The PUNCH, Nigeria’s most widely read newspaper, has reaffirmed its leadership in the media industry, emerging as the Newspaper of the Year at the 29th edition of the Nigeria Media Merit Awards 2021.
The paper, which had won the award in many previous editions, beat The Nation and Daily Trust to the highly coveted prize.
It also won in 10 other categories at the grand finale of the prestigious award held in Lokoja, Kogi State capital, on Saturday night.
The Editor, The PUNCH, Ademola Oni, narrowly lost the Dele Giwa Prize for the Editor of the Year to Adeniyi Adesina of The Nation, while the Guardian Editor was also a runner-up.
The Head, Metro Desk of The PUNCH, Samson Folarin, won the Alex Ibru Prize for Investigative Reporter of the Year, defeating a deputy editor of The Nation, Olatunji Ololade, and Justice Nwafor of the Nigerian Tribune.
Folarin was also a runner-up in the NAFCON Prize for Environment Reporter of the Year category won by Olajuwon Raji of The Nation. Umahi Uche of the Daily Sun was also a nominee in the category.
A Chief Correspondent with The PUNCH, John Alechenu, clinched the Nigerite Prize for the Real Estate/Construction Reporter of the Year. Ifeanyi Emmanuel of the New Telegraph and Kingsley Adegboye of Vanguard were runners-up.
A Chief Correspondent with PUNCH, Tunde Ajaja, was one of the biggest winners at the event. He clinched the Peter Odili Prize for Power Reporter of the Year, the IGI Prize for the Insurance Reporter of the Year and the Keystone Bank Prize for the CSR Reporter of the Year.
Ajaja was also a runner-up in the Lateef Jakande Prize for Political Reporter of the Year won by The Nation’s Deputy Editor, Emmanuel Oladesu. Ibrahim Yusuf of The Nation was also nominated for the category.
A Chief Correspondent with The PUNCH, Nike Popoola, and Assistant Head of the Business Desk, ‘Femi Asu, were runners-up in the insurance and power categories, respectively.
The Nigerian Ports Authority Prize for the Maritime Reporter of the Year was won by a Senior Correspondent with PUNCH, Afeez Hanafi, who beat Salau Adebola of The Guardian and Lucas Morenikeji of The Nation to the gong.
Hanafi also emerged as a runner-up in the Abubakar Imam Prize for the Newspaper Features Writer of the Year won by Ololade.
Another Senior Correspondent with PUNCH, Alexander Okere, and a crime editor with The Nation, Olukunle Akinrinade, were runners-up in the Ibrahim Shekarau Prize for the Education Reporter of the Year won by Isioma Madike of the New Telegraph.
Tope Omogbolagun, a Senior Correspondent with PUNCH, was a runner-up in the Bukola Saraki Prize for Agriculture Reporter of the Year won by Gbenga Salau of The Guardian. She was also nominated for the Female Reporter of the Year won by Rachael Omoniyi of the New Telegraph.
A former Senior Correspondent of The PUNCH, Ade Adesomoju, was declared the winner of the Gani Fawehinmi Prize for the Human Rights Reporter of the Year, edging out Juliana Francis of the New Telegraph and Grace Obike of The Nation.
Another ex-PUNCH Correspondent, Jesusegun Alagbe, won the Coca-Cola Nigerian Prize for the Brand & Marketing Reporter of the Year, defeating Princewill Ekwujuru of Vanguard and Sulaimon Olanrewaju of the Nigerian Tribune. Alagbe was also nominated for the Aviation Industry Reporter of the Year won by Kelvin Okunbor of The Nation.
The prize for the News Photographer of the Year went to a photojournalist with The PUNCH, Saheed Olugbon, while Olatunji Obasa, also a photojournalist with The PUNCH, and Ibe Ikechukwu of the Daily Trust were runners-up.
A Senior Correspondent with The PUNCH, Okechukwu Nnodim, emerged as a runner-up in the Chevron Nigeria Prize for Oil & Gas Reporter of the Year won by Chikodi Okereocha of The Nation.
A late columnist with The PUNCH, Dr Obadiah Malafia, won the Alade Odunewu Prize for the Columnist of the Year. A minute’s silence was observed in the honour of the economist. Another PUNCH columnist, Olalekan Sote, and that of Vanguard, Azu Ishiekwene, were nominees in the category.
The PUNCH was a runner-up in the Editorial Writing of the Year won by the Nigerian Tribune.
In the radio category, Sunday Onyeyirichi of the Nigeria Info was named the Radio Broadcaster of the Year and Presenter, Radio Programme of the Year, while Olufunke Fayemi of the Voice of Nigeria won the Radio Production of the Year. Ray Power was declared the Radio Station of the Year.
Akande Emmanuel of the TVC and Ngozi Alaegbu of Arise TV emerged the Television Reporter of the Year and the Television Newscaster of the Year, respectively. A former Channels TV broadcaster, Gimba Umar, was declared the Television Programme Presenter of the Year, while Dooshima Pius-Ikerave of the NTA won in the Television Production of the Year category.
The Television Drama of the Year went to Medium, while Channels TV was named the Television Station of the Year.
According to The NMMA Trust, a total of 1,050 entries, the highest ever received since the inauguration of the awards in 1991, were received for this year’s edition. The entries were also said to be of high quality.
In his address, the Kogi State Governor, Mr Yahaya Bello, called on journalists to remain factual at all times.
Bello explained that the need to tackle fake news could not be overemphasised, because media professionals, as the fourth estate of the realm, were more powerful than the government.