Making Science Work In Nigeria – Taiwo Obe

Oh: how the years have rolled by. To think that it’s been a little over 15 years that the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited publicly unveiled the Nigeria Prizes for Science and Literature. Of the Nigeria Prize for Science, the then NLNG MD, Dr Andrew Jamieson, had said at that launch: “By instituting a significant prize for science, NLNGseeks to bring science to public attention and avail the nation of its immense benefits.” In his own contribution, the then President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof Gabriel Ogunmola, said it was “a great moment for Nigeria (and) the prize would be a great challenge to the scientists working in Nigeria (Nigerian and non-Nigerian alike) and the total scientific enterprise of this nation.”

It is remarkable that the competition is still ongoing, because, for several years (2005, 2007, 2011, 2012), no winner could be declared from the submitted entries and for three years (2013-2015), the competition was not held. So, the company had to make the Prize more about finding actionable solutions to the country’s challenges. Innovations in malaria control That was why, in 2016, the Prize was aimed at innovations in malaria control. Sadly, only 15 entries were received which were considered insufficient and lacking in quality. But, because the company believed that malaria must be faced down, it renewed the theme for 2017.  That year, the entries were 27 and three research works by  Drs Ikeoluwapo Ajayi, Ayodele Jegede and Bidemi Yusuf, all of the University Ibadan (“Improving Home and Community Management of Malaria: Providing the Evidence Base”); Prof Olugbenga Mokuolu of the University of Ilorin (“Multifaceted Efforts at Malaria Control in Research: Management of Malaria of Various Grades and Mapping Artemisinin Resistance”) and Dr Chukuma Agubata (“Novel lipid microparticles for effective delivery of Artemether antimalarial drug using a locally-sourced Irvingia fat from nuts of Irvingiagabonensisvarexcelsa (ogbono))” were found worthy of being awarded as joint winners. They shared the monetary reward of US$100,000. When the Prize was introduced, the prize was US$20,000. Another good point is that two of the past winners of the Prize are now part of the Advisory Board. In fact, the chairman, Prof Alfred AkpovetaSusu, was a co-winnerwith his doctoral student, Kingsley Abhulimen, of the maiden edition of the Prize with their work on real-time pipeline leak detection. Michael Adikwu, a professor of pharmaceutics and the vice chancellor of University of Abuja, who, in 2006, showed in his winning work (Wound Healing Devices (Formulations) Containing Snail Mucin) that snail mucins can play a key role in the pharmaceutical industry, is the other.

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