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UDUS Student Shines at PAJI Awards

Abdulrasheed Hammad clinched the silver prize at the Prix Africain du Journalisme d’Investigation (PAJI) awards, held on 26 April at the Eugenie Rokhaya Aw Ndiaye Amphitheater in Dakar, Senegal. He came second in the online category with a story titled “Abandoned Health Projects Litter Sokoto Despite Multi-million Naira Investment”. 

The Vice-president of the National Association of Campus Journalists, UDUS (NACJ-UDUS) Mr Hammad, started writing in 2018 and published opinion pieces, reports and a few feature stories. He later went on to write investigative stories in 2020. 

 He dug into issues at his university and wrote investigations, a few of which got him into the bad books of the university management and almost cost his studentship at UDUS.

The Law student, currently in his final year of studies, joined the ceremony virtually. 

He said, “I am so excited to be among the top three winners of this PAJI Award”. 

Aside from the prestige of winning the prize, Mr Hammad received a 500,000 CFA prize.

The Prix Africain du Journalisme d’Investigation (PAJI), meaning the African Prize for Investigative Journalism, is a brainchild of the Franco-African platform of journalists, Médias & Démocratie (M&D).

M&D started the prize in 2021, holding the maiden edition in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. An international jury of African journalists assesses the entries, and the award aims to encourage investigative journalism in Africa and highlight the brilliant works of African media professionals.

For the 2023 edition, M&D collaborated with the Centre d’Études des Sciences et Techniques de l’Information, also called the Center for the Study of Information Science and Technology, in the Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, to sustain its drive to value, promote and defend Investigative Journalism in Africa.

While speaking with this reporter, Mr Hammad noted that he did not expect to make the international award shortlist but still applied, with his story, which he did through ICIR’s Open Contract Reporting (OCRP) programme, with funding and support from the team.

The story exposed a chain of corrupt practices in the Sokoto State procurement system.

He said, “While doing the story, I received threats from contractors. Some threatened me with DSS arrest and others with court cases. One contractor even rained curses on me. But I didn’t relent since I planned to balance everything in my report. They even offered me a bribe to kill the story, but I rejected it and was very careful to prevent myself from physical attacks”.

“I also faced challenges in getting access to some important information to enrich my story further. The FOIs issued to the concerned authorities were unattended. I ensured I did justice to the story despite the threats and other challenges,” Mr Hammad revealed.

Justifying his interest in journalism, Mr Hammad explained, “Investigative journalism is superb and the best route to excellence in journalism. Investigative journalism is prioritized because it is the best way to hold public officers accountable”. 

“I understand the risks involved in investigative journalism, but I am only trying my best to ensure I produce quality stories and to be of great impact to my community, state and the whole country,” he concluded.

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