Winners Announced: West Africa Media Excellence Awards 2023

An investigative journalist with HumAngle Media in Nigeria, Muhammed Akinyemi, has emerged as West Africa Journalist of the Year.

His story on the recurrent soot problems in the southern Nigeria province, of River State, wooed the grand jury of the West Africa Media Excellence and Awards to crown him over 16 other journalists shortlisted for the ultimate prize.

Before winning the ultimate prize of the Awards nights in Accra, Mr Akinyemi’s report, titled All Die Na Die: At The Heart Of Nigeria’s Soot Problem, was adjudged the best story in the Environmental Reporting category.

Employing a scientific approach to the story, including air quality tests, the investigative report detailed how illegal oil refining is causing irreversible damage to the environment, the people, and the air in Port Harcourt. While the government said it had dismantled illegal refining sites, a visit to different refining sites showed otherwise.

According to the story: “Since 2015, Rivers State has suffered a recurrence of soot covering its air and lungs. While soot may be caused by illegal refining using crude tools, there’s evidence that legal and proper refining contributes too. But Mr Ese [an air quality expert] confirms that the refineries in Port Harcourt and across the state are not functioning. “They are not refining any product,” he says. “[Most of the] black soot is caused by illegal human activities.”’

It is the second consecutive time a Nigerian journalist has been crowned with the most prized honour in West African journalism. Coincidentally, it is also the second time in a row that an environmental story on soot has won the ultimate prize at WAMECA.

He takes over from his Nigerian compatriot, Tessy Igomu of the Punch, who exposed how pollution from a Chinese-owned waste recycling company took a toll on the health of some residents of Orimerunmu, a community in Ogun State in Nigeria.

On his night of glory, Mr Akinyemi said the first time he planned the story, he feared the scope would be too large and difficult to execute but his editors and mentors told him to do it and wait for the reaction.

“I am grateful to all the journalists who have done great works before me. I am grateful to all the human rights lawyers who have motivated me. Thank you for shaping my path,” he said.

This year, there were 825 entries from 15 countries in West Africa.

Judges for WAMECA expected the stories to be unique in angle, have context and hold power accountable.

Tidiane Sy, a member of the grand jury, advised journalists to ensure stories are engaging, and relatable and avoid repetition and overwriting when telling stories.

There were no awards for Health and Anti-Corruption reporting categories this year. The jury blamed the lack of quality and depth in the stories submitted for the two categories.

The full list of winners of WAMECA 2022 are:

Category: West Africa Journalist of the Year

Winner: Muhammed Akinyemi

Media House: Humangle Media, Nigeria

Story title: All Die Na Die: At The Heart Of Nigeria’s Soot Problem

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Category: Environmental Reporting

Winner:  Muhammed Akinyemi

Media House: Humangle Media, Nigeria

Story title: All Die Na Die: At The Heart Of Nigeria’s Soot Problem

 Category: ICTs Reporting

Winner: Emmanuel Kwasi Debrah

Media House: Multimedia Group Limited, Ghana

Story title: Trickling credit: mobile phone users in Ghana pay for unknown subscriptions

Emmanuel Kwasi Debrah (L) received his award from Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, MTN GHANA

 Category: Business Reporting   

Winner: Gbenga Salau

Media House:  The Guardian Newspaper, Nigeria

Story title: How ‘Ghanaian herbal products’ are manufactured, marketed in Nigeria

Kojo Akoi-Larbi, Communication Manager, Stanbic Bank Ghana (R) presented the Award to Gbenga Salau

 Category: Human Rights Reporting

Winner: Komla Adom

Media House: TV3, Ghana

Story title: THE ASSIGNMENT: Education Reforms In Ghana | The Reality & The Gaps

Komla Adom received his honours from Emily Fertik, Public Affairs Counsellor, US Embassy, Ghana

Category: Migration Reporting

Winner: Emmanuel Ayamga

Media House: Pulse Ghana, Ghana  

Story title: Bombs, fear & iffy survival: The escape story of Ghanaian footballers in war-torn Ukraine

Emmanuel Ayamga received his award from Robert Karanja, Senior Director-Africa, Co-Develop

Category: Investigative Reporting

Winners: Francisca Enchill

Media House: Joy News/Corruption Watch

Story title: Money Over Human Lives…Rot @ DVLA Exposed!

Susanne Fuchs-Mwakideu, Former Programme Director of DW Akademie Ghana, presented the award to Francisca Enchill

Organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa, WAMECA honours exemplary work, in-depth investigations and exceptional storytelling.

In his welcome address, Executive Director of the MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, said the ongoing recession of democracy in West Africa and the repression of its civic space require journalists to play the watchdog role and hold duty-bearers accountable.

Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director, MFWA

Emily Fertik, Public Affairs Counsellor, US Embassy, Ghana said the media is a bedrock of democracy adding that “there is no such thing as a strong democracy without a strong free press.”

She affirmed the US Embassy’s commitment to supporting media development and press freedom in Ghana in the coming year.

Emily Fertik, Public Affairs Counsellor, US Embassy, Ghana

On her part, the Deputy Minister for Information, Fatimatu Abubakar, called for a shared responsibility between journalists and the government to ensure media integrity.

Fatimatu Abubakar, Deputy Minister for Information, Ghana

“Journalists must uphold the principles of truth, accuracy, and fairness, providing citizens with reliable information. Governments must uphold and protect the freedom of the press, ensuring that journalists can work without fear of reprisal,” she said.

