Akintunde Babatunde, the Manager of the Natural Resources and Extractive Programme at the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), has been awarded a Chevening Scholarship to study for a masters degree in the United Kingdom for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Mr Babatunde will join 48 other Nigerians who have been selected by the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) out of over 8000 applicants from Nigeria.
The new awardees will be joining a community of over 1,000 Nigerians who have been so awarded since 1983 when the award was inaugurated across the commonwealth.
During his time in England, Mr Babatunde will study Media Practice for Development and Social Change at the University of Sussex, which, according to the QS World University Rankings by subject 2019, is rated first in the world for development studies.
Speaking on his selection for the scholarship, Mr Babatunde said that his emergence is as a result of the inspiration he got from the platform offered by PTCIJ.
“I hope to learn as much as I can during my stay in the UK and then race back to share knowledge and add value to our country’s journalism,” he said.
“I thank the British High Commission in Nigeria and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for this opportunity and my colleagues at the PTCIJ for allowing me a little time to retool. Being part of 49 selected scholars out of about 8000 applicants from Nigeria is a humbling achievement for me.”
“I must also appreciate my Executive Director, Dapo Olorunyomi, for reviewing my essays and for also writing my first recommendation despite his very tight schedule. My profound appreciation also goes to Gbemiga Ogunleye, immediate past provost of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, for his support and for writing me a second professional recommendation.”
He also expressed his gratitude to Segun Adedeji, a professor in the department of Educational Management, University of Ibadan, for writing his academic reference to the University of Sussex.
At the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Mr Babatunde currently heads the Natural Resources and Extractives Programme, a sensitive and important responsibility that encompasses five issues: oil and gas, solid minerals, marine life, forest resources and climate change.
Since joining PTCIJ in 2017, he has been part of many digital innovations at the organisation. Between 2018 and 2019, he was charged with the leadership of a project that examined the government’s use of infrastructural funds, juxtaposing expenditure with on-the-ground developments across communities in Nigeria. The primary objective was to hold the government accountable.
He led the deployment of data-powered civic tech platforms such as UDEME to empower citizens with the tools needed to interrogate the actions and/or inactions of their government and get involved in the governance of their regions.
With UDEME, Nigerians are able to track, and, where possible, raise red flags with respect to general service delivery in their communities.
He also led his team to develop a platform that promotes transparency and accountability in public procurement by providing citizens with curated prices of items often procured by the government and its contractors and a FAAC database that houses Nigeria’s monthly allocations to states, and other state revenue data for the past 12 years and can be used by journalists, policy analysts and government officials for journalistic, research or policy purposes.
Mr Babatunde has done extensive work on fighting fake news and has trained over 500 Nigerian journalists, media professionals and INEC officials on how to track and fact-check false claims in the media ecosystem. In 2018, his work was nominated by Africa Check for the “African Fact-checker Award of the Year 2018”.
He has also published a series of investigative and special reports focused on promoting transparency and accountability in the public finance sector of the Nigerian economy, particularly in the management of financial resources and tracking and verifying fake news on the number one platform for investigative journalism in Nigeria, Premium Times.
In 2019, he was the only Nigerian selected to serve as an African ambassador on the UNESCO-supported Global Alliance for Partnerships on Media and Information Literacy (GAPMIL).
In June 2020, he was selected as a Champion of the ONE campaign where he, alongside other development professionals and enthusiasts from across Nigeria, was charged with a mandate to advance the great work of the One campaign in the fight against extreme poverty and preventable diseases Nigeria specifically, and Africa at large.
He recently led his team to launch the first “forensic” journalistic investigation into the realities of financial misappropriation by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). This culminated into the production of a 70-page-long research paper that exposes the pattern of corruption and financial recklessness of the agency and its impact in the Niger-Delta region.
Chevening is the UK government’s international awards programme aimed at developing global leaders and it is funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The recipients are personally selected by British embassies and high commissions throughout the world.
Chevening offers a unique opportunity for future leaders, influencers, and decision-makers from all over the world to develop professionally and academically, network extensively, experience UK culture, and build lasting positive relationships with the UK.
Since 1983, over 50,000 professionals have studied in the UK through Chevening.
PTCIJ was founded in 2014 to help strengthen investigative journalism, promote fundamental human rights and advocate for good governance and transparency in Nigeria. It serves as the NGO arm of Premium Times, Nigeria’s foremost investigative medium, established in 2011.