The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) says it has postponed the integrity award to be presented to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to protest against Omoyele Sowore’s rearrest in court.
In a statement on Monday, the centre said honouring Osinbajo with the award in the light of recent protests against Sowore’s travails and the “repression“ of free speech will be inappropriate.
The WSCIJ earlier announced that it would present an ‘integrity specialty of the anti-corruption defender award’ to the vice-president at its annual award ceremony in Lagos.
It had said the recognition is for Osinbajo’s “invaluable work of overhauling the Lagos State Judiciary, facilitating far-reaching reforms in the administration of justice in the state, his work of promoting integrity in the civil society and business in Nigeria and his consistency as a strong voice for promoting integrity in the country”.
But the vice-president has been called out over the current administration’s clamp down on free speech and Sowore’s trial.
Although the activist was finally released after various court orders, he was re-arrested in a dramatic scene on Friday when he returned to court for his trial.
In the statement signed by Motunrayo Alaka, its executive director, WSCIJ said the award ceremony will go on as scheduled, but it was silent on whether the award will be presented to the vice-president on a new date.
The statement read: “The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism has postponed the presentation of award to the Nigerian Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. The postponement was decided on, to align with protests against the repression of freedom of speech in recent times especially the incident between the Department of State Security (DSS) and Omoleye Sowore, Publisher of Sahara Reporters, on Friday 6 December. The Vice President himself shares this awareness and the inappropriateness of the award at this point.
“The award presentation programme will hold as scheduled on Monday, 9th December 2019 by 6pm. 13 journalists from print, online, television, radio, photo, and editorial cartoon categories will be celebrated. Veteran photojournalist, Sunmi Smart-Cole and Amnesty International Nigeria will also be presented honorary awards of the Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence and the Anti-Corruption Defender Award (Human Rights Specialty) respectively.
“The WSCIJ holds the award presentation event on December 9, the World Anti-Corruption Day and eve of the World Human Rights Day to highlight the importance of investigative reporting as a tool for accountability, good governance and social justice in a democracy. The award event is free to attend for members of the general public.”