Ten journalists were honoured for producing outstanding reports in nine different categories, when journalism excellence in West Africa was celebrated on Saturday, October 22.
The ten were adjudged winners out of 25 journalists who made the list of finalists for this year’s West Africa Media Excellence Awards. At the event which was held at Alisa Hotel in Accra, all the 25 journalists were specially recognized with a citation for their stories making the shortlist. This year, the Awards received 952 entries from over 400 media houses in all the 16 West African countries.
The event was graced by heads of diplomatic missions of various West African countries, heads of civil society organisations, celebrated journalists and editors in the region, and media rights activists who cheered on the journalists as they took turns to receive their honours.
Tessy Igomu of the Punch Newspaper in Nigeria emerged as the West Africa Journalist of the Year after her story was adjudged the best report for the Environmental reporting category. Ms Igomu is the first woman to win the coveted Journalist of the Year award since the inception of the event six years ago.
Her story revealed how residents of Orimerunmu, a community in Ogun State in southwestern Nigeria, were exposed to debilitating health and environmental conditions from pollution by the activities of Yoyo Resources Recycling Company Limited, a Chinese-owned waste recycling company.
Following Tessy’s story, the Ogun State government shut down the Chinese-owned waste recycling company and relocated it, bringing a huge relief to the residents of the community.
While Tessy Igomu’s story picked the highest award of the day, there were equally compelling and impactful pieces of journalism that received honours. Here are all the stories that won the various categories at the West Africa Media Excellence Awards held on the night of Saturday, October 22, 2022.
Winner: Adeola Oladipupo
Media House: Freelance, Nigeria
Story title: UNDERCOVER INVESTIGATION: With a Fake COVID-19 Certificate, I Travelled from Nigeria to the UK — and Back
Spending only a total of N82,000, investigative journalist Adeola Oladipupo travelled from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos to the Manchester Airport in the United Kingdom and back to Nigeria, using a fake negative COVID-19 result. He obtained the results from a criminal network that colludes with the staff of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and the Lagos State Biobank (LSB).
The story reveals that the racket ring’s operation is so sophisticated that in connivance with people in government agencies, including the Port Health Service (PHS), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), it manipulates the Nigeria International Travel Portal and outwits the country’s supposedly strict travel system.
This investigation found that officials who are the country’s first line of defence against imported cases of Covid-19 are endangering the Nigerian public through their indolence and double dealings.
Winner: Kwetey Nartey & Seth Kwame Boateng
Story Title: Busted! Gold Smugglers
Busted! Gold Smugglers is an expose that lifts the veil off the faces behind gold smuggling in Ghana as well as the channels they use in illegally getting the gold out of the country.
Prior to the investigation, there were concerns that over five billion dollars of Ghana’s gold exported to the United Arab Emirates could not be unaccounted for.
The expose provided Ghana and mining industry stakeholders with an insight into how the precious metal was illegally taken out by these smugglers.
The Attorney General of Ghana has asked the Inspector General of Police to investigate the matter. The Lands and Natural Resources Ministry has also taken an interest in the matter
Category: Human Rights Reporting
Winner: Olatunji Ololade
Media House: The Nation, Nigeria
Story title: First, they killed our fathers – Gruesome lives of families torn by banditry in Zamfara; Men share their wives with bandits, orphans litter the state as terror escalates
Armed banditry by Boko Haram in Zamfara and neighbouring northwestern states, Katsina and Sokoto have killed more than 8,000 lives – mainly in Zamfara. This has resulted in over 60,000 citizens fleeing into Niger Republic in the last decade.
The mayhem has led to livestock and crops being decimated, further depressing human livelihood indices that are already low in Nigeria.
In “First they killed our fathers”, Olatunji Ololade highlights the predicament of underage children caught in Nigeria’s armed banditry crosshairs. Many of them watched their parents get killed by Boko Haram
Women Empowerment Reporting
Winner: Nabole Ignance Ismael
Media House: Burkina24, Burkina Faso
Story title: Burkina Faso : Zalissa, amazone silencieuse (Zalissa, the quiet amazon)
Zalissa is a young widow who experienced marriage at the age of 17. Having lost her husband following a long illness after ten years of living together, she was faced with the double task of fending for herself and raising three children. To survive, she travels 40 kilometres every day to buy wild eggplant leaves in order to resell them in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso
Employing Mobile Journalism (MoJo) techniques, Nabole Ignance Ismael and a team from Burkina24 followed Zalissa for a day on a motorbike, filming her journey with a smartphone in order to bring out the realities of the lady who is trying to empower herself. The story highlights the challenges of average young Burkinabe women who despite all odds are striving to shed poverty, social limitations and stereotypes to improve their lives and the living conditions of their families.
