9thAnnual Professor Celestine Onwuliri Memorial Lecture and Scholarship Awards Report
THEME: PROF C.O.E ONWULIRI; LEGACIES IN THE SCIENCE, CONTROL AND ELIMINATION OF NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES IN NIGERIA
Date: 4th November, 2021
Scheduled Time: 4:00pm
Start Time: 4:15pm
End Time: 7:14pm
Duration of Program: 3 hours
The annual lecture held on the 4th November 2021 on the online Zoom Platform. It had participants from all across the world in attendance.
The host – Professor Viola Onwuliri, gave a brief history of the Annual Memorial lecture series that started in 2013, a year after the sad passing of her beloved husband, Prof Celestine Onwuliri, in the ill-fated Dana Air Crash of June 3rd, 2012. The lectures, she revealed, had been chaired and delivered by a select faculty of senior and accomplished Professors, Professionals, Administrators and Community leaders including former ministers, governors, heads of industry and institutions. For instance, the last edition – discussed the role of Social media in the socioeconomic and cultural development of the southeast of Nigeria; and was delivered by Professor Edward Oparaoji, a US based Pharmaceutical Executive, community leader and activist, and was chaired by Professor Epiphany Azinge, SAN, Elected Judge, Commonwealth Arbitral Tribunal London.
This year’s 9th Memorial lecture was chaired by the President of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), Professor Ekanem Ikpi Braide, FAS who is a renowned Professor of Parasitology/Epidemiology and first ever female president of the Academy; who taught Professor Celestine Onwuliri at the University of Nigeria Nsukka in the early 1970s and served as a mentor to him on a number of projects.
In her remarks as chairperson, she recalled key elements of their work as researchers in parasitology, their contributions to science and the impact it has had on reversing the ugly tide of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the rice bowl states of Benue, Ebonyi, Cross River as well as related States like Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa, Kano, Jigawa and beyond, who had heavy burdens of NTDs.
Precisely, the 9th Professor Celestine Onwuliri Memorial Lecture was delivered by the renowned Parasitologist and Fellow of the Academy of Science, Professor B.E.B. Nwoke, FAS who was the former Vice Chancellor of the Imo State University, Owerri and first PhD supervisee of Professor Celestine Onwuliri.
Poignantly,he discussed the legacies of Professor Celestine Onwuliri in the Science, Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases in Nigeria. He detailed Professor Celestine Onwuliri’s key contribution to science, which was in demystifying the biochemistry of nematodes (worms) and specifically describing the presence of an active Tricarboxylic Acid (TCA) Cycle in these parasites that cause human disease, decease and disability. This referenced knowledge has helped with the control and development of drugs to tackle these diseases in Nigeria and globally.
Furthermore, he detailed the role of Professor Celestine Onwuliri in the history of the control of guinea worm disease (known as Dracunculiasis), River Blindness (Onchocerciasis), Bilharziasis (Schistosomiasis), as well as Soil transmitted helminths (worms) that includes the round worms, ascariasis, pinworms and threadworms. It was an extensive review of the impact of field epidemiological and operational research in parasitology done by Prof Celestine Onwuliri and his team to stem the tide of these debilitating diseases of poverty that mainly affect the rural, underserved and vulnerable populations in Nigeria and around the developing world.
The program, which held virtually had in attendance dignitaries from across the world, including Professor Eddy Oparaoji (US based Pharmaceutical Executive and PROFOUND Scholar/Faculty), Professor Viola A. Onwuliri (Host and Former Minister of Education and Foreign Affairs), Professor I.N.S Dozie (Vice Chancellor of the K. Mbadiwe University