The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) has honoured 10 journalists for their outstanding works in investigative journalism in Nigeria and conferred an honorary post-humous award on the late professor of mass communication, Lai Oso, for his remarkable contribution to human rights and the journalism field.
The Centre, during its 18th edition of the Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting (WSAIR) held in Abuja on December 9, 2023, presented a posthumous Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence and Human Rights Defender Award to Late Professor Lai Oso for his more than four decades contribution to the field of journalism, and for leveraging his academic expertise to address issues related to democracy, social justice, and the role of the media in fostering human rights awareness. The awards were received by his wife, Mrs. Abimbola Oso, and daughter, Dr. Simisola Asekun.
In his opening remarks, Professor Ropo Sekoni, Board Chair of WSCIJ, stated that the WSAIR has achieved the age of maturity, and if it were a human being, it would be voting. According to him, seeing the awards to 18 years is reflective of WSCIJ’s commitment to the protection and promotion of democracy in Nigeria.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, Chair of the 2023 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting Judges’ Board, commended the courage of the finalists in addressing critical human-interest issues affecting Nigerians. She noted that addressing these concerns would effectively mitigate the aggravated exposure to various challenges, including poverty, hunger, lack of access to education, inadequate healthcare, human right abuses, gender inequalities, and other issues which have contributed to the stagnation of the nation.
According to her, the Centre received 244 entries, of which only 99 met the criteria for further screening and 10 finalists emerged for first, runner-up, and commendation prizes across digital, print, television and photo categories.
Kemi Busari of Dubawa won the online category while Beloved John came as runner-up in same category; Lami Sadiq of Daily Trust won the print category; Sharon Ijasan of TVC News won the TV category; Folashade Ogunrinde of TV360 Nigeria came runner up in the TV category; Victor Asewota from The Will Newspaper came runner-up in the cartoon category.
Marcus Omoniyi Fatunmole, Omolabake Fasogbon, Chukwemeka Emenike and Ayodele Adeniran received commendation awards for their works.
Winners received award plaques, certificates; a core i7-12th gen, 16 gigabyte ddr4, windows 11 laptop; a cash gift of Three Hundred Thousand Naira (N300,000), and an international trip.
Runners-up got a certificate of commendation, a smart phone, and a cash gift of Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200,000). Finalists whose works were commended got a certificate of commendation, a 2-terabyte hard drive and a cash gift of One Hundred Thousand Naiara (N100,000).
Speaking at the award presentation event, Executive Director of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism announced the relaunch of the ‘Civic Space Guard project’ in partnership with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), with support of the Netherlands Embassy. By the project, she said, “The civic space needs to be guarded and journalists have what it takes to do so.”