Twenty-nine scientists are presently embroiled in a winner-takes-it-all contest to find long-lasting solutions to challenges of erosions, droughts and desertification plaguing different parts of the country.
This is what the contest is all about in the 2019 edition of The Nigeria Prize for Science, sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), which has put on the table a cash prize of $100,000.
The science prize, first awarded in 2004, is now in its 15th year, and additionally, NLNG has broadened the scope of the contestants to include people from all over the world, not just for Nigerians.
Details on the 2019 prize contest were revealed, last week, during the handover of the 2019 entries to the Advisory Board of the prize. This activity signifies the beginning of the judging process which will culminate in the announcement of a winner.
While handing over the entries to the Advisory Board, chaired by Professor Alfred Akpoveta Susu, NLNG’s Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Andy Odeh said, “The business of scientific innovation and research is not an easy task anywhere in the world. In Nigeria, it is even more difficult because of the paucity of research funds and the resulting increasing lack of interest.”
He stated further that Nigeria LNG will continue through the Nigeria Prize for Science to find excellence even if it is to be found “in the darkest corner” as NLNG is committed to changing the narrative of the nation through scientific prowess, through which many nations have excelled.
Odeh pointed out that although Climate Change remained a myth to so many people, its impact could be seen on the nation’s environment and agriculture. “We have all seen the growing rate of desertification in the northern part of our country, he said, adding “Climate Change is real and that is why NLNG believes that solutions to this threat can be engendered through a competition such as The Nigeria Prize for Science. The prize is another opportunity for NLNG to contribute to the development of the country.
“The Nigeria Prize is open to all irrespective of nationality. What is common to all past and prospective winners is the focus on solving Nigeria’s problems through scientific endeavours. It does not matter who finds solutions to the Nigerian problems.
He said, “All that counts is that it helps to build a better Nigeria, in line with the vision of Nigeria LNG.”
The entries, which came in response to a call published in national dailies in February 2019, would be examined on their merits of excellence in advancing the frontiers of knowledge in or providing innovative solutions to the issue of climate change in Nigeria, he said.
Receiving the entries on behalf of the Advisory Board, Professor Susu, remarked that regardless of how large or how small the number of entries were, the judging process for the competition must take its course, and assured Nigerians that the advisory board would deliver according to their mandate which is based on the values of integrity and excellence. He enjoined the judges to understand that “judging the prize goes beyond the prize itself. It is contributing to nation-building and we must never compromise on excellence.”
The entries were immediately handed over to the panel of judges, chaired by Professor Deborah Ajakaiye, who assured Nigerians that the judges were completely aligned to NLNG’s core values of Integrity and Excellence in carrying out their duties. She added that finding solutions to climate change through the prize was timely as there were forces fast eating up the land mass from all corners of the country.
Professor Ajakaiye is the first female Physics Professor in Nigeria. She was the first Black African to be awarded a Lifetime Honorary Fellowship of the Geological Society of London, England for her singular research work on the origin and evolution of the Younger Granites of Northern Nigeria. Over her career, she has lectured on Earth Science related topics at University of Manitoba, Canada, and in some Nigerian Universities.
Other members of the panel are Professor Peter Nnabude and Professor Abdullahi Emmanuel Bala. Professor Nnabude is a Professor of Soil Science and Land Resources Management at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. Some of his achievements include the development of post-tillage soil management techniques for rural farmers and the development of rice mill waste utilization for soil and water management. Professor Bala is a professor in the department of Geology, Federal University Lokoja, Lokoja. His achievements include research in the hydrogeology of the basement comlex of Nigeria and application of Landsat_5 Tm data to natural resources investigation.
On the prize’s Advisory Board are Professor Michael Adikwu, Vice-Chancellor, University of Abuja and also a past winner of the science prize; Professor Elijah Mshelia, a nuclear physicist; Professor Barth Nnaji, renowned scientist and former Minister of Power; and Chief Dr. Nike Akande, two-time minister and President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s premier chamber of commerce.
The first winner for the Nigeria Prize for Science was Professor Akpoveta Susu and his then doctoral student, Kingsley Abhulimen. In 2005, there was no winner. Professor Michael Adikwu won the prize in 2006. In 2007, as in 2005, there was no winner.However, in 2008, Dr. Ebenezer Meshida emerged winner.
Professor Andrew Nok and Professor Akii Ibhadode won the prize in 2009 and 2010 respectively. There was no winner until 2017 when the prize was jointly awarded to three entries by Ikeoluwapo Ajayi, Ayodele Jegede, Bidemi Yusuf, Olugbenga Mokuolu and Chukwuma Agubata. In 2018, Dr. Peter Ngene was awarded the Science Prize, for his work in ’Innovation in Electric Power’.