Ghanaian journalist and the founding Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Estate, Manasseh Azure Awuni, has been adjudged the overall best African Investigative Journalist at the 2023 Norbert Zongo African Prize for Investigative Journalism (PAJI-NZ).
The awards ceremony, which was held Saturday night in Burkina Faso, honoured outstanding investigative journalism works from 140 entries received from 29 countries.
Mr Awuni won the ultimate prize of the night after winning the gold prize in the television category and the silver in the online category. He took home plaques, certificates, and a US$4,000 cash prize.
The story that won the first prize for the television category and the ultimate prize, The COVID-19 spraying scandal initiated by President Akufo-Addo, exposed how Ghana’s president initiated a fraudulent and needless COVID-19 spraying exercise that cost the nation about US$100 million.
The investigation revealed that the spraying exercise was contrary to the World Health Organisation’s advice, which was against exercises of that nature. It also revealed that even if the exercise was needed, there were multiple existing government contracts covering all parts of Ghana to undertake the exercise.
The story further showed, with hardcore evidence, that the assemblies in Ghana had the capacity to undertake the spraying exercise, but they were forced to step aside for a new contract to be awarded to Zoomlion Ghana Limited.
The Licensed Sex Predator story, which won the second prize in the online category, is a three-part investigative series that exposed a quack health practitioner who used his registered practice to lure and sexually assault scores of women who sought treatment at his facility.
State authorities in Ghana arrested the licensed sex predator, closed his facility, and put him before the court, putting an end to his exploitation of desperate victims and unsuspecting victims.
Ghana’s Parliament recently directed all Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies to cancel all fumigation contracts with Zoomlion Ghana Limited, the sanitation company the President engaged for the fumigation exercise. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee described the contracts as a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Manasseh did extensive work on the existing spraying and fumigation contracts in his Robbing the Assemblies investigative series in 2017.
“I am particularly happy about this award because of the story that won me the ultimate prize, the spraying scandal,” Mr Awuni said of his recognition. “Because it involved Zoomlion, media houses did not want to broadcast it. Zoomlion had paid for media coverage for the exercise.”
The Norbert Zongo African Prize for Investigative Journalism (PAJI-NZ), named after the slain Burkinabe investigative journalist Norbert Zongo, is aimed at rewarding African journalists who carry out high-quality investigations into corruption, organised crime, human rights violations, governance, environmental crime, and terrorism in print, radio, television, and online media.
In 2021, Mr Awuni was the first runner-up for the television category for his investigative story, Contracts for Sale.
Before this award, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) named ‘The Licensed Sex Predator’ as one of the 10 best investigative stories in sub-Saharan Africa in 2021.
The GIJN also named The COVID-19 Spraying Scandal Initiated by President Akufo-Addo as one of its most outstanding stories for the month of January 2022.
The Licensed Sex Predator also received a nomination for the People Journalism Prize for Africa, and the One World Media Awards, organised by the United Kingdom-based One World Media Foundation, nominated Manasseh’s investigation of the spraying scandal in the 2022 edition of its global awards.
Manasseh Azure Awuni is currently studying at Harvard University, following the award of a one-year Nieman Journalism Fellowship.
His previous works have resulted in the imprisonment of government and private individuals, the cancellation of contracts amounting to hundreds of millions of United States dollars, and the passage of a law by Ghana’s parliament.