By Sola Ogundipe
Two scientific works have emerged as winners of the 2022 edition of The Nigeria Prize for Science instituted by the NLNG.
The winning entries were declared as the most outstanding works on “Gains in Grain Yield of Released Maize (Zea Mays L.) Cultivars under Drought and Well-Watered Conditions” by Muhydideen Oyekunle and Shehu Ado; and “Development of Process Plant for Plantain Flour” by Sesan Peter Ayodeji and Emmanuel Olatunji Olatomilola, as winners of the $100,000 prize money.
A panel of judges led by Prof Christian Ugwu Agbo of the Department of Agriculture, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, picked the winners. Other panelists are Ms. Funke Opeke, an experienced telecommunications executive and founder/CEO of Main One, and Prof Mohammed Magaji, a professor of Agronomy at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.
The Advisory Board for the Nigeria Prize for Science, Chaired by Prof Barth Nnaji, announced the judges’ verdict based on the 2022 theme “Innovations in Sustainable Food Security” on Wednesday at a media forum in Lagos. The 2021 cycle, based on the same theme, ended without a winner.
Presenting the judges’ report, Nnaji said the work(s) addressed food security which is a key component of the national agenda.
“At the global level, Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security. This entails improving the productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers by promoting equal access to land, technology and markets, resilient agricultural practices, and sustainable food production systems”, he stated. Nnaji said the judges’ choice reflects a multidisciplinary approach relevant to the theme in focus.
“The advisory board is particularly pleased that in evaluating the entries, the judges upheld the objectives of the prize which seeks to identify and promote excellence in utilizing scientific knowledge for the achievement of desired solutions”.
Speaking on the occasion, the General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, NLNG, Mr. Andy Odeh, emphasized that science can provide solutions to most of the country’s challenges.
He called for sustained support of the NLNG through the Nigeria Prize for Science to make scientific breakthroughs the biggest enabler of development in Nigeria.
Odeh also called on past winners of the Prize to synergize and become a think-tank that can generate and sustain the flow of ideas, innovation, and scientific advice to the public and private sectors.
In his view, the winning works have the potential to significantly impact the country’s food security positively and guarantee a stable, efficient, and sufficient system of food production.
Oyekunle is a maize breeder and lecturer at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, while his colleague Prof Shehu Garki Ado, a professor of Genetics and Plant Breeding is currently the vice-chancellor of Al-Qalam University Katsina.
Sesan Peter Ayodeji and Emmanuel Olatunji Olatomilola’s work on “Development of Process Plant for Plantain Flour” is important for reducing spoilage of farm products and packaging for distribution as well as a value addition for farm products. “It is resourceful in scaling up from batch production to industrial scale continuous flour production relevant beyond plantain to other food items.”
Muhyideen Oyekunle and Shehu Ado’s work on “Gains in Grain Yield of Released Maize (Zea Mays L.) Cultivars under Drought and Well-Watered Conditions” provides us with a unique opportunity. The maize seeds they selected courtesy of the breeding programme have been tested to be high-yielding and water stress tolerant. The hybrids they selected record yields of 1.73-2.51 t/ha in stress areas and 5-6 t/ha in areas with good rainfall distribution in farmers’ fields.
Ayodeji is a professor of Machine & Process Design and Applied Ergonomics at the Federal University of Technology, Akure.
Also, on the Advisory Board of the Nigeria Prize for Science, are Prof Barth Nnaji, two-time minister and former President Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Nike Akande, and Professor Yusuf, Abubakar, a professor of Animal Breeding and Quantitative Genetics, and the Coordinator of Agriculture Group, R & D Standing Committee, at the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.