By Jimoh Babatunde

Two entries submitted by four Nigerian scientists have been  adjudged  as the best for the  $100,000 prize money for the 2022 edition of  The Nigeria Prize for Science.

The two entries  by Muhyideen Oyekunle,and his colleague, Prof Shehu Garki Ado, and that of Professor Sesan Peter Ayodeji  and his colleague, Emmanuel Olatunji Olatomilola, were chosen from 107 entries for the prize money.

The Prize’s Advisory Board, led by Professor Barth Nnaji, announced the judges’ verdict based on the 2022 theme “Innovations in Sustainable Food Security” at a press conference in Lagos, Wednesday.

This is coming after the 2021 cycle, which was based on the same theme, ended without a winner.

Prof. Nnaji, while decrying the high number of low-quality entries that do not meet the requisite criteria to merit the award, said  “after diligent consideration and objective application of the guidelines and criteria, the judges recommended two  most outstanding works on “Gains in Grain Yield of Released Maize (Zea Mays L.) Cultivers under Drought and Well Watered Conditions” by Muhyideen 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.

“Muhyideen Oyekunle and Shehu Ado’s work on “Gains in Grain Yield of Released Maize (Zea Mays L.) Cultivers under Drought and Well Watered Conditions” provides us with a unique opportunity.

He noted that the maize seeds they selected through a breeding programme has 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 against an average yield of 2 t/ha available maize varieties in Nigeria in the last five years.”

He added that Sesan Peter Ayodeji and Emmanuel Olatunji Olatomilola’s work on “Development of Process Plant for Plantain Flour” is important innovation for reducing spoilage of farm products and package for distribution as well as 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.

Referring to the judges’ report, Professor Nnaji said the work(s) addressed food security which is a key component of our 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.

Professor Nnaji said the choice of the judges reflects a multi-disciplinary approach relevant to the theme in focus.

 He added that “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”.

In his remarks on the verdict, Mr. Andy Odeh, NLNG’s General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, said the Science Prize is growing in strength as the 2022 verdict depicts.

 He stated that the Advisory Board and NLNG are working behind the scenes to review the prize for bigger impact and inclusiveness for the good of society.

He emphasized that science can provide solutions to most of the country’s challenges and urged relevant stakeholders and the public to continue to support NLNG through the Nigeria Prize for Science to make scientific breakthroughs the biggest enabler of development in Nigeria, adding that industry and public investors should consider the commercial value of the winning works.

While commending the winners for the big feat, Mr. Odeh called on all 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, adding that this will make scientific ideas and innovations beneficial to Nigerians, thereby helping to build a better Nigeria, in line with NLNG’s vision. 

He stated further that the winning works have the potential to significantly impact the country’s food security positively, guaranteeing a stable, efficient, and sufficient system of food production.

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