By Amos Aar
AS crime, corruption and other social vices continue to escalate and wreak havoc in Nigeria, National Record, with support from the MacArthur Foundation through the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), on Thursday ended a four-day retreat/training on investigative and accountability reporting aimed at building the capacity of journalists towards demanding accountability from government, its officials and other public officers as well as corporate organisations and their executives.
The programme, which commenced July 10 to July 13, 2023 in Abuja, had in attendance journalists from Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa and FCT, while experienced and award-winning journalist investigative journalist served as resource persons.
The retreat/training programme was the second organised by National Record, an online newspaper based in Abuja.
The maiden edition of the training held May 2022 as part of WSCIJ-coordinated partnership programme under the theme; “Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability,” otherwise known as CMEDIA Project.
Addressing participants at the opening ceremony on Monday, Iduh Onah, the Editor-in-Chief of National Record, urged journalists in Nigeria, particularly investigative reporters, to be ethical and thorough in investigating issues like the abuse of workers’ rights, sexual harassment, corruption and among others.
According to him, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism designed the CMEDIA Project “as a multi-level intervention for media independence to hold accountable government at all levels, public servants, private organisations and individuals in positions of authority for their actions and inactions.”
Noting that proper investigative journalism would lead to unprecedented development in Nigeria and anywhere in the world that it is practiced genuinely, Onah stated that National Record “is committed to an open society governed by civilised, democratic and accountable norms; a society whose governance code is people-driven for a secure and sustainable future.”
Similarly, project consultant/mentor, Comrade John Odah, who is the Executive Secretary of the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA), cautioned that if journalists do not keep governments, its official and other powerful actors in society on their toes to ensure a functional democracy, they have failed totally in their responsibility.
The resource persons took turns to amplify the core principles, procedures and dynamics of investigative journalism.
While Programme Director, Daily Trust Foundation, Abuja, Theophilus Abbah, spoke on the topic: “What Journalists Should Investigate,” Ejekwonyilo Ameh of Premium Times did a presentation on “Practical Guides to Writing (investigative) Report.”
On his part, Ajibola Amzat, Africa Editor, Centre for Collaborative Investigative Journalism (CCIJ), speaking on the topic; “Procedures and Techniques in Evidence-Driven Report,” tasked journalists on the essence of evidence as backbone to investigative reporting. He called on participants and other journalists to “practice true journalism rather than churnalism.”
Winner of WSCIJ overall winner of Investigative Journalist of the Year 2022, Taiwo Adebayo of the Associated Press (AP), whose presentation is on the broad topic, “Investigative Journalism,” spoke on the varying dimensions which combined to make not just good investigative reporting but generally creative, thoughtful and imaginative reporting.
He advised participants to always start their reports with the most striking issue bordering on overwhelming public interest.
Towards ensuring financial accountability to funding partners under the CMEDIA project, which the Editor-in-Chief had earlier noted posed intractable challenge in the course of year one of the project, George Oche, account’s consultant and former Accounts Officer of the Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), took participants through the fundamental ethics of financial reporting on the topic; “Principles and Guidelines of Financial Reporting.”
The last day of the training featured a clinical psychologist and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Mindspire Services, Abuja, Jurbe Simon Bisji, who in his presentation entitled; “Understanding Work-related Stress, it’s Impact on Health and Productivity of Media Industry Workers (reporters, photographers cameramen and Editors),” sensitised participants on what constitutes stress and the various techniques to avoid stress to achieve maximum productivity.