Forty scientists and 92 foreign and home based playwrights are competing for this yearâ€™s pre-eminent prizes in literature and science â€“ The Nigeria Prizes for Science and The Nigeria Prize for Literature.
The Science entries are currently being assessed by a panel of judges headed by Prof. Emeritus Anya O. Anya, a chartered biologist with over 120 scholarly publications and the chairman of the Nigeria National Merit Award Committee.Â Other members of the Anya Panel are Professor Emeritus Grace Olaniyan-Taylor, Professor Awele Maduemezia, Professor Lateef Salako and Professor Gabriel Ogunmola, a former president of the Nigerian Academy of Science.
The science prize is administered by the Nigerian Academy of Science which also nominates the judges and members of the science committee.
Prof. Andrew Jonathan Nok, of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) who was recently appointed a visiting professor at Yale University, United States, won the science award, last year for his seminal work in discovering the gene responsible for the creation of Sialidase (SD), an enzyme which causes sleeping sickness. His work will form the baseline for developing DNA based vaccines against sleeping sickness, which killed an estimated 60million Africans in 2006. Other winners include Professor Michael Adikwu, formerly of University of Nigeria Nsukka, now with the World Bank, Dr. Ebenezer Meshida, Professor Akpoveta Susu and Dr. Kingsley Ahbulimen, all of University of Lagos
The juryâ€™s decision to withhold the award of the literature prize, last year, shook the literary and educational establishment. In a brief six page report, it re-echoed the self-evident fact that the decline in reading and writing standards, evident since the 1990s, had accelerated sharply between mid 2004 and 2009.
That decision also brought Nigeria LNG Limited a large and varied postbag. While some letters registered vehement opposition to the juryâ€™s decision, majority expressed wholehearted support.
Prof. Dapo Adelugba, one of Nigeriaâ€™s foremost theatre arts teachers, and four other eminent scholars â€“ Professor Kalu Uka, Professor John Illah, Professor Mary Kolawole and Professor Abubakar Tanimu â€“ will decide the fate of the writers even as the competition gets keener both in numbers and geography. Many renowned foreign based writers are in the running for the prize.
The Adelugba panel was appointed in January 2010 by the Prof. Theo Vincent-led literature committee which has been administering the prize on behalf of the Nigerian Academy of Letters since inception. The committee is made up of distinguished professors and eminent writers and journalists. The judges have been seating in Lagos since March when they received the entries.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature awarded yearly to the best excellent work, alternating amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and childrenâ€™s literature will this year be awarded to the best excellent work submitted in the Drama genre.
Past winners of the prestigious prize include the founding father of modern Nigerian poetry, Gabriel Okara, Ahmed Yerima, Ezenwa Ohaeto, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Mabel Segun and Kaine Agary.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature and The Nigeria Prize for Science with a cash value of US$50, 000 each, the largest in Africa, now in its seventh year are registered charities (companies limited by guarantee) with the Corporate Affairs Commission and sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited.