‘It Was A Game Changer’: HumAngle Fellowship Alumni Share Success Stories

Former programme participants in Borno and Yobe states gathered to share inspiring stories of how they have contributed to promoting accountability in their communities.

In a significant move to promote accountability in public and private sectors across communities in North East Nigeria, HumAngle’s top editors engaged with alumni of the organisation’s Accountability Fellowship in Borno and Yobe states.

The interaction featured participants from all four fellowship cohorts, including the ongoing one. Since the programme commenced in 2022 with the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation, HumAngle has trained 36 young men and women from Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe—also known as the BAY states. 

According to the organisation’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Ahmad Salkida, the engagement’s main objective was to interact with the fellows, gain insights into their activities and the programme’s impact, and discuss ways to strengthen active participation in accountability matters across the region. 

The past fellows, who underwent rigorous training through the six-month program, shared how the fellowship impacted their community efforts. 

They highlighted various work and training opportunities they have benefited from as a result of the HumAngle programme, stating that their experiences have significantly enhanced their capacity to advocate for accountability, transparency, and good governance in their respective communities. They also noted that the experience opened up multiple opportunities for them.

“The Accountability Fellowship transformed my approach to community activism,” said Ijasini Ijani, an alumnus of the second cohort in Borno who was inducted in 2023. “The skills and knowledge I gained have allowed me to effectively engage with government officials conducting wrongdoing and ill practices and drive change in our local governance.”

Ijasini’s in-depth reports on highway extortion by security agencies and how Nigerian soldiers unlawfully seized farmland belonging to locals in Borno have brought about significant change in areas affected.

“I have developed a strong passion for questioning accountability-related issues in public sectors across my communities because of the fellowship. The experiences, training, and skills I acquired have made me an active member of society, and the impact of my work has opened windows to job opportunities with local and international organisations,” he said. 

He is currently doing accountability work with an international organisation and rendering research and journalism consultancy to local organisations. “This was all possible because of the programme’s impact, and I hope the current fellows will utilise this great opportunity.”

Ijasini added, “Leaving behind my radiography background, I am now developing and driving initiatives that promote accountability in the humanitarian and public sectors. HumAngle has given me all, and I am grateful.”

L-R: Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu (HumAngle Managing Editor), Ahmad Salkida, Jibrin Kolo Adamu, and Ijasini Ijani. Photo: Usman Abba Zanna/HumAngle.

Jibrin Kolo Adamu, a fellow from the third cohort who covered southern Borno, also expressed his gratitude for the learning opportunities that shaped his career. 

“I had a journalism background, but my mode of storytelling has changed significantly since the program. I now write better impactful stories that expose accountability-related issues in my state,” he said.

He added that he was able to land an advocacy job with a humanitarian organisation thanks to the fellowship.

“One of my major success stories is the crowdfunding of $27,000 I conducted for a project, and it is all because of the training and skills I acquired for advocacy and accountability during the fellowship programme.”

Halima Bawah, a climate change advocate based in Borno who participated in the third cohort, said the fellowship equipped her with social interaction skills.

“I was concerned about the pressing issues around climate change affecting our communities, but I didn’t have the confidence to express myself nor a platform where I could share my climate change activism,” she explained.

“After the fellowship, I could express myself and engage on issues that matter on social media platforms. I became an active advocate of accountability in areas deeply affected by climate change and brought solutions to some of the challenges.” 

Halima’s advocacy goes beyond writing reports.

“Seeing the great works other fellows were doing, the fellowship pushed me into becoming a full-time climate change activist, and now I am proudly doing a project of turning plastic waste around the capital city into useful materials. This is indeed a great achievement for me,” she said.

“Halima’s good project is something HumAngle will support, and our commitment is to see how we can promote it on our platform,” the organisation’s CEO said, commending her work.

Rukaiya Ahmed Alibe, a fellow from the ongoing fourth cohort, said the programme has given her an opportunity to connect with like-minded people who are passionate about accountability and transparency. “This network has been invaluable in supporting my work and amplifying our collective voice for change,” she observed.

L-R: Fellows Usman Bashir Abubakar, Rukaiya Ahmed Alibe, Abba Kyari and Halima Bawah, and Abdulkareem Haruna (HumAngle Lake Chad Editor). Photo: Usman Abba Zanna/HumAngle

Past fellows in Yobe state were also happy to receive the staff from HumAngle and shared their success stories to inspire members of the ongoing cohort.

Baba Abdullahi Machina, an alumnus of the first cohort, said HumAangle broadened his knowledge of political participation and engagement and, above all, strengthened his journalism skills, which he uses to promote accountability, transparency, and good governance in his state. 

