Nigerian investigative journalist, Alfred Olufemi, has emerged as one of the winners of the 2023 African Prize for Investigative Journalism (PAJI).
The annual award ceremony was held in Dakar, Senegal, on Wednesday evening.
Launched in 2021, PAJI was created to promote investigative journalism endeavours on the African continent.
The 2023 edition of PAJI is organised by Media & Democracy (M&D) in collaboration with the Senegalese Centre d’Études des Sciences et Techniques de l’Information (CESTI).
The categories of the award include Print, Web, Radio and Television.
Olufemi, a multiple award-winning investigative journalist, was named the winner of the Print category. He was also presented with the golden award and a cash prize of one million West African CFA.
Olufemi’s entry is an in-depth investigation into the discharge of poisonous chemicals into a flowing river linking several local communities in Oyo state.
The investigation, which was published in Punch Newspaper last year, detailed how the contamination adversely affected the ecosystem in communities that were miles away from the actual scene of the spillage.
The report also exposed the state government’s belated response to the environmental pollution and unveiled companies allegedly responsible for the pollution.
After the report was published, the owners of the chemical reached out to the farmers who suffered losses and the police announced that it would reopen investigations into the matter.
Commenting on the entry, one of the members of the jury and a director of RSF’s West Africa office, Sadibou Marong, said Olufemi was thorough in his investigation.
“He provided an evidence-based report. It was an extraordinary story because of the efforts put in by the journalist,” he said.
Another member of the jury, Radio France Internationale (RFI) editor-in-chief, Laurent Correau, said the journalist made a big story out of what many would have only reported as a news item.
Olufemi, in his acceptance speech, appreciated the organisers for recognising the works of investigative journalists on the continent. He noted that the award comes at a time he is being victimised for being critical of some powerful officials in Nigeria.
“This, personally, is an encouragement and inspiration to do more and be better,” he said.
The winner also recognised the contribution of the Punch Investigations, editorial, and video teams, who he said were instrumental to the production of the story.
“They say it takes a community to raise a child. A lot of people were involved in the production of the story – the editors, page planners, and all. They all deserve the credit.I would like to thank them for their outstanding contributions, too.”
A celebrated journalist, Olufemi has a couple of awards under his belt including the Campus Journalist Award (CJA) of the Year, the West African Media Excellence Award (WAMECA), the Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) awards for migration reporting and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) award for investigative journalism and data reporting.