Fifteen journalists joined the list of finalists for the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting at the award presentation ceremony on Tuesday 9 December 2014 in Lagos. Of the fifteen, eight have earned themselves the honour of being called Soyinka Laureates, four made the runners-up list and three were commended for their efforts. The winners were unveiled at the ninth edition of the annual programme hosted by the investigative journalism centre, in commemoration of the world anti corruption and the international human rights days.
Fisayo Soyombo won the online category with his work – Blood on the Plateau, published on Flair Nigeria. Tobore Ovourie of Premium Times clinched the report women category with her story, Inside Nigeria’s ruthless human trafficking mafia. Juliana Francis of the New Telegraph was rewarded with the top space in the print category as well as the overall best prize with her report, Extra-judicial killings in SARS. The work, pupils in Oyo community school drink cattle urine, take turns to learn in class, published by the Punch won Dumo Eric the local government award. The duo of Olatunji Ololade and Olukunle Akinrinade of the Nation, took the health category prize home with their report, Deadly potions: Nigeria’s herbal gin nightmare. The winner of the photo prize is Kunle Ajayi of the Daily Independent with his piece, Ordeal of rural dwellers. National Mirror’s Femi Adedeji was the laureate for the cartoon category with his work titled Haram. Finally, the four year jinx of lack of awards in the broadcast television category was broken by Emekalam Ezianne, a reporter with Television Continental with her story – War without end.
The runners-up up were Seun Okinbaloye of the Channels Television, Nurudeen Oyewole of Weekly Trust, Ibanga Isine of Premium Times and the duo of Olatunji Ololade and Olukunle Akinade of the Nation. They were second in the local government, health, online and print categories respectively. On the other hand, Falayi Olakunle of the Punch, Alber Ohams of the Sun and Betty Abah of Premium Times were commended in the print, cartoon and report women categories respectively. The climate change, broadcast radio and sports categories failed to produce finalists. Mr Ademola Osinubi of the Punch was named recipient of the honorary Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence while the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) received the Anti-corruption defender award.
A number of innovations were introduced in this year’s award. First is the commencement of an electronic entries collation and assessment method. This has reduced work turnover time as the Centre now compiles and sends entries to judges electronically. The innovation also helps the Centre expand the judges’ board to persons outside the country. Secondly, the report women category was introduced in collaboration with the Netherlands Embassy in a bid join the global call for attention to the plight of girls and women. The award is part of a larger project which the Centre commenced earlier in the year. Another addition is the half a million naira VinMartin Ilo grant given to the best work in the broadcast category for the purpose of conducting an investigative work.
The 2014 judges’ board was chaired by a Professor of Mass Communication, Lai Oso. Other members include Ms Amma Ogan, former Editor of The Guardian Newspaper; Mr Boye Ola, head of the photo department at the Nigeria Institute of Journalism; Mr Theophilus Abbah, Sunday Editor with Media Trust; Mr Gbile Osadipe, director of Picture Perfect; and veteran photographer, Mr Tam Fiofori. According to the judges, “the award submissions not only attest to the respect that journalists have for the award, but also reveals a real interest in investigative journalism.”
With the quality of stories that emerged from the winning entries, the WSCIJ has once again proven that it is committed to its mission of building a society where social justice is promoted. As the British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr Simon Shercliff, observed in his goodwill message, “only brave and principled media reporting can transform a society.” Similarly, Mr. Michel Deelan, Deputy Head of Mission, Kingdom of Netherlands, encouraged the need to fan to flame the passion for investigative reporting in Nigeria. He expressed his country’s readiness to continue to give support to further this cause. Prof Ropo Sekoni in his opening speech reiterated the need for the Nigerian government to get serious with the fight against corruption.
The 2014 awards event was compered by Mr. Deji Haastrup, General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Chevron while Ms Motunrayo Alaka, WSCIJ Coordinator, gave the closing remark. A highlight of the occasion was a stage performance of Wole Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy by the Kininso-Koncepts art group.