He said that as a result of the fellowship, he was selected for several notable journalism opportunities, including the International Center for Investigative Reporting’s Open Contract Reporting (OCR) Fellowship. 

“This opportunity allowed me to delve deeper into accountability reporting and honed my skills in investigative journalism. Additionally, I was chosen for the UDEME Accountability Fellowship, where I wrote an impactful story on procurement-related issues in Yobe. This story was published by Premium Times, amplifying its reach and impact.”

He added that one of his most significant projects was collaborating with a colleague on the Great Green Wall initiative. They highlighted the lack of community ownership that has affected the initiative’s sustainability and examined various environmental challenges in northern Yobe, including desert encroachment and drought. 

“Our reporting drew attention to the initiative’s shortcomings and sparked discussions on improving its implementation to effectively combat climate change-related issues in the region,” he said.

Ahmad Salkida interacting with fellows from Yobe state. Photo: Usman Abba Zanna/HumAngle

Samaila Zanna from the third cohort is working with members of his community to strengthen access to public sector information. 

“A key aspect of the fellowship’s impact on me is the training I had on community engagement to hold those in power accountable. One of the missing links in communities affected by issues of accountability is the access to information and now I am working closely with the community to empower them through various projects. Taking ownership of public affairs is crucial for accountability,” Samaila said.

According to him, he can now participate in critical public matters and actively engage with government stakeholders. 

Aisha Garba Darman said she was inspired by Zanna’s and other fellows’ works to bring change to her own community. She is currently working to promote accountability in the area of gender-based violence.

L-R: Samaila Zanna, Baba Abdullahi Machina and Hassana Alkali. Photo: Usman Abba Zanna/HumAngle

Najaatu Abubakar Sulaiman has similarly been promoting girl child education in areas of Yobe state where parents are slacking. “Parents in those areas are denying girl child education and this is really worrying. I work effortlessly to see that I promote the awareness and sensitisation of parents against the notion that they don’t allow girl child education.”

She added that people in those communities are happy with her advocacy efforts.

Abubakar Muktar Abba, a fellow from Borno who joined his colleagues in Yobe, said he now has bylines on various reputable media platforms thanks to his participation in the programme.

“Before the fellowship, I was just a teacher in the classroom, but afterwards, I started pursuing accountability-related stories in communities affected by armed conflict for over a decade, highlighting the poor management of public funds in our state. I am doing this through investigative reporting, which I learnt during the fellowship.” 

Like Abubakar, Hassana Alkali, who is a lawyer, did not have journalism experience before her participation. She, however, gained visibility through her reports.

“The fellowship was a game changer. Following the publication of my story, prominent media outlets such as Leadership Nigeria and The Guardian Newspaper reached out to me for interviews,” she said. 

“I also received certification in climate and environmental solutions journalism from RCDIJ. Furthermore, I was invited to join a youth-led research team by CATAI, focusing on inclusivity for youth and women-led organisations in the northeast. As co-founder of Rhino Innovation Lab, I’ve been dedicated to fostering tech communities. Recently, Connected Development invited me to join their #ProjectTrust initiative, aimed at enhancing governance.” 

“I’m now proudly preparing my scholarship application to pursue further media studies at DAAD in Germany,” Hassana added.

Salkida assured her that HumAngle would provide her with a commendation letter for the study application.

L-R: Najaatu Abubakar Sulaiman, Aisha Umar Faruk, Aisha Garba Darman, Fatima Ibrahim Gadaka, Aliyu Usman Dagona and Usman Mohammed. Photo: Usman Abba Zanna/HumAngle

During his interactions with fellows in Borno and Yobe states, Salkida expressed his satisfaction with their progress. He reiterated HumAngle’s readiness to support them and commitment to fostering a culture of accountability in the North East. 

“Our goal is to empower young people with the tools and knowledge they need to hold those in power accountable. The achievements of the fellows are a testament to the effectiveness of our programme and the dedication of these young activists.”

The organisation’s Lake Chad editor, Abdulkareem Haruna, commended the fellows for their hard work. “The report you do, initiatives you lead, and the advocacy you conduct are crucial for the development and stability of our region. Your work is making a difference, and we are here to support you every step of the way,” he assured.

The engagement concluded with a discussion on future initiatives and ways to further strengthen the network of fellows.

“This is an important gathering that has inspired all of us. We will be having an alumni network of accountability activists to foster collaboration and support,” said Usman Abba Zanna, a fellow from the maiden cohort who is now working with HumAngle as a multimedia journalist.

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Usman Abba Zanna

Usman is a multimedia journalist covering conflict, humanitarian crises, development, and peace in the Lake Chad region. He is also a media and conflict management consultant.

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