Promoting, celebrating journalistic excellence through award

The winners in a group photograph with the Chairman of Panel of Judges and the Managing Director and Chairman of Promasidor Nigeria, at the event

The winners in a group photograph with the Chairman of Panel of Judges and the Managing Director and Chairman of Promasidor Nigeria, at the event

It was indeed a night of glamour, glitz and surprises for some journalists in Nigeria at the recently held 2015 Promasidor Quill Awards in Lagos. Reporters were pulled away from the ‘frenzy’ of the newsroom to the prestigious Sheraton Hotel, Lagos to celebrate and honour the best hands in journalism.

The high point of the night came when the winners were announced. In spite of the glamour and the glitz in the arena, anxiety was palpable on the faces of the nominees. The overall award went to a Correspondent of Vintage Press Limited, publishers of the Nation newspapers, Taiwo Alimi, while the award for the Best Report on Children was won by the correspondent of Punch Nigeria Limited; Mr. Toluwani Eniola. 
The panel of judges for this year’s awards was led by Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole (OFR), former Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria, member of the Board of the Guardian newspaper and former Nigeria’s envoy to Brazil. Other members of the panel include Kadaria Ahmed, a veteran journalist and television personality; Joseph Okonmah, Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Lagos Chapter; Reze Bonna, a trained Architect and celebrated photographer; and Ray Echebiri, a British Chevening Scholar/seasoned financial journalist.
The team converged in Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos on Wednesday, 7th May, 2015 to assess and score all the entries received from journalists spread across the nation. The exercise, which lasted for over 10 hours, saw the judges working on a tremendous number of entries received for different categories. The categories are:  Brand Advocate of the Year; CSR/Industry Report of the Year; Best Photo Story of the Year; Best Report on Nutrition; Best Report on Children; Best Report on Education; and Future Writer of the Year.
Ambassador Cole enjoined journalists to strive to improve the standard of the pen profession. He further described Alimi’s entry, Where the Blind Dare to Dream, as an exceptional one. The Bethsaida Home for the Blind, BHB, according to Alimi, is home to about 72 visually impaired students who come from different parts of Nigeria. The story is an x-ray on the complex, psychological and emotional life of the blind.
“Over 99 percent of the blind in Nigeria were not born blind. The scourge is growing due to the combination of negligence, poverty and ignorance. Sadly, to live with blindness in Nigeria is not easy. It is like living like an outcast. But the BHB provides a place for the blind to build their confidence and nurture their dreams. Here, the inmates have proved that despite their blindness, they can still see the future,” he wrote in the report.
Alimi, a sports writer could not hold back his emotion when he was announced winner. He shed tears of joy, disclosing that the award was a product of 15 years of practice. “This is my first story outside sports reporting. I actually followed my friend, a former Nigerian footballer to the place and the journalism in me took over and pushed me to do the story”.
Aside winning the overall trophy, Alimi also clinched the Category award for the Best Report on Education, thereby making a total of two honours he smiled home with. In that category, entries submitted by Attah Aloysius Emeka of Daily Sun, School Graduation for Sale; and by Titus Eleweke of The Union, Arresting Decline in Teaching Indigenous Languages in Schools were adjudged the first and second runners up respectively.
The award for the Best Report on Children was won by the correspondent of Punch Nigeria Limited; Mr. Toluwani Eniola.  His story was on the fate of four pupils abandoned by their father in a school for eight years. According to the report, among the pupils of Solid Rock Model College, located in Abule Iroko area of Ado Odo Ota Local Council of Ogun State, four are different and unusual. Seun and his three siblings are not on scholarship, but they have not paid their school fees for eight years. They also live in the hostel, not because of the magnanimity of the school owners, but for their father, Samuel Adepegba, who enrolled them in 2007, and had disappeared since then. The story presents the sorrow of the kids, the anxiety of the school proprietor and the shame of the ‘prodigal father’ who came back for the children after the story broke out in the media. The judges maintained that Eniola’s entry stood out when compared with those submitted by other nominees.
The immediate past overall winner of the awards in 2014, Kunle Falayi of Saturday Punch was not as lucky as he was last year. His entry, Lagos residents at risk from contaminated water, came second behind Eniola’s in the Children Category with Sina Fadare’s The teenage marijuana smoking epidemic, coming third.
The Guardian Newspapers Limited, also excelled as one of its correspondents, Gbenga Salau, won two awards. Salau, whose entry for the Brand Advocate of the Year category was considered best compared to others, won the trophy for the Category to beat other nominees: Olajide Fabamise of Newswatch Times and Raheem Akingbolu of ThisDay. Salau’s entry for the Best report on Nutrition Category, Nutrition as Tool to Tackle Maternal, Child Mortality, was also adjudged outstanding compared to Uche Akolisa’s How You Can Get the Best Out of Fruits (Hallmark) and Chikodi Anthony Okereocha’s Anti-malnutrition Campaign Moves to Nollywood (The Nation).
Other winners are: Seun Akioye of The Nation, winning the medal for the Best CSR and Industry Report; Gilbert Alasa of The Nation, clinching the trophy for Future Writer of the Year; as well as Ajayi Adekunle Joshua of Daily Independent, Best Photo Story.

Managing Director, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, makers of Cowbell Milk, Onga Food Seasoning, Toptea and Loya Milk and organisers of the awards, Olivier Thiry, in his opening remarks, affirmed that the company “is committed to setting the pace on rewarding journalists based on merit for their work and not a self-seeking approach to get accolades, but a professional platform of assessment, recognition and reward for outstanding journalistic work”. 
Thiry disclosed that the exercise was challenging due to the high quality of entries assessed by the judges.”
Commenting also on the awards, Head of Legal and Public Relations, Andrew Enahoro commended all journalists who submitted entries for different categories of the awards.  He assured that Promasidor would not relent in contributing to development of journalism practice in Nigeria.
Apart from the high-end lap-top and the company’s products given to the overall winner, Enahoro disclosed that Alimi will be sent to London for an all-expense paid four-week multi-media journalism training course with Thomson Foundation. He added that the overall winner would also be placed on a week’s job placement with a prominent British national news organisation. His words: “The overall winner will be provided with return flight, accommodation in London and daily living allowance ”. 
Winners from all the categories with the exception of the winner of the Best Photo Story of the Year, were given high-end laptops, while the winner of the Best Photo Story of Year was given a high-end camera for his excellent performance.
Enahoro further noted that the job of journalists is often painstaking, adding that there is no reward that can adequately compensate their efforts.

“It was in recognition of these that Promasidor Nigeria instituted the Quill Awards in 2012 as a platform for assessing, recognizing and rewarding for outstanding journalistic work. I am pleased to say that this competition has been successful since its first year. As in previous years, we have been humbled by the quality and quantity of entries for each award category which has been growing since this competition began”, he said.  

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