A PREMIUM TIMES report on Nigeria’s defunct paper mills has bagged the best business reporting category of the 2021 West African Media Excellence Awards (WAMECA) held in Accra, Ghana.
The story, published last year, was authored by Alfred Olufemi, a former staffer of PREMIUM TIMES who now engages in freelancing for local and international platforms.
The winning entry dug deep into the moribund state of three paper mills, which experts believe have the potentials to curb the excessive paper importation regime draining Nigeria’s forex.
It also exposed how the privatization processes of the mills have failed woefully and touched on the non-wood alternatives that can help the revival of the mills and conserve forests resources, especially for climate change concerns.
According to one of the judges on the WAMECA panel, Joseph Warungu, Mr Olufemi’s entry stood out for its depth of research, excellent reporting and multimedia accompaniments.
Mr Olufemi, at the prize-giving ceremony on Friday, was honoured for the outstanding reporting and was presented a cash prize and plaque.
He also shared the stage with reporters from across West Africa, honoured in different categories. Business Day’s Caleb Ojewale, Dataphyte’s Uthman Samad and TheCable’s Chinedu Asadu were amongst the winners of the night.
The organiser, Media Foundation for West Africa, had earlier shortlisted 21 finalists from newsrooms across West African countries for six categories of the awards. It stated that that the finalists were selected from a pool of over 700 applications.
Speaking after the award ceremony, an elated Mr Olufemi expressed profound gratitude to the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) for funding the story and to the Premium Times team members, Cletus Ukpong and Kabiru Yusuf for their contributions to the piece.
“It’s never a one-man’s show. It’s a collaborative effort and that gave the story an excellent treatment. They are the real winners, if you ask me.”
He also spoke on the practice of journalism in Nigeria and the African continent, stating that the bar of accuracy, fairness and balance should never be lowered.
“We are faced by a plethora of challenges in the Nigerian media, ranging from censorship to financials, ownership and what have we,” he said. “But all of these should not deter us from public service, which ethical journalism is all about. The basic principles should not be sacrificed.”
“I’m super excited for my friend, Samad, who emerged as the best journalist of the year. And also for other ace Nigerian journalists who were shortlisted. It is a testament to the fact that there are reporters working assiduously, against all odds, particularly under this repressive Buhari regime, to churn out good journalism.”
Until he left PREMIUM TIMES this year, Mr Olufemi, a graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, roved Nigeria’s North-Central states, covering the region for one the foremost investigative journalism platform on the African continent.
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