• Says citizens who contribute to nation deserve appreciation
• Akume: 5,000 nominees were pruned to 447 awardees
• Honours award is call to more responsibilities, says Lawan
• Lawyer describes inclusion of Education Minister in honours list as scandalous
• PDP hails Okowa, other party leaders
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, in Abuja, conferred national honours on 450 Nigerians and non-Nigerians, who have distinguished themselves in the service of the nation and humanity, saying that citizens who contribute to nation’s development deserve to be encouraged and appreciated.
Leading the 2022 National Honours Award recipients in the category of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) were Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola; immediate past CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad; Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Deputy Secretary-General of United Nations (UN), Amina Mohammed and Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.
Speaking at the event, the President commended the national awards committee, headed by Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad, a retired justice of the Supreme Court and Emir of Lafia, for his patriotic duty by diligently going through over 5,000 submissions and coming up with the recommendations.
The President noted that the screening and selection of nominees for this year’s award as always, followed established broad criteria, in accordance with the National Honours Act CAP.N43 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
They include but not limited to consistent and meaningful participation in community and/or national development; rendering unsolicited, selfless and philanthropic services to humanity; outstanding sacrifice in the defence of a cause popularly adjudged to be positive, relevant and beneficial to the nation and community.
Other criteria were distinct act of bravery in the protection and/or defence of national interest, public peace, safety of life and property, and remarkable achievement in any field of expertise where the person’s activities in that field have made significant contributions to the attainment of national goals and objectives.
Emphasising that nation building involves a lot of sacrifice by citizenry, the President declared that citizens who contribute to national development deserve to be encouraged and appreciated.
‘’We have among the recipients Okonjo-Iweala, Amina Mohammed and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who are doing our country proud on the international scene. Our dear sisters are a source of inspiration to our young women that through the dint of hard work and dedication, they can achieve greatness.
‘’We also have on the list Imam Abdullahi Abubakar, a religious leader who hid over 262 Christians in his mosque from attacks in Yelwa Gindi Akwati village in Plateau State. He is a good example of religious tolerance we preach among Nigerians.
‘’Worthy of mention are our artistes, particularly, our very own Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu (Burna Boy), who won the Grammy Awards in 2020. He along with other artistes have repositioned the Nigerian entertainment industry and placed it on the global map.
‘’Despite the present economic challenges, Nigeria still boasts of men and women of integrity; Ms. Josephine Agu, an airport cleaner returned $12,200 found in a toilet at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos as well as Ogbanago Muhammed Ibrahim, a bank security man who found and returned $10,000. Today, we celebrate their dignity and strong strength of character by conferring national honours on them, the President said.
President Buhari acknowledged that the list of awardees was justifiably long because the exercise has not been carried out since 2015. He recalled that since the inception of his administration, there has not been such occasion where individuals and friends of Nigeria have been singled out for investiture, except for the Special Investiture Ceremony in honour of Chief MKO Abiola, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe and Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
The President noted that the investiture ceremony for Abiola and others were specially carried out to right the wrong done in the past, “assuage our feelings and to resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of the electoral process and our democracy.”
In like manner, he said the country’s athletes were also honoured recently for their spectacular performances in several competitions.
He appealed to other Nigerians who are yet to receive this recognition to be patient and understand that their efforts in nation-building are appreciated and at the right time, would similarly be recognised.
Speaking on behalf of the awardees, the Senate President thanked President Buhari for the honour, pledging that the award was an encouragement to more work and a call to duty to serve Nigeria with renewed strength, loyalty and honesty.
Lawan said: “This award is an additional call to service. It is a call to duty and an invitation to realise that citizens’ efforts will not be in vain. We are therefore inspired, motivated and admonished to keep up our inputs, as stakeholders in the building of a virile nation. This is why I call on awardees to be steadfast, considering the responsibility that comes with the honours.”
The Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, George Akume, said the national honours awards committee selected 447 awardees from 5,000 nominees submitted for consideration.
Six recipients were awarded Grand Commanders of the Order of the Niger (GCON), 55 Commanders of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), 74 Members of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR), 77 Officers of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR).
Others were 110 Officers of the Order of the Niger (OON), 55 Members of the Order of the Niger (MON), 65 Commanders of the Order of the Niger (CON), Four Federal Republic Medal – First Class (FRM I) and Four Federal Republic Medal – Second Class (FRM II).
MEANWHILE, the conferment of national honours on the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has been described as scandalous and injurious to Nigeria’s image. A Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, condemned the award.
According to Effiong, Adamu was deemed undeserving of the award on the grounds that he has failed in his responsibilities as Minister.
“University students have been out of school for eight months over the failure of Adamu’s ministry to resolve the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).”
Effiong said while the President reserves the right to give such awards to anyone, decorating ‘questionable’ characters or underperforming public officers with national honours makes a mockery of the awards.
“Like the Minister of Education, it doesn’t speak well for the country to be giving national honour to him when universities have been closed for over seven months. One wonders what the President found in them or in their offices to merit the conferment of national awards on them. So, for me those ones are quite condemnable and quite scandalous,” he said.
He added: “I also saw names of relatives of the President or some persons that have personal relationships with him, like Tunde Sabiu. So, such persons make nonsense of the honour and that is just evidence of the very sickening level with which this President has promoted nepotism to a national policy.
“It is supposed to be national honours award but people that should be given ‘national dishonour’ are the ones being honoured by the President.”
THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has congratulated its Vice-Presidential candidate and governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, other leaders and stakeholders of the party for their well-deserved conferment of national awards by the Federal Government.
In a statement signed by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, in Abuja, the party said the awardees deserved all the accolades because of their commitment to the nation.
Ologunagba said: “Our party also salutes Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and his Taraba State counterpart, Darius Ishaku; the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu; Senate Minority Whip, Chukwuka Utazi and other PDP leaders.”
The party described their awards as resounding recognition of their patriotism and commitment to nation building in line with PDP’s manifesto.
According to the statement, “of particular note is the award of CON to Okowa, which is coming alongside the overwhelming nationwide acceptance by Nigerians of the Atiku/Okowa presidential ticket ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“The national honour on Okowa is also a reaffirmation of the confidence Nigerians repose in his sterling leadership qualities and achievements in Delta State, as well as his capacity to work with our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar in the task of rescuing, redirecting and rebuilding our nation under a PDP administration.”
In same manner, the PDP Governors’ Forum, under the leadership of Governor Aminu Tambuwal, has felicitated with the party’s governors bestowed with the prestigious national honours. The forum stated that it was suitable that the nation has acknowledged the sterling attributes and the great contributions of the noteworthy and patriotic citizens of Nigeria.
A statement by the Director-General, PDP Governors’ Forum, CID Maduabum, noted, “Okowa had distinguished himself as a Senator and an administrator per excellence, having turned around the business, economic, social and political scenario of Delta as a two-term governor, who raised the bar politically with his excellent performance as Vice Presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 general elections.
“Ishaku is a serving two term governor of Taraba, where he has rendered impeccable services that have touched the lives of the people of the State in a remarkable way. He had also served at the federal level as a Minister, a position he held with distinction and currently a Senatorial candidate of the party.
“Ugwuanyi is a serving and high performing governor of Enugu where he has enthroned peace, stability, social and economic transformation of the state. He was a long-standing member of the House of Representatives and Chairman of its Marine Transport Committee. He is currently on the ballot for the Senate on the platform of the PDP.”