Nigeria’s most widely read newspaper, The PUNCH, clinched two awards at the maiden edition of the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards.
The awards, organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa to honour excellence in print, online and broadcast journalism in West Africa, took place on Saturday night at the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel, Accra, Ghana.
The competition had received more than 400 entries from hundreds of journalists in 12 countries across West Africa, after which 15 finalists, including five Nigerians, emerged from six categories.
A business correspondent for The PUNCH, ‘Femi Asu, beat Justice Baidoo of the Multimedia Broadcasting Limited, Ghana, to emerge the Best Journalist in the Oil and Gas Reporting Category.
Asu won with his entry titled, “Dirty fuels in vehicles put millions of Nigerians in danger.”
His story had detailed how millions of Nigerians were at the mercy of harmful emissions from vehicles as the country continued to import and produce fuel with high sulphur content.
Likewise, a correspondent with the Saturday PUNCH, Jesusegun Alagbe, beat Odimegwu Onwumere of The Nigerian Voice, Nigeria, to emerge the Best Journalist in the Anti-Corruption Reporting Category.
Alagbe won in the category with his entry titled, “School where prostitutes assist male students to get marks.”
Alagbe’s entry had detailed how male students of the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo State, were forced to hire prostitutes or beg their girlfriends to sleep with their lecturers in order to get good grades.
The National Board for Technical Education had swung into action after the story was published and thereafter, the Federal Ministry of Education had ordered the sacking of 12 lecturers from the institution and the demotion of 16 others.
Two lecturers were also cautioned, while one was put under monitoring.
Meanwhile, Akinfenwa Olugbenga of The Guardian Newspaper, Nigeria, lost to Sheilla Williams of the Business Day Newspaper, Ghana, in the ECOWAS and Regional Integration Reporting Category.
Manasseh Azure Awuni of the Multimedia Broadcasting Limited, Ghana, won in the Investigative Reporting Category, beating a former correspondent with the Sunday PUNCH, Arukaino Umukoro, and Ulrich Vital of the EducAction, Benin Republic.
The Health Reporting Category Award was won by Fousseni Saibou of Radio Kanal FM, Togo, while Seth Kwame Boateng of the Multimedia Broadcasting Limited, Ghana, clinched the award for the best Human Rights Reporting.
In the meantime, Boateng beat Alagbe to receive the overall West Africa Best Journalist Award.
Speaking at the awards, the Executive Director, MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, said in the past 20 years since the foundation was established, the growth of the media industry in West Africa had presented a great opportunity for the consolidation of the “nascent” democracy in the region.
He said, “It is our hope that through this annual conference and awards, we will be able to improve the media industry and also encourage and inspire quality journalism.
“Our finalists are truly inspiring and we look forward to working with them to engage with the next generation of journalists over the coming year.”
In her remarks, one of the judges of the entries and Director of the NEXUS Groupe, Senegal, Ms Sophie Ly Sow, advised journalists to stick to quality reportage, while encouraging media houses to inspire journalists to do more.
“Our journalists must do more work, but they need more support from the media houses. So, I encourage West African media houses to support journalists in doing more work,” she said.