Yusuf Akinpelu

Country/area: Nigeria

Organisation: PREMIUM TIMES

Organisation size: Small

Cover letter:

Before I joined the BBC Lagos as an Interactive Journalist this year, I led the data desk at PREMIUM TIMES, Nigeria’s only Pulitzer-winning newspaper, with about a dozen awards and fellowships under my belt, becoming one of the youngest reporter-editor in my country. 

I have led a series of data projects which has produced tremendous success in terms of reach and impact. 

Under my leadership, my team was a able to publish scores of groundbreaking data stories, most authored by me, others co-authored.

I provided editorial advise in the data visualisation for the maiden edition of PREMIUM TIMES’ bank report last year. 

After a yearlomg data collection and analysis, my team also published a story on what Nigerian asylum seekers tell Canadian authorities to entry into the Great White North. We did this by analysis and collating details of court transcripts published by the Canadian Federal Court and converting the information into spreadsheet format before analysing it and eventual storytelling. 

Similarly, for the first time in Nigeria’s history, I reviewed the curriculum vitae of the nation’s current ministers and state governors and converted details in it into excel spreadsheet format. The three-part report compared the educational qualifications, age and alma mater of the nation’s current ministers. This is one of the projects I applied with. 

Prior to heading the data desk, I covered the National Assembly for the newspaper.

I won the bronze trophy in the online category of the 2021 Norbert Zongo African Prize for Investigative Journalism for my story on how dirty fuels imported in Nigeria kill many.

I’m a two-time fellow of the Oil and Gas Reporting programme organised by the Natural Resource and Extractives Programme (NAREP), a project of Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.

I was also a fellow of Civil Media Lab’s Criminal Justice Reporting programme, where I reported about jungle justice.

I give life to data by telling stories and taking data beyond the surface and digging deep by unveiling the humans behind them.

This I do through compelling visualisation, excellent storytelling and critical analysis. Doing this, I’ve published over 50 stories.

A graduate of statistics from the University of Ibadan, I’m also a satirist with Punocracy, and I’ve authored over three dozens fact checks for DUBAWA, a leading fact checking platform in Nigeria.

In 2019, I was shortlisted for the Wealth of Nations/Thomson Reuters Foundation Reporting on illicit finance in Africa. The same year, I won the 2019 Youth Digest Campus Journalism Award of the Best News Writer, and 2018 UCJUI Award for Campus Journalist of the year.

My exploits at Nigeria’s leading investigative newspaper has opened doors for me, one of which informed how the BBC snapped me up to bring Mt wealth of experience to improve their data storytelling.

I am particularly motivated to follow the path less followed by telling solution-driven human angle data stories. This is what ranks me as one of the best hands in the craft in my country.

I also offer, for a large number of my peers and even senior colleagues in the field, mentorship and editorial advice in helping them chart accelerated growth in their career path. 

Description of portfolio:

My entries focused on four areas of human development: environment, governance, education and criminal justice system. On environment, my three stories mined data from Nigeria’s government-run petroleum company, NNPC, audit report which hadn’t been published for over 40 years. The data examined the fiscal leakage and waste Nigeria incurs from the maintenance of its decrepit refineries as well as spending on the out-of-touch refineries over the years. The other parts examined the various data on how the importation of dirty fuels way below European standard are imported into Nigeria because of regulation laxity, thereby endangering the lives of Nigerians. I spoke with the people behind the data by humanising the story and visualising it. The story was further fledged by conduct crossborder research on the prices of fuel across other African countries. No sooner had the series being completed than the Nigerian government began the launch of its gas policy which ensures Nigeria taps into its huge proven natural gas deposits. One of the stories has won a continental award this year. On governance, I analysed the curriculum vitae of Nigeria’s current 44 ministers. Extracting information into spreadsheet format to tell data story was the goal. Upon analysis, I was able to extract their ages, their educational qualifications and alma mater. Having to pore through hundreds of pages of resumes while comparing information with background checks took weeks. There were instances of missing information in the resumes, this was overcome by further research especially using biographies and historical information about the person in question. The three-part story was able to achieve one major discourse: the discrepancy between Nigerians and those that lead them. For instance, while more than 80 per cent of Nigerians haven’t celebrated their 40th birthday, all but one of the ministers, including the one for youths, are way above their 50th birthday. The ministers’ average age was 61 years. Appointing older citizens as ministers has been norm since the return to democracy in 1999, with the exception being in the early years after that when two ministers in their 30s were appointed. That was the youngest ever since then. The piece checked the government in its subsequent appointments with the appointment of a 40-year-old Abdulrasheed Bawa as the nation’s antigraft agency boss. On the criminal justice system, I titled the two-part series “Dying Inside.” This was to mirror how Nigerian prisons risk dying before their day in court due to the poor condition of the prisons and overcrowding. In never-seen-before jail daata, which is never published by the prison authorities, I was able to paint a vivid picture of the prison situation in the country. The data was obtained in confidence from the records department of the correctional centre, in liaison with another journalist, Juliana Francis of the News Telegraph. It detailed the breakdown of the state-by-state as well as prison-by-prison figure of prisoners in the country, those awaiting trial, those convicted and those on death row. The story ultimately reignited the discussion around death penalty in the country. It opened up on the condition of the inmates on death row and how conservative governors would rather hold inmates on death row for years than sign their death warrant. Still, despite that they seldom use the law, they wouldn’t repeal it. The story picked the interest of the Death Penalty Project which reshared the story. On education, I analysed the official state-by-state out-of-school children data but did not stop there. I went further to collate the federal allocation to each state since the beginning of the Buhari presidency in 2015 and compare the states with the highest

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