By LAWANI MIKAIRU
Five distinguished scholars have emerged recipients of the Nigerian National Order of Merit, (NNOM), for 2010 and 2011.The three winners for last year could not be conferred with the award because of the health of the then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
The winners for 2010 are Professor Andrew Jonathan Nok, under the Science category; Professor. Isidore Okpewho, and Professor. Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, both under the Humanities category; while Professor Francis Idachaba and Dr Ibok Effiong Etukudo are to receive the award in the Humanities and Engineering/ Technology categories respectively for 2011.
The Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) was established by Act No. 53 of 1979 under the then Military Administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo to confer the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award on deserving Nigerian citizens who have contributed outstandingly to national development in the areas of Science, Medicine, Engineering/Technology, Humanities, including Arts and Culture and other fields of human endeavour.
The legal instrument was later amended by Act No. 96 of 1992 which placed emphasis on according due recognition to outstanding intellectual and academic attainments as well as contributions to the general development of Nigeria.
The Act No. 96 of 1992 recognized the NNOM as an Order of Dignity that permits the recipient to use the acronym. The Award is usually conferred on the recipients by the President, Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The NNOM award which is distinct from the National Honours Award, is a separate Order of Dignity that specifically aims at recognizing, promoting and rewarding academic achievement in all fields of human endeavour.
The five distinguished academics to be conferred with the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award by President Goodluck Jonathan at the council chambers of the Aso Rock Villa on Thursday, December 1, 2011 are Professor Andrew Nok , chosen for his pioneering work on the development of a DNA vaccine encoding the TS gene of Trypanosome Congolense.
Professor Nok is well known for his works on Trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness. Other awardees for the 2010 NNOM Award include Professor. Isidore O. Okpewho, an accomplished novelist and outstanding scholar of comparative literature; Professor. Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa, who for over 50 years had propagated African Historiography at the highest possible level at home and abroad.
The third awardee, Prof. Francis S. Idachaba, is a reputable agricultural economist and consummate intellectual. Prof Idachaba, a former vice chancellor of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi and Kogi State University, Anyingba, is winner of the prestigious NNOM Award for 2011.
Also to be conferred with the NNOM Award for 2011 is Professor. Ibok Effiong Etukudo, a USA-based engineer with expertise in various technological fields including, Integrated Circuits, Chemicals Synthesis, Synthetic Fuels, Alternative Energy and Wireless Technology.
So far, a total of 65 Nigerians have been conferred with the NNOM Award since its inception in 1979. As prelude to the investiture ceremony the 4th Annual Forum of NNOM laureates holds Tuesday, November 29 2011 at the Merit House, Maitama with the theme: Employment Generation and Attitudinal Change for Rapid National Development. The former President of Ghana, Dr. John A. Kufor will be the guest speaker.
This year’s NNOM Award ceremony will also feature the Award Winners Lecture to be delivered by Prof. Ifeanyi Charles Ume,who is also NNOM laureate, on the topic: Application of Intelligent Machatronics to Quality Assessment of Chip Packages, PWBs and PWBAs. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim will be the chief host for all the events.
Chairman of the Nigerian National Merit Award Governing Board, Prof. Oluwafeyisola Adegoke, said in Abuja on Tuesday that the selection process was almost infallible, and the five were picked from about 90 applications from around the world, and were subjected to great rigours to come up with those that had made contributions that matter more, compared to the other national awards.
It is important to note that this award is not an exclusive preserve of academics alone as being erroneously held in some quarters. On the contrary, non-academics who have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields of endeavour have also received the Award. Example is Late Hajiya (Dr.) Ladi Kwali, the world acclaimed pottery expert from Niger State. The award is usually conferred by law, by Mr. President on the first Thursday of December of each year.