Mazeed Mukhtar Oyeleye reports,
The 2023 edition of the African Prize for Investigative Journalism, PAJI 2023, has ended, with Abdulrasheed Hammad, the immediate past Editor-in-Chief of PEN PRESS, the foremost press outfit of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS), making the podium in the online category of the awards for which a ceremony held at the Eugenie Rokhaya Aw Ndiaye Amphitheater in Dakar, Senegal, on the eve of Wednesday, April 26.
Hammad, a final year student of Law at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, and the incumbent Vice President of the National Association of Campus Journalists, UDUS Chapter (NACJ, UDUS), has done the institution proud by clinching the silver prize in the online category of the continental Investigative Journalism awards.
Coming behind Gambian journalist, Mustapha Darboe, he beat a host of a-list investigative journalists, including Nigerien Yusuf Seriba and Nigerian journalist with The Cable, James Ojo, to secure the second place trophy, which comes with a prize money of 500,000 FCFA.
The PAJI-NZ, which is a brainchild of the Franco-African platform of journalists Media & Democracy (M&D), is awarded by an international jury composed overwhelmingly of African journalists. It aims to value, promote and defend investigative journalism in Africa.
Like the maiden edition of PAJI-NZ, which held in Ouagadougou, the 2023 edition, co-organized by M&D and CESTI (Center for the Study of Information Science and Technology), the prizes are geared at encouraging investigative journalism in Africa and highlighting the quality work carried out by a large number of African media professionals
Hammad won the award with a stellar report, entitled, ‘[INVESTIGATION] Abandoned Health Projects Litter Sokoto Despite Multi-million Naira Investment’, sponsored and published by The ICIR.
Speaking to PEN PRESS, he could not contain his joy.
In his words, “I am so excited for being among the top three winners of this Africa Prize for Investigative Journalism (PAJI) Award. It is a great opportunity that my investigative story was rated in the top three in the whole of Africa”.
“When I applied for the award, I wasn’t so sure I would win since it is an international award. But luckily, here I am. This is my first international win as an investigative journalist. Without a doubt, this is an encouragement and a push for me to do more impactful stories,” he continued.
The recognition substantiates Hammad’s belief that “it is easy to excel in investigative journalism, compared to doing everyday Journalism”. He is glad that, aside making impact with his investigations as he set out to, he has also managed to push his way into limelight despite the overwhelming risks that accompany Investigative Journalism.
Weighing in on the process of producing the award-winning story, he told PEN PRESS that he faced threats and other challenges yet made sure to do justice to the story. From DSS to lawsuit threats and curses that poured in from contractors’ end, Hammad grew thick skin and “didn’t relent since my plan was to make sure I balance everything in my report”. In the face of bribes and the frustrating bureaucracy that permeates civil and public service in Nigeria, Hammad persevered and watched his back until he completed the story.
He showered encomia on The ICIR team for their support in executing the award-winning story, noting that he “really appreciate the ICIR team for giving me an opportunity to freelance with the platform. Special thanks to Mr Dayo Aiyetan, the Executive Director of ICIR, Mr Ajibola Amzat, former Managing editor of ICIR and Africa editor for CCIJ and Mrs Bamas Victoria, the ICIR editor for the support in executing the story. I appreciate my mentor on the OCR project, Mrs Lami Sadiq for the support in bringing out the best in my story”.