Nigerian newspaper NEXT shone like a million stars on 1 November as one of its editors and two of its reporters scooped two of the three awards on offer at the FAIR (Forum for African Investigative Reporters) African Investigative Journalism Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa. A video message from the sponsors “FreePress Unlimited” set the tone for thunderous applause at the Moyo Zoo Lake venue of the ceremony as FAIR’s chairman, Gerard Guedegbe, declared reporters Peter Nkanga and Idris Akinbajo as African Investigative Reporters of the Year for their joint work, entitled “Last Minutes Oil Deal that Cost Nigeria Dear” published in the 12 June edition of NEXT on Sunday.
The report is one of a six-part groundbreaking series which catalogued a courageous journey into Nigeria’s heart of darkness, the oil industry. The team investigated brazen attempts by senior officials, including petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to corner the oil industry for themselves, openly demanding bribes, and using cronies and fronts to grab oil blocs in secretive deals. President Goodluck Jonathan ignored the weighty allegations, and proceeded to reappoint Mrs Alison-Madueke to his cabinet. The Senate also failed to do its job, ratifying her appointment without lifting a finger.
The award was received on behalf of the reporters by their editor, Musikilu Mojeed, who was in Johannesburg to speak at the African Investigative Journalism Conference, organized by FAIR and the University of Witwatersrand. But before he could make it back to his seat, he too was announced as winner of the Editor’s Courage Award. A journalist with the Kenya Standard newspaper, Kipchumba Some, won the second prize in the investigative reporting category for his story on police killings in his country. In adjudging Messrs.’ Nkanga and Akinbajo’s entry the most outstanding, the judges described the report as an exceptional piece of journalism that should have sent Mrs. Alison-Maduekwe to jail. “An excellent, thorough investigation into an important issue,” the judges said of the report. “In most countries, this article would cost the minister her job, if not her freedom. Nigeria’s Next newspaper and website did a great job here.”
Mr. Mojeed was honoured for demonstrating rare courage and providing the right kind of leadership to get the stories published in spite of high-level pressures, police harassment, attempted monetary inducement and threats to his life. NEXT has stopped printing. It is broke, and its publisher is trying to source funds to continue operations. Next started publishing online in December 2008. It’s NEXT on SUNDAY hit the stands in February 2009. The daily edition began in late 2009. The two award-winners are in the process of being hired by an Abuja-based multimedia company, PREMIUM TIMES. The winning story can be accessed here.
More than 40 entries from across Africa were judged for this year’s awards, which honour only works considered to be investigative. The entries were judged by some of the best investigative journalists in the world. They include Gwen Ansell, editor of FAIR’s well-regarded Investigative Journalism Manuals; Mark Lee Hunter, co-author of the book “Story Based Enquiry”; Tito Ndombi of Africa News and of the Ifasic Journalism Training Institute in Kinshasa; Joe Hanlon, veteran Investigative Journalist and academic who spent decades investigating Africa from his base in Mozambique, and Brant Houston, who is ex-director of US-based professional body Investigative Reporting & Editors, Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting at the University of Illinois, and co-founder of the Global Investigative Journalism Network.
Click here for the full text of the judges verdict.[Photos of the Award event can be accessed from the FAIR page on Facebook] [Links to the six-part series: http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Home/5688389-146/story.csp;