms of length.” As for TV, the professor said that there is an urgent need to clearly define investigative journalism and ordinary news reporting.
In spite of these and many more shortcomings, the judges unanimously agreed that the entries for this year are far better than those of last year.

The Professor also acknowledged the seminar role of Dapo Olorunyomi, lauding him as an example of what is right in the Nigerian Media.

For the Honorary Award category, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili won the lifetime award for anticorruption defender while Edetean Ojo, Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda won the lifetime award for journalistic excellence.

The journalistic excellence category has been previously won by Babatunde Joseph, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Dr. Christopher Kolade, Doyin Abiola, Lanre Idowu, Benson Edoneche(sp), Ama Ogan, Ademola Osinubi, Bimbo Oloyede and Kabiru Yufuf.

The anticorruption category has been previously won by Nuhu Ribadu, Gani Fawehinmi (post humously), Justice Kayode Esho, Balarabe Musa, Dr. Chidi Odi Kalu, Socioeconomic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Professor Attahiru Jega and Public, Private Development Centre(PPDC).

This year, there was a special prize for Agriculture and food security reporting and it was won by Tadaferua Ujorha of Daily Trust Newspaper. He got a certificate of recognition, an international study tour and N200,000 prize money. The category is supported by Oxfam.

The commended works are entries that are very commendable and deserve a mention. Owners of commended works get N50,000 prize money and a certificate of recognition. In the print category, the winner is Chinwe Agbeze of BusinessDay Newspaper. Her story titled ‘Cheeseballs company where slavery goes on’. She went undercover as a casual worker and exposed how an Indian owned cheeseballs factory where workers are paid 900 naira daily after working for 12 hours in inhumane conditions.

The runner up for the print category is Mojeed Alabi of the New Telegraph Newspaper who won the award for the same category last year. His story ‘Nyanya blast; victim’s agonies live on’ focused on the survivors of the Nyanya bomb blast. About 98 million naira contributed to support the victims of the bomb blast had been embezzled. He spoke with the Association of bomb blast victims and victims of that particular bomb blast in the course of working on his story. He won N100,000 prize money and a certificate of commendation.

The overall winner of the Wole Soyinka award for investigative journalism in the print category is Adekunle Yusuf of The Nation Newspaper who had previously won the award in 2015. His story is about how corruption and favoritism thrive in the University of Ilorin. For his story, he went undercover for four years as a guest lecturer of the school. He uncovered many cases of corrupt practices and favoritism by top university officials who had been receiving salaries for positions which they did not hold. He won N200,000 prize money, a certificate, an international study tour and a plaque.

For the radio category, there was no winner. There was no winner in the television category and editorial category as well.

The commended work in the online category was won by Ebere Ndukwu of Ripples Nigeria. His story was on Governor Aregbesola and ‘the scam called opon imo’. It was an investigation into the supposed distribution of opon imo, electronic tablets to students in Osun State. The investigation unearthed fraud and scam and poor distribution of the tablets, contrary to claims by the state governor.

The runner up for that category is Kemi Busari of Premium Times. His story ‘Corruption, extortion reign at Nigerian Immigration passport office’ details the corruption perpetuated by officials of the Nigerian Immigrations office when it comes to issuance and renewal of the International Passport. Upon the publication of the story, officials mentioned in the piece were summoned to the headquarters. Investigations were also conducted and the following week, all shops run by touts within the NIS premises were closed and cash payment was banned.

The winner of the online category is Fisayo Soyombo of The Cable. Fisayo had previously won the overall prize in 2016. His story was about how Borno children are dying im IDP camps and how officials of NEMA are diverting food and other resources donated to the IDP camps. He disguised as a relief aid donor so as to get close to the necessary authorities.
In the photojournalism category, the commended work was won by Ayodele Adeniran of The Guardian Newspaper. His photo ‘tragedy as another three story building collapses in Lagos’ showed rescue workers trying to retrieve a 5-year-old child trapped in the rubble of the collapsed building.

The runner up of the photojournalism category is Kolawole Aliyu of Leadership Newspaper. His photo showed a VIO official being harassed by hoodlums while he was trying to arrest a law offender.
The overall winner of the category is Ayodele Ojo of The Sun Newspaper. His photo ‘law of jackboot’ shows two uniformed soldiers beating up a bus conductor who had refused to allow them board his bus.

The winner of the grand prize, the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism 2017 is Adekunle Yusuf for his expose of the corruption in the University of Ilorin.
Professor Soyinka thanked everyone involved in the project and says it is an initiative to be well lauded. He said that while Nigerian Journalism is well lauded world over, some of the journalists act very stupid and write the wrong things.
He apologized to the journalists whom he had promised to have a chat with after the event on account of a sore jaw following a visit to the dentist’s office.

The Nobel Laurete congratulated all the winners. He revealed that the Wole Soyinka Foundation has been collaborating with an institute in Lebanon. Every year, young people are sent from Nigeria to Lebanon to broaden their perspective. For next year, he assured everyone that journalists are going to be the ones going to Lebanon for the program as the core of the selection would focus on them.

The closing remarks/vote of thanks was delivered by Jiti Ogunye, Board Secretary of WSCIJ. He bagan by thanking Professoer Wole Soyinka for allowing his name be used for the centre. He expressed his joy at the milestone of the 12th year of the award.

He expressed his gratitude to the Board of Judges who had to read through numerous articles and select the winners. He also thanked the sponsors and partners for their involvements as well as the winners for a job well done.

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