Prominent human rights advocate and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falan, who was the keynote speaker and guest of honour for the Awards event called on journalists in West Africa to pay attention to the economic programmes of their governments.

Femi Falana, SAN, Keynote Speaker and Guest of Honour

“I am going to challenge journalists today to please go out of the cocoon of politics. You have written very well on politics. Let us begin to interrogate the economic programmes of governments. The implementation of neo-liberal policies,” he said.

This year’s WAMECA was held under the theme “Media and Democracy in Africa.”

West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA 2023) is supported by the US Embassy in Ghana, OXFAM Ghana, West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), MTN-Ghana, and Stanbic Bank Ghana. The event is also supported by about 50 media partners across West Africa.

For more details on the event, contact Abigail Larbi-Odei (+233244867074) and Kwaku Krobea Asante (+233249484528) for media interviews.

Woman to Appear in Court for Murder in Hartbeesfontein

Potchefstroom – A 47-year-old woman is set to appear before the Klerksdorp Magistrates’ Court on Monday, 13 November 2023, on a charge of murder.

According to South African Police Service, the arrest followed the discovery of a 56-year-old man’s body on Thursday evening, 9 November 2023, in Hartbeesfontein along the R503 road.

The deceased was found in a Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle with a stab wound on the upper body. Emergency medical services personnel declared the victim dead at the scene. Following a comprehensive investigation, the suspect was apprehended on Friday, 10 November 2023, in Hartbeesfontein.

The incident has sparked attention in the local community, as law enforcement officials continue their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death. The court appearance of the suspect will be a key moment in the ongoing case, as authorities seek to uncover the details of the incident and administer justice.

Athi River Official Warns Parents to Keep Children Away from Flooded Rivers

In Athi River, residents are being cautioned to keep a close watch on their children near water bodies, as the ongoing heavy rains throughout the country pose significant dangers.

According to Kenya News Agency, Athi River Ward representative Jeremiah Kaloi emphasized the need for parental vigilance, especially with schools closed for the long holiday. He advised parents to ensure that their children avoid loitering along rivers and bridges, where the risk of accidents due to raging waters is high. Kaloi’s warning is particularly directed towards residents of Kaswito, City cotton slums, Kanaani, and Kwa mangeli in Athi River Sub County, areas proximate to River Athi, and known for their heightened risk during heavy rainfall.

“I have observed several children around the bridge crossing River Athi, and it’s crucial for parents to engage with their children, keeping them occupied on farms or indoors with their studies,” Kaloi stated. He made these remarks while speaking at Kyumbi town, near Machakos Town, during a public participation forum on the Annual Development Plan for the 2024-2025 Financial Year.

In addition to his warning to parents, Kaloi also advised residents living near rivers in the area to move to higher ground as a precautionary measure against potential flooding. He noted that the heavy rains have caused local rivers to overflow, posing a risk to those living in low-lying areas. “It’s better to prioritize safety and take preventive action rather than face regrettable consequences later,” Kaloi added, highlighting the importance of proactive measures during this period of heavy rains.

Somalia and Saudi Arabia Forge Security Cooperation Agreement in Riyadh

Riyadh – In a significant development in international relations and security, the Federal Republic of Somalia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have signed a historic Security Cooperation Agreement in Riyadh.

According to Somali National News Agency, the agreement aims to enhance security cooperation, focusing on counterterrorism, intelligence sharing, and capacity building between the two nations.

The ceremony saw the participation of high-ranking officials, including Somalia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Abshir Omar Jama, and Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Interior, His Highness Abdulaziz bin Saud Al Saud. The agreement is seen as a milestone in Somali-Saudi relations, establishing a structured framework for collaboration in addressing regional security challenges.

Experts view this agreement as a strategic enhancement of both countries’ capabilities to tackle security concerns, especially in areas prone to terrorism and instability. It is anticipated that this cooperation will extend beyond security, fostering trade and cultural exchanges, thereby strengthening the relationship between Somalia and Saudi Arabia.

This agreement aligns with Somalia’s efforts to stabilize and rebuild the nation, contributing to its long-term security and development goals. For Saudi Arabia, it represents an extension of its strategy to develop stronger ties with African nations, reinforcing its role in regional security.

The Security Cooperation Agreement between Somalia and Saudi Arabia marks a promising development in the security landscape of the region and symbolizes the growing partnership and mutual commitment of the two countries towards achieving peace, stability, and prosperity.

Man Fatally Injured in Stabbing Incident

Okahandja: A tragic incident occurred in Okahandja on Friday evening, resulting in the death of a man due to three stab wounds. The incident took place in 2nd Street, a residential area in the town.

According to Namibia Press Agency (NAMPA), the head of community affairs for the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) in the Otjozondjupa Region, the victim was identified on Saturday by his close relatives as Amon Mutsitani Naseb, whose age is unknown. Preliminary police investigations suggest that Naseb was attacked with a knife while on his way home around 18h30. He sustained three deep stab wounds: on his right upper chest, behind the left ear, and on his right lower arm.

Inspector Mbeha noted that it is suspected Naseb was walking alone and was found lying dead on the ground on Friday evening. As of now, no arrests have been made in connection with the incident, and police investigations are ongoing.