The 11th Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting, presentation ceremony, held on world anti-corruption day, Friday 9 December, was unsurprisingly dominated by the online news platforms. This point was highlighted by the Chair of the Judges’ Board, Lai Oso, Professor of Mass Communications, at the Lagos State University School of Communications during the event.
According to Oso, “Ninety per cent of all submitted entries for the award were routine one-time stories, opportunistic photographs, basic television features and radio magazine reports, of which most were badly edited, rarely investigative in nature and could only do well as feature stories. He however commended the online entries assessed as being analytically better, more in-depth and clearly showing the future of reporting.
Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate and Grand Patron of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, WSCIJ, presented the two honorary awards – Life Time Award for Journalistic Excellence and the Anti-Corruption Defender award.
Kabiru Yusuf, Chairman of Media Trust Limited, represented at the event by theGeneral Manager of the organisation, Kamaldeen Oladosu, was honoured with the Lifetime award, while the Executive Director of the Public and Private Development Centre, PPDC, Seember Nyager, received the Anti-corruption Defender Award on behalf of her organisation.
Due to the paucity of good reports, only three investigative reportingcategories – print, online and photography, were given awards at the ceremony that wassupported by the Lagos State Government and Chevron Nigeria. Works submitted for the television, radio and editorial cartoon categories, failed to meet expected standard.
Mojeed Alabi of The New Telegraph won the Print category with his story, ‘Inside Nigeria’s N201.79 Billion Budget of Fraud’, which exposed grand corruption fuelled by political patronage with examples from the Southwest states of Nigeria. The runner-up piece by Oluwatobi Aworinde of The Punch, ‘PUNCH undercover reporter exposes mass cheating at NECO miracle centre’, showed evidence of huge underhandedness in Nigeria’s educational system. Reporter with The National Mirror, Sebastine Ebhuoman’s piece titled, ‘Counting the dead by the gun’, which chronicled cases of extra-judicial killings, was commended.
In the Online category, Fisayo Soyombo’s works,‘The Undercover Investigation: Nigeria’s Customs of corruption, bribery and forgery’, a revelation how officials of the agency short-change the Nigerian government of about two-thirds of revenues,and ‘Forgotten Soldiers’, a narrative of the neglect experienced by Nigerian soldiers fighting the Boko Haram sect, were commended and winning works respectively. ‘The blight on humanity and the resilience of a people: The Maiduguri reality,a tale of footprints of insurgency’, by Femi Owolabi,was the runner up. Both reporters are of The Cable.
Two finalists emerged in the photo category. Ayodele Ojo of The Sun was declared runner up with his piece, ‘Police is your friend’, an image showing a policeman neck choking a tricycle rider due to the latter’s refusal to pay bribe. Photo editor with Independent Newspaper, Kunle Ajayi, won with his captivating picture, ‘Freebies erode dignity’, a work with a woman who at the Iddo Terminus in Lagos, struggles through the window for an already crowded free train ride to Osun state, and subjects herself to some indignity in her desperation.
For acclaiming the heroism of the Nigerian Army and lending a voice to a much-needed ode to the gallantry of Nigeria’s hardly sung heroes – soldiers, Fisayo Soyombo of The Cable Newspaper, was proclaimed the 2016 WSCIJ-Nigerian Investigative Reporter of the Year.
At the event, the WSCIJ revealed its upward review of prizes for the award. Commended works now get Fifty Thousand Naira; runners-up, One Hundred Thousand; and winners, Two Hundred Thousand, with award certificates. In addition, winners receive award plaques and an all-expense-paid international study tour. The overall winner also has an extra Fifty Thousand Naira.
Chairman of the WSCIJ Board, Ropo Sekoni, gave the opening remark, Mr Sunday Okegbemiro, Coordinator Social Responsibility and National Programmes gave a good will message, while Motunrayo Alaka, WSCIJ Coordinator, gave the appreciation speech at ceremony which commenced with the presentation of Bull-Sense, a thought provoking musical drama by the Kininso Koncepts and was compered by Funke Treasure Durodola, General Manager Radio One.