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Why Prof. Osinbajo turned down Anti-corruption Defender Award of 2019

by Oluwasaye Rachael

In the aftermath of the rejection of the Anti-corruption Defender Award of 2019 by Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yomi Osinbajo originally scheduled to be awarded to him by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ), the Vice President’s team has clarified why he turned down the award.

The award organisers has 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.

Reacting to the development, the Office of the Vice President has therefore made public a letter sent to the centre indicating that he has two reasons why he would didn’t attend the event which held yesterday, Monday, December 9, 2019, in Lagos.

Prof/ Osinbajo said his first reason was that he would be in Abu Dhabi for an international meeting under the auspices of the government of the United Arab Emirates where he was the keynote speaker. His second reason was however that he thought it is insensitive to attend the ceremony in view of the recent developments on Friday concerning the Sowore case.

He said that he was extremely grateful for the recognition and award titled ‘Integrity Specialty of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Anti-corruption Defender Award of 2019’

“Please accept my heartfelt apologies and extend the same to the other members of the organising team. God bless you,” the letter reads in part.

The Centre thereby postponed the integrity award to be presented to the Vice-President in order to protest against Omoyele Sowore’s rearrest in court.

In a statement released to the public, the Centre however agreed that honouring Osinbajo with the award in the light of recent protests against Sowore’s travails and the ‘repression’ of free speech will be inappropriate.

Although Sowore was finally released after various court orders, he was re-arrested in a dramatic scene last Friday when he returned to court for his trial.

In the statement signed by Motunrayo Alaka, the Centre’s Executive Ddirector, WSCIJ went ahead with the award ceremony as scheduled, but it was silent on whether the award will be presented to the Vice-President on a new date.

“The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism has postponed the presentation of award to the Nigerian Vice President, Yemi OsinbajoThe 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 statement read.

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