Nigerian Female Journalist Wins West African Journalist Of The Year

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An investigative journalist with The Punch newspaper in Nigeria, Tessy Igomu, has been adjudged the West Africa Journalist of the Year 2022.

Being the first female to win the ultimate prize in the ultimate prize, Tessy Igomu fought off competition from 24 journalists shortlisted for this year’s awards at the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA).

Her story on the Yoyo Resources Recycling Limited Company, a Chinese-owned waste recycling company, exposed how pollution from the company took a toll on the health of some residents of Orimerunmu, a community in Ogun State in southwestern Nigeria.

According to Ms Igomu’s story, every night, as the company powered its furnace to produce pyrolysis oil, from tyre and plastic pyrolysis, bright flames illuminate the skyline, billowing dark smoke into the atmosphere.

“The soot generated by the Yoyo company’s activities is as light as air and very volatile, and is easily blown around by wind, seeping through tightly shut doors and windows in the beleaguered community. The soot also coats the entire community in black dust, while the palms and underfoot of residents wear a registered, permanent trade mark of black,” Ms Igomu’s story revealed.

The story pushed the state government to relocate the company, bringing relief to the people who had endured soot from polluted air for three years.

The story also won the best report on Environment.

Apart from being the first female journalist to win the respected award in the six-year history of the event Tessy Igomu also became the second Nigerian to become the WAMECA Journalist of the Year.  

The first was Samad Uthman of Dataphyte, who shared the 2021 prize with a Ghanaian, Kwetey Nartey, last year.

I’m a daring person
Beaming with smiles, she said Ms Igomu said her award-winning story was a product of determination.

“I’m a daring person. When they say don’t go there, that’s where I want to go,” she told the cheering crowd in the packed auditorium.

The mother of two said she did her award-wining story at a time she was eight months pregnant.

In a clarion call to female journalists, she said “you can shatter the glass ceiling. You can do anything. Investigation is my calling, that is what I do, that is what I eat. It is in my blood.”

Tessy was part of the 25 finalists selected by a jury from 952 entries from a record 16 countries across the sub-region.

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

A member of the WAMECA grand jury, Catherine Gicheru, while praising the 25 finalists also lamented the low number of female journalists who applied for the awards.
She, therefore, rallied media owners to encourage their female journalists to apply for the awards.
Her counterpart from Senegal, Tidiane Sy, urged journalists not to confuse in-depth reporting with long-winding stories with context that add nothing to the story.”
“In-depth reporting can be short and straightforward,” he said.
The full list of winners of WAMECA 2022 are:
Category: West Africa Journalist of the Year
Winner: Tessy Igomu
Media House: The Punch, Nigeria
Category: Environmental Reporting
Winner:  Tessy Igomu
Media House: The Punch, Nigeria

Category: Anti-Corruption Reporting
Winner: Adeola Oladipupo
Media House: Freelance, Nigeria
Category: Health Reporting
Winner: Basseratou Kindo
Media House: Mousso News, Burkina Faso   
Category: ICTs Reporting
Winner: Amos Abba
Media House: International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Nigeria

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