NLNG reconstitutes Literature Prize Board

by Araayo Akande

The Nigeria LNG, sponsors of the prestigious Nigeria Prize for Literature, have announced a change in the composition of the award’s Advisory Board.

A former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, has vacated his role as Advisory Board Chair for Professor Akachi Adimora Ezeigbo, a past winner of the prize.

Emeritus Professor Ben Elugbe and Professor Jerry Agada, who passed last year, have also left the Board.

The changes in the Advisory Board’s composition and the unveiling of the 2021 jury were announced at a recent virtual event.

 Joining Ezeigbo, the 2007 winner of the prize with Mama Mabel Segun, are Professors Olu Obafemi and Ahmed Yerima.

Playwright, poet and professor of English at the University of Ilorin, Obafemi is a past president of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and the Association of Nigerian Authors. The 2018 recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit was also Director of Research at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies.

Prolific playwright, director, and 2006 laureate of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, Yerima is a former General Manager of the National Theatre/National Troupe of Nigeria. He is currently a professor of Theatre and Performing Arts at the Redeemer’s University. 

Professor Toyin Jegede of the Department of English, University of Ibadan, will chair the jury to assess the 202 entries received for the Prize for Literature and four for the Literary Criticism Award. She is a Fellow of the British Council of Nigeria and Centre for Afro-American Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal. She has also served as an international panellist for the Commonwealth Book Prize for Literature.

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The other judges are Tanimu Abubakar, Professor of Literature in the Faculty of Art, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Dr Solomon Azumurana, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, University of Lagos.  

Speaking at a recent virtual event to introduce the new Advisory Board members and hand-over the entries for the 2021 prize to the jurors, NLNG’s General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, Eyono Fatayi-Williams, thanked the old Advisory Board members for their selfless service. She said the Board oversaw the prize’s growth into Africa’s major literature competition, best known for its excellence and integrity principles. 

Also speaking, the new Life Patron of the prizes, Professor Banjo, thanked the press for its keen interest in the award.

The new Chair of the Advisory Board, Professor Ezeigbo, also expressed gratitude to the NLNG for the appointment. “We know we have a big task, and we are certain NLNG will stand behind us,” she said, adding of her predecessor, “Emeritus Professor Banjo is a man we all like and adore. He has performed excellently well, and his legacy will endure forever.”

Professor Ezeigbo assured that excellence would be the watchword of the new Board. “We will maintain the highest standard set by the old board, and we will support the jury to ensure they do the right thing,” and that “merit and excellence will determine the winner of the prize now and in the future.”

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 edition that would have been awarded for prose fiction. The genre is thus repeated this year, while the 2022 edition will focus on poetry.

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