During the pandemic, as authorities around the world provided relief to small businesses affected by shutdowns and restrictions, one Lagos-based media organization funded journalists in Nigeria to investigate whether the government was indeed keeping to its promises.
Through its COVID-19 Reality Check project, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism provided grants for journalists from local newsrooms to report on different aspects of the government’s interventions during the pandemic.
“We saw a trend and we saw a need to change our program focus for the year to be able to respond like every other sector, like the health and education sectors, in ways that help,” Motunrayo Alaka, the Centre’s coordinator, said. “We wanted to know the realities of people in terms of warfare, water and sanitation, security accessibility, education, and supply of electricity and the healthcare system. Are they in tune with the realities of the people? Are the people experiencing this?”
COVID-19 Reality Check has funded stories about the pandemic’s impact on women health workers and religious gatherings, as well as how people defied lockdowns and restrictions to host weddings and funerals.
“We reported how young people are more carriers of the virus and the old being more susceptible to death when they contract the virus; how people violated the interstate travels and how the security forces were complicit in this, and the use of funds and the transparency in sharing of the palliatives,” said Alaka, adding that the Centre understood from the beginning that COVID-19 was a moving train and that, if you wanted to catch it, you needed to jump on.
“In-house, we decided to take the risk. Ordinarily, we are an organization that is focused on investigative reporting. But for COVID-19, we realized that the most important issue for that time was access to information,” said Alaka. “We tweaked our focus as an organization a bit to be able to respond to the moment and to be able to deliver for Nigerians.”
by Patrick Egwu and Ifesinachi Ayogu, International Journalists’ Network