Nigeria: Nigerian Wins West African Journalist of the Year Award

Nigerian journalist, Mr Akinyemi, one of the 17 journalists earlier shortlisted for the regional awards, clinched the overall best at an award ceremony in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday night.

A journalist at HumAngle Nigeria, Muhammed Akinyemi, has emerged the best West African journalist of the year in the seventh edition of the West African Media Excellence Awards (WAMECA).

Mr Akinyemi, one of the 17 journalists earlier shortlisted for the regional awards, clinched the overall best at an award ceremony in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday night.

The previous 2022 edition of WAMECA was won by Tessy Igomu, head of investigations at Punch Newspapers in Nigeria.

The organisers of the awards, Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), said 855 entries were received from journalists in 15 West African countries for the latest 2023 edition.

Sulemana Braimah, the Executive Director of MFWA, said the 825 entries were filtered to 100 before, “a three-member jury chose the 17 finalists, and then whittled it down to six winners in six categories. The finalists are winners in their own right.”

The winners

At the colourful award ceremony on Saturday, the winners of the six categories were unveiled.

Mr Akinyemi won the Environmental reporting category with his story titled, “All Die Na Die: At The Heart Of Nigeria’s Soot Problem.”

Published in May 2022, Mr Akinyemi’s story painstakingly detailed how illegal oil activities cause irreparable environmental pollution in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria’s south-south region.

The article, which won the Environmental reporting category with a cash reward of $500, also earned Mr Akinyemi the West African journalist award and a $2000 cash prize.

Other categories of winners were: Gbenga Salau (Guardian Newspaper Nigeria) who won the Business reporting prize; Emmanuel Debrah (Multimedia Group Limited Ghana) clinched the ICT reporting category; migration reporting prize went to Emmanuel Ayamga (Pulse Ghana); Komla Adom (TV3, Ghana) took away the prize for Human rights category; and the award for Investigative reporting went to Francisca Enchill (Joy News, Ghana).

The six winners received $500 each for their efforts in enterprising reporting.

A PREMIUM TIMES report on migration was among the 17 finalists shortlisted for the awards.

Journalists must engage in accountability reporting

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, who presented the grand prize to Mr Akinyemi, urged journalists on the African continent to engage in accountability reporting.

Mr Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), in his remarks as guest speaker, decried the rise of military regimes across Africa.

Also, he condemned the undemocratic conduct of some African heads of give who tampered with their constitution in a desperate bid to remain in power.

The lawyer advised journalists to engage in critical reporting to uncover persons and institutions involved in illicit financial flows in Africa.

Democracy endangered in Africa

Earlier, the Executive Director, MFWA, Mr Braimah, said “there is a recession in democratic governance in Africa.

He expressed concern that fundamental human rights and press freedom which are cornerstones of democracy are being eroded.

“We should all be concerned about the erosion of the fundamental tenets of democracy,” Mr Braimah said.

Decrying the stifling of media space across Africa, Mr Braimah urged journalists to brave the odds and hold the government to account.

Speaking at the commencement of WAMECA on Thursday, a renowned professor of communication and founder of MFWA, Kwame Karikari, said, “democracy is under siege in Africa.”

He pointed at the rise of military regimes across West Africa, especially in Francophone countries of Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where there is a shrinking of democratic space.

Mr Karikari spoke on the theme of the conference, “Media and Democracy in Africa.”

He noted that “the state of democratisation across the continent today confronts threats of major recessions.”

The academic lamented that key pillars of democracy – press freedom, Human rights, and freedom of expression – were vanishing from Africa.

Referencing the conduct of elections on the continent, Mr Karikari said “all kinds of imaginable acts of fraud have undermined the sanctity of elections and reduced the institution to a farce in many, many cases.”

In Nigeria, for instance, electoral outcomes including the recent presidential poll was challenged by opposition political parties up to the Supreme Court where the ruling party’s victory was affirmed.

Elections continue to be marred by fraud and violence in many countries of Africa.