Business Reporting Category
Winner: Oladeinde Adewoyin
Media House: Premium Times, Nigeria
Story title: Inside world of small businesses keeping Lagos night economy alive
Nightlife in most parts of the world contributes significantly to the growth of the economy. Oladeinde Olawoyin’s story, therefore, looks into Lagos, Africa’s fifth biggest economy, and how nightlife helps create jobs, improve hospitality and grow the economy,
The report identified areas of infrastructural improvement that help power the night economy, showing how that can be replicated in Accra, Lomé, Abidjan, Banjul, Dakar, and other cities across West Africa.
The report also identified areas of infrastructural deficit where the government can intervene to accelerate the night economy’s growth for the economy’s overall growth.
Health Reporting Category
Winner: Basseratou Kindo
Media House: Mousso News, Burkina Faso
Story title: Malades mentales : une sexualité ignorée et sans contraception (Women with mental illness: disregarded sexuality, without contraception)
In Burkina Faso, the sexuality of the mentally challenged is an embarrassing, almost taboo, subject. Basseratou Kindo’s story explores the plight of persons living with mental illness and how their sexuality is exploited.
The report shows how women who are mentally challenged are raped and impregnated by unknown men. It reveals the near-absence of public health policy to protect the women against sexual abuse.
Telecoms and ICTs Reporting Category
Winner: Amos Abba
Media House: International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Nigeria
Story title: How fintech loan sharks in Nigeria cyberbully, trap customers in debt
FOR a money-lending firm or financial company to legally operate in Nigeria, it must obtain a license from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. However, Amos Abba and the ICIR investigation discovered that several online loan firms in the country violate the rules and regulations of the apex bank.
The online apps owned by Chinese businessmen engage in trolling and cyberbullying to ensure compliance from debtors, ignoring Nigeria’s data privacy laws.
Migration Reporting Category
Winner: Darcicio Francisco Jose Monteiro Barbosa
Media House: Bagunda TV/ TV Comunitaria, Guinea Bissau
Story title: Migration en Guinée Bissau (Migration in Guinea Bissau)
The report highlights the near-death, chilling and disturbing accounts of irregular returnee migrants in the region of Cacheu, North of Guinea-Bissau.
In the story, Darcicio leaves his subjects to tell their own stories about their failed voyages that did not only rob them of their life savings and good health but left their families broken and dejected.
The TV report highlights the ever-present dangers and threats of irregular migration to the lives and economies in the West Africa region.
Environmental Reporting Category & West Africa Journalist of the Year
Winner: Tessy Igomu
Media House: The Punch, Nigeria
Story title: We can’t breathe! Ogun community chokes under Chinese recycling plant’s fume
We can now breathe! Ogun community jubilates as Chinese recycling company relocates after PUNCH HealthWise report
The environmental report exposed the environmental pollution caused by Yoyo Resources Recycling Limited Company, owned by a Chinese, in Orimerunmu, a residential community in Ibafo, Ifo Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State.
It was reported that the production process of the firm, which involved the use of charcoal and firewood to power a furnace filled with disused tyres to produce pyrolysis oil was exposing residents to debilitating health conditions as toxic carbon was released into the air.
For three years, in the morning, the residents choked under the effect of air that is highly contaminated with carbon dust. And at night, the hazardous soot settled on everything in sight – residences, plants inclusive.
It was further noted that apart from air pollution, soot had contaminated groundwater, causing residents to travel far distances in search of good, potable water.
The negative impact of Yoyo Resources Recycling Limited Company’s activities on residents’ health was revealed in a medical test sponsored by PUNCH HealthWise.
To carry out the test, residents were randomly picked for x-rays. The results showed that, “in reality, there is cause for concern, as some of them already have traces of pulmonary infiltrate — a substance denser than air, such as pus, blood, or protein, which lingers within the parenchyma of the lungs.”
Pulmonary infiltrates, which was highlighted in the test result, physicians explained are associated with pneumonia and tuberculosis, and can be observed on a chest radiograph.
After the report, which was published on April 18, 2021, the Ogun State Ministry of the Environment sealed the company and they were not allowed to carry out any operation again.
The company has since shut down and relocated.
This prompted the publication of the impact report with the headline – We can now breathe! Ogun community jubilates as Chinese recycling company relocates after PUNCH HealthWise report, on July 19, 2021.