Thursday, December 10, 2020 4:13 pm
By Nehru Odeh
Though an annual ritual, this year’s awards ceremony was one with a difference. This is because in spite of the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus, eight journalists and three media organizations still shone and went home with awards and prizes at the 15th Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting which held at NECA House, Ikeja, Lagos on Wednesday 9 December, 2020.
The award, organized by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative journalism was themed ‘Masked but not silenced, which speaks to its uniqueness in this time of Covid-19.
The uniqueness of this year’s award was attested to by Motunrayo Alaka, Executive Director, The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, who in in her remarks, entitled, ‘The Nigerian media may be masked, but it cannot be silenced,’ said in this era, journalism had become more difficult to practise.
“The truth is constantly besieged from all sides. Journalists and news media organisations are attacked daily by public office holders, organised peddlers of misinformation and citizens alike.
“Our predicament has been further complicated by the pandemic, the #EndSARS protests and the vandalism that followed both incident, with losses too many to recount, including the death of a budding journalist, Pelumi Onifade, of Gboah TV, who died while in the custody of officers attached to the Lagos Task Force.
“Journalism has been masked by these issues. Yet, we’re not silenced. Despite the many woes of the media, this has been a great year for reporters and news organisations alike. The media took the responsibility to report the pandemic extensively and debunk fake news around it.”
Though prizes were supposed to be awarded in different categories: Online, television investigative report, print, photo and cartoon, awards were presented only in the online, television and print categories, as according to Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, the Chair of the 2020 Judges Board, said though all the 188 entries received by the centre were good and brought to the fore issues that deserve attention, some of them fell short of expectations. .
Samson Folarin, a Punch journalist clinched the print category of the award the second time in a roll with his entry entitled, “FHRO certificate Scandal”, a series on on the certificate scandal at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, which ran for over seven months.
The judges were full of praise for Folarin’s tenacity which led not only to a government institution reversing itself but also the demotion of a former director-general of the institute, who had been promoted for over 18 years based on a false doctoral claim. Ibrahim Adeyemi, a freelance reporter with Business Day Newspaper, was the first runner-up in that category.
Damilola Banjo of Sahara Reporters won the online category with her report on the anti-cultism unit of the police. The two part report was tagged, ‘Justice for Sale: Inside Lagos Anti-Cultism ‘Illegal’ Detention Centre.’ Taiwo Adebayo of Premium Times was the first runner-up, while Habib Oladapo of Sahara Reporters was commended in the category.
Bukola Samuel-Sowemimo of Television Continental won the broadcast category with her entry, “Sexual Abuse: How police officers clog the wheels of justice” which was showed on TVC. She was the where she was the only nominee in that category.
The PUNCH won the print media category, while Premium Times and The Sun were first and second runners up respectively.
Ikechukwu Ibe, a photojournalist with Daily Trust was commended for his photo showing a soldier harassing a resident. While Victor Asowata, a freelance cartoonist with The PUNCH, was commended for a cartoon depicting how Nigerian professionals and doctors were fleeing the country for Canada.
The winners were each given N200,000, a laptop, a certificate and a plaque. The runners-up were each given N100,000, a certificate and a wrapped gift, while those commended were given N50,000 each with a certificate.
Human rights activist, Femi Falana, as well as founding member and pioneer Associate Editor of The Guardian Newspaper, Lade Bonuola, received the Human Rights Defender Awards and Lifetime Awards, respectively.
Ogwezzy-Ndisika explained that eight winners were shortlisted out of more than 188 works assessed by the panel of judges, commending their works, which, according to her showed quality, courage, thoroughness and depth. She also said the radio category was not awarded this year because the quality of the works submitted was not good enough and were merely feature stories.
“Generally, all the entries are strong, because they drew attention to major national issues. However, some stories deserve special mention and the authors also deserve commendation for their professionalism.”
“Most stories had no consideration for the attention span of the readers. So, we suggest that when online journalists mine data, they should paraphrase for conciseness and precision; and interpret them without losing accuracy, logic and completeness. Also, technically, in terms of language use, there is need for improvement,” she said.
However, the Board Chairman, Ropo Sekoni, said the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism achieved a lot in 2020 in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic and queried the plan of government to regulate social media.
Full list of winners
Victor Asowata (Commended)
His cartoon: “Canada opens doors for medical professionals” was published in Punch newspaper.
Ikechuke Ibe (Commended)
His photo: “An armed female soldier punishes a commercial bike rider at Marabara, Nasarawa” was published by Daily Trust.
Damilola Banjo (Winner)
Her work – “Justice for sale” was published on Sahara Reporters.
Taiwo-Hassan Adebayo (Runner-up)
His work – “From Jonathan to Buhari, Inside Nigeria’s multibillion naira railway fraud”, was published on Premium Times.
Habib Oladapo and Damilola Banjo (Commended)
Their story: “Inside private school in Lagos where A1 can be bought” was published on Sahara Reporters.
Television Investigative Report
Bukola Samuel-Wemimo (Winner)
Her work – “Sexual Abuse: How police officers clog the wheels of justice” was showed on TVC.
Samson Folarin (Winner)
His work – “FHRO certificate Scandal” was published by Punch.
Ibrahim Adeyemi (Runner-up)
His work – “Sokoto’s ghost teachers, corrupt school principals stealing FG’s N-Power Funds” was published by Business Day
Ibrahim Adeyemi (Commended)
His work – “With just N200 bribe per immigration checkpoint, migrants are infiltrating Nigeria through Sokoto” was published by Business Day.
2020 WSCIJ – Nigerian Investigative Reporter of the year
Her work – “Justice for Sale” was published on Sahara Reporters.
Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence
Lade Bonuola, a former editor of Daily Times and managing Director of The Guardian and the defunct Daily Comet.