President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the belief that Nigeria’s collective future rests on active participation in science and technology.

The President spoke on Tuesday at State House in Abuja when he conferred the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award for years 2020 and 2021 on three Nigerians who distinguished themselves in the field of medicine and science.

The recipients were Dr Oluyinka Olurotimi Olutoye, Medicine (2020); the late Professor Charles Ejike Chidume, Science (2020); and Professor Godwin O. Samuel Ekhaguere, Science (2021).

“Please endeavour, at all times, to serve as beacons of hope and aspiration for the younger generation of Nigerians, reminding them that our survival and collective future as a nation ultimately rests on our being active participants in global developmental efforts, especially in science and technology,” Buhari told the recipients.

The President said since the Nigerian National Merit Award was established 43 years ago, the addition of the three recipients would bring the total number of recipients to 79.

Buhari, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, added that the integrity of the award underscored the high expectations of the nation that the new recipients, like their predecessors, would continue to hold the banners of creativity and intellectual excellence very high.

The President, while congratulating the three awardees, expressed the government’s appreciation for the patience of the 2020 Award winners, who had to wait close to two years to receive their Award due to the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020.

Buhari, who recognized families, friends, associates and well-wishers who were present at the Council Chambers in State House, enjoined youths in the country to emulate the good works of the laureates by dedicating themselves to “excellence and strive to contribute their quota to the arduous task of getting Nigeria on the top bracket of outstanding nations.”

The Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume said the three intellectuals emerged winners for the 2020 and 2021 Award after the selection process, from the over 1,200 applications received by the NNOM Governing Board during the period under consideration.

“It is important to state that Prof Charles Ejike Chidume died after he was selected and recommended for approval to Mr President and he will be given the award posthumously,” he said.

The Minister called on Nigerian universities to rise up to the challenge and continue to lead in innovative research targeted at providing solutions to the myriad of problems affecting the country, especially post COVID-19 era.

In his remarks, the Chairman NNMA Governing Board, Prof Aku announced that recipients of the prestigious award bestowed by Nigeria on its citizens for creative, intellectual and academic contributions that are of national and global importance receive a cash reward of N10 million each.

The recipients of the award are divided into four areas- Medicine, Science, Engineering and Technology, and the Humanities, including Education and Culture, Prof Aku said.

Prof Olutoye, the recipient of the 2020 NNOM Award for science, is credited to have led a team that performed ground-breaking surgical procedures on foetuses before they are born.

In 2016, in a feat that has been hailed as the first by an African, he performed a surgical procedure on a foetus with a sacrococcygeal teratoma, which is a tumour that develops before birth and grows from a baby’s tailbone.

He is currently the Surgeon-in-Chief at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, United States.

Prof Chidume, the recipient of the 2020 NNOM posthumous Award for science, was the Acting President of the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja before his demise on October 7, 2021.

The works of the globally renowned Professor of Mathematics encompass several fields including Nonlinear Functional Analysis, Nonlinear Operator Theory and Differential Equations, Nonlinear Optimisation.

Prof Ekhaguere, the recipient of the 2021 NNOM Award for science, is a professor of Mathematical Physics.

He created and pioneered the theory of Quantum Stochastic Differential Inclusion (QSDIs) that has greatly improved the entire Science Community’s understanding of those pathological quantum systems whose governing equation involves discontinuous coefficient.