Two scientific works win The Nigeria Prize for Science 2022

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The 2022 edition of The Nigeria Prize for Science, on Wednesday, announced two 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.

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

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.

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”, he stated.

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”.

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 breeding programme has been tested to be high yielding and water stress tolerant. The hybrids they selected records 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.
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 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.

He commended the Board and Management of Nigeria LNG for instituting, sponsoring, and sustaining what is arguably the biggest Science Prize in Africa.

Winners of this year’s edition of the prize are Muhyideen Oyekunle, a Maize Breeder and Lecturer at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, and his colleague Prof Shehu Garki Ado, an agricultural expert, eminent academic, and researcher of international repute. He is a professor of Genetics and Plant Breeding and is currently the vice-chancellor of Al-Qalam University Katsina.

Professor Sesan Peter Ayodeji is a professor of Machine & Process Design and Applied Ergonomics at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, and his colleague is Emmanuel Olatunji Olatomilola.

The decision on the winning entries was reached by a panel of judges, led by Professor Christian Ugwu Agbo. Professor Agbo is a professor in the Department of Agriculture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Other members on the panel are Ms. Funke Opeke and Prof Mohammed Magaji. Ms. Opeke is an experienced telecommunications executive and the founder/CEO of MainOne while Professor Magaji is a professor of Agronomy at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.

For the Advisory Board of the NigeriaPrize for Science, in addition to Professor Nnaji, are Chief Dr. Nike Akande, a two-time minister and former President Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry; 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.

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