Four PREMIUM TIMES journalists were overall winners in various categories, including the Investigative Journalist of the Year, at the 2013 Wole Soyinka Investigative Reporting Awards, WSIRA, Monday.
It is the third year running that reporters from this newspaper have emerged Nigeria's Investigative Journalist of the Year, further underlining our pre-eminent position as Nigeria's topmost investigative medium.
Ini Ekott and Ruona Agbroko-Meyer of PREMIUM TIMES beat 12 other shortlisted finalists to emerge joint Investigative Journalists of the Year 2013.
Their winning entry, "How Nigeria Squanders Millions on Generators its Foreign Missions don't Need" detailed how the nation wastes tax payers money budgeting for generators in embassies located in nations with uninterrupted power supply.
The story also won the Online Category of the awards.
The other PREMIUM TIMES journalists honoured at the award ceremony held in Lagos are Aderonke Ogunleye whose entry "How Nigeria's Sports Commission Officials enriched self, cheated paralympians" was considered tops in the Sports category and Bassey Udo, who with Mr. Ekott, jointly won in the Local Government category for their expose on the massive land scam in the Abuja Municipal Council, in the nation's capital.
Two other PREMIUM TIMES reporters were also honoured at the event. While Toborie Ovuorie was runner-up in the Online category, Emmanuel Ogala received a commendation, also for the online category, for exposing the $40million contract awarded by the Federal Government to an Israeli firm to spy on Nigeria.
In attendance at the award ceremony were Prof. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate; Dele Olojede, Publisher of the now defunct NEXT newspapers, and his wife, Amma Ogan; Ropo Sekoni, the Board Chair of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, WSCIJ; Robert Fitzpatrick, representing Andrew Pocock, the British High Commissioner in Nigeria.
Ibim Semenitari, Commissioner of Information and Communications, Rivers State, said Nigeria needs more investigative reporting now more than ever.
"If democracy must succeed, the media must play a very critical role. The media must follow the money, ask critical questions, take seriously its role as the watchdog," said Ms. Semenitari, who represented Rotimi Amaechi, the Rivers State governor.
In his goodwill message, Mr. Fitzpatrick noted that a free and vibrant media is a key measure of democratic wealth.
"The media played an important role in bringing this country to independence. A free press is an exceptional component to make democracy work. Investigative journalism is key to much of this," Mr. Fitzpatrick added.
There were two categories of awards on the night - the Merit Award and the Honorary Award.
While Ms. Ogan, a former editor at The Guardian, received the Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence; Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, got the Anti-Corruption Defender Award.
Other winners in the Merit Category include Stanley Ogidi of The Punch, who was both the winner and the runner-up in the Photo category.
Business Day's Asuquo Etim-Bassey's 'Nigeria's Misapplied Talents' won the Editorial Cartoon category.
The winner of the Health category was Toyosi Ogunseye of The Punch with the story 'The Rich Also Cry: Killer Metals in the Blood".
Temitayo Famutimi, also of The Punch, won the Print category with a story of how a school principal conducted virginity tests on pupils without their parents' consent while Olusegun Elijah of National Standard was runner-up in the Print category.
Adeyemi Adesomoju of The Punch and Ayo Kazeem of Channels TV received commendations in the Print and Broadcast categories respectively
In his keynote address, Prof. Soyinka urged journalists to be undaunted as they strive to uncover corruption in the country.
"You should never be exhausted because corruption fights back, impunity fights back. So never be exhausted," Prof. Soyinka said.