Continuing its tradition of honouring works that reflect best standards in investigative journalism on the world anti-corruption day - December 9 - the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) celebrated 17 journalists on Sunday in Abeokuta.
Seun Akioye of The Compass newspaper won the print category with his story Behold! Village where kids are born to be house helps while Theophilus Abbah of Daily Trust is the runner-up with his piece, Behind the Controversial N2 Trillion Subsidy.
In the Online category, Idris Akinbajo, the Investigations Editor at Premium Times won the prize with his 3-part serial, The Massive MGD Fraud, while Ini Ekott, political editor of the same media is the runner-up with his 6-part story, How public officials squander public funds on lavish lifestyles
Adeparusi Oluyinka of National Mirror Newspaper was adjudged runner up with his touching picture captioned - Ojora House Arrest, which the judges' board praised for what they said was "a particularly steering moment in the use of the camera to advocate for compassion," while Olatunji Obasa, a photojournalist with The Punch Newspaper, and two-time runner up for this prize was adjudged winner for his picture titled - Police Brutality. The judges' panel gave kudos to his "staying power, and his convincing sense of craft that the camera is a tenable tool of policy change for a humane world."
Bassey Asuqwo of Business Day newspaper won the prize in the Editorial Cartooning category with his work - Debts' Blue Sea - of which the judges' board noted, "brought a critical note to the relevance of art in the service of good governance." Albert Ohams of the Sun Newspaper who was runner up with the entry, The N5,000 Note, also drew high commendation from the Judges' who said "he laced the challenge of social engineering with an appropriate measure of humour."
Lucas Olumuyiwa, a senior editor at Tell Magazine, swayed the judges' board with the depth of his report, N2.5 Billion Scam Freezes Abuja Hospital Project, to claim the prize in local Government reporting category. Anthony Akaeze of Newswatch magazine was runner up for his story that drew attention to the "Executive Robbery" in many of the Local Government administrations in the country.
In the Health Reporting Category, the judges' board elected Ms. Adesola Ayo-Aderele, an Assistant Editor at the Punch Newspaper as runner up, and said of her story titled OOUTH: An Old Teething Hospital "that this is the very stuff that defines the worth of true journalism in reporting, and in writing."
Ms. Tobore Ovuorie, of the National Mirror was the winner in the health reporting category for her story: Travellers Shun Vaccination...As Touts Take Over. Her work drew commendation "for its courage, its dare, and its sunny feelings that good reporting is as much about depth as it is about the renewal of community."
For the second year, Mr Idris Akinbajo was again announced the WSCIJ-Nigerian Investigative Journalist of the year 2012 for his overall outstanding performance. The judges' said he brought "a sense of depth, craft, integrity, and class act, to his reporting and writing which not only put the case for accountability in government forcefully on the table, but also brings a lot of pride to Nigerian journalism."
Following the Centre's tradition of exemplary standards, the judges found no work suitable for an award in the radio, television, sports, and climate change categories.
The judges' board however proposed four entries for Special Commendation. They are:
1. Abimbola Thomas of The Guardian, whose narrative report, Tales from Nigerian Prisons you've Never Heard drew the attention of the judges, who saluted its "sense of value and promise."
2. Erapi Gabriel, a cartoonist with The Sun with his work 'The N5, 000 Note' also drew the attention of the judges who said he animated his work with a "chuckling sense of humour and seriousness."
3. Two reporters of Tell magazine, Arukaino Umokoro & Ayodeji Adeyemi, were praised for the "ringing assertiveness, and the thoughtfulness of their report, Why Government Should Hands off Sports which is destined to capture some attention sooner than later."
4. The last commendation went to Seun Okinbaloye of Channels TV, for his documentary on the Soluyi Community of which the judges say "incubated a ripe embryo of a balance in craft and social concern."
The honorary award of Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence was presented to broadcast historian, and music critic, Mr. Benson Idonije, while the Anti-corruption Defender award was given to one-time governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Balarabe Musa.
In his closing speech, the Executive Director of the Centre, Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi, spoke of the value of training, and the need for investigative practice in Nigerian journalism. He called on generous segments of the Nigerian community to support the WSCIJ in its mission to promote this tradition in Nigerian journalism, adding that the current crisis and integrity deficit in the nation's political and economical landscape indicate an urgent need for a rigorous touch of investigative reporting.
His views were supported by the Chairman of the Judges' Board, Professor Lai Oso, Dean of the School of Journalism, Lagos State University, who also called on the media industry to support initiatives of the WSCIJ which he said was set up to promote the capacity of the industry.
Importantly, the Centre newly introduced a coding system in the judging process as part of the effort at heightening the integrity of the award by removing perceived tendency for bias in the scoring process. According to Ms. Motunrayo Alaka the Centre's Coordinator, the introduction of the coding system is to improve the credibility of the scoring process by limiting information on entries dispatched to judges for assessment.
The winners went home with award plaques, a cash prize of N100, 000, and a back-up computer hard drive, while runner up winners got N50,000 cash prizes, computer backup hard drives, and a certificate of commendation. A certificate of commendation went to all the commended entries.
Guests at the event included the Board Chair of the Centre, Professor Ropo Sekoni, the Chairperson of the Judges' board Professor Lai Oso, the Ogun State Commissioners of Health, Dr. Olaokun Soyinka, and the commissioner of Information, Alh. Yusuph Olaniyonu, Three-time Commissioner in Ogun State, Deaconess Doyin Ogunbiyi, and Mr. Benson Idonije.