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The Nigerian social critic Ikhide R. Ikheloa and the legal professional Anthony Omokhodion have paid the N100,000 owed 18-year-old secondary school student Ernest O. Ògúnyemí by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). Ògúnyemí notified Brittle Paper of the development.

On Sunday, 26 May, eight months after he was announced winner of the the Association of Nigerian Authors NECO/Teen Prize for Prose, Ògúnyemí revealed on Twitter that he had not yet been paid, and that in the months of his requests the ANA president Denja Abdullahi had told him, “We don’t have the money,” and afterwards, “You are very rude. Never call me again.”

In a statement on Facebook, Denja Abdullahi had explained that the problem was because of the delay by the National Examination Council (NECO) in redeeming their sponsorship pledge, and then went on to “request Ernest Ogunyemi to go tender an apology to the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) on twitter where he took the matter to or risk his prize sum being withheld until NECO pays up accordingly.”

Ògúnyemí has since written about his experience on This Is Lagos.

Here is Ikhide Ikheloa’s tweet about the payment.

“Anthony Omokhodion and I are patrons of the arts and we were appalled by the conduct of the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and upset by the young writer’s ordeal,” Ikhide R. Ikheloa told Brittle Paper in a statement on Facebook. “We are not talking about a whole lot of money, so that part was easy to do; we did want to shine a light on the toxic environment that young creatives endure in Nigeria. There is a total lack of accountability.”

He continued: “It is interesting that Mr. Denja Abdullahi, the president of ANA, was able to attend an expensive literary conference in the United States this month, but was unwilling to pay a writer what he had duly won. There is no transparency; who paid for his trip to the US?”

Asked if the payment is intended to take the place of the ANA’s obligation, Ikheloa said: “We have no interest in what ANA decides to do regarding what was owed Mr. Ogunyemi, we are just glad that technology enables us to create a warm environment and platform for aspiring writers. We salute him for his courage and eloquence in advocating for himself. Denja Abdullahi should have resigned over this disgraceful matter and not doing so will impair the effective capacity of ANA.”

We thank Ikhide R. Ikheloa and Anthony Omokhodion for their intervention.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize and the 2019 Miles Morland Writing Scholarships. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he got an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies and English & Literary Studies. He taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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