Umar Audu wins Anyim Ude award for report exposing certificate racketeering in Nigeria, Benin Republic

Friday Ajagunna
Friday Ajagunna
Umar Audu with the award

Umar Audu, a journalist with the Daily Nigerian, has been awarded the Anyim Ude prize for the best investigative reporter of the year by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The maiden award ceremony, held in Abuja on Saturday, was organised by the NUJ to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.

Audu was recognised for his undercover report exposing a certificate racketeering syndicate in the neighbouring Benin Republic that specialises in selling university degree certificates to willing buyers in Nigeria.

He was presented with a cheque for N1 million sponsored by the family of the late Anyim Ude, a legendary broadcaster and former senator representing Ebonyi South.

In the investigation, the undercover reporter bagged a university degree from Cotonou in six weeks.

The certificate and transcript bore the authentic scan code of ESGT, which is accredited by the Benin Republic and Nigeria.

The certificate showed that the reporter commenced his programme in 2018 and graduated on September 5, 2022, after which he proceeded to enrol in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme without detection.

The investigation also showed that racketeering agents in Nigeria were colluding with top management of the university campus in  Cotonou, whose registrar and English section coordinators are Nigerians.
In reaction, the federal government suspended the evaluation and accreditation of Togolese and Beninese degree certificates—a move that affected over 45 universities.

Chris Isiguzo, NUJ president, said the award was instituted to honour and reward a reporter who has done the best investigative reporting in the year under review.

Isiguzo said the story must have a significant positive national and international impact, leading to system improvements and enhancing the citizens’ quality of life.

Audu thanked the NUJ and members of the jury for selecting his report, noting that the award would motivate him and other journalists to engage more in investigative journalism.

“It is essential to acknowledge the daunting challenges journalists face in our country and globally, from threats to life to intimidation, censorship, and accusations of misinformation,” he said.

“However, our work becomes even more critical in the face of these daunting challenges. We need fearless and independent journalists who are willing to shine a light in the darkest corners of society.”

Audu urged journalists and stakeholders to continue to defend press freedom, uphold ethical standards, and strive for accuracy and fairness in reporting.

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