A PREMIUM TIMES journalist, Cletus Ukpong, on Saturday emerged the best investigative reporter in West Africa.
At the 2019 West Africa Media Excellence Awards (WAMECA) held in Accra, Ghana, Mr Ukpong was adjudged to have produced the best investigative story among all the entries received in that category.
The winning entry was a six-part report that examined how corruption, poor budget planning and implementation, and outright neglect led to the near collapse of public education in Akwa Ibom state.
Mr Ukpong is PREMIUM TIMES’ regional editor for South-south Nigeria. After he published the series, he came under sustained attacks from the Akwa Ibom government and its supporters who accused him of ridiculing the administration.
At a point, this newspaper had to rush him out of his location after receiving intelligence that he might be physically attacked. He returned several weeks later after tempers had calmed.
The Akwa Ibom government later came to terms with the revelations made in the series. It began rehabilitation work in some of the worst-affected schools. This year, it held an education summit to design long-term measures to address the problem.
Expressing his joy after the award, Mr Ukpong said he hopes to see the Nigerian government provide quality education and equal opportunity for every child. He also called on all West African leaders to respect press freedom.
“To this end, I am using this opportunity to call on the Nigerian government to free Agba Jalingo and other journalists who are being incarcerated in different parts of the country. Journalism is not, and will never be a crime,” he said.
Earlier, the award organizers, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), had announced a shortlist of 21 finalists from six African countries.
At the WAMECA award ceremony on Saturday night, a former reporter with PREMIUM TIMES, Tobore Ovuorie, was named winner of the human rights reporting category of the award. The report that brought her honour was published in the Nation newspaper.
Other Nigerians who shined on the night include ‘Kunle Adebajo of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) who won the telecommunications category; Tunde Ajaja of Punch Newspaper, winner of the best Business and SMEs reporting.
Also, Destiny Onyemihia scooped the Continental Journalism Awards on AU Charter, with ACDEG’s Wagdy Sawahel finishing first runner up.
In other categories, Ghana’s Nabil Ahmed Rufai of GHOneTV was awarded the best SDG reporter; Seriba Kone of Lepointsur also finished best on anti-corruption coverage; Sama Tounwendsida Hugues Richard of L’Observeteur Paalga was best in health reporting.
Ultimately, Sama Tounwendsida was pronounced as West Africa’s Journalist of the Year for his reporting on mental illness in Burkina Faso.
All 21 WAMECA finalists got Certificates of Merit while ultimate winners received plaques, certificates and cash prizes.
“All 21 finalists will also be inducted as fellows of the MFWA’s Journalism for Change Network and will be offered regular training opportunities both locally and internationally to enhance their capacity to influence positive change in society through journalism,” organizers said.
PREMIUM TIMES publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, attended the WAMECA awards ceremony and the conference that held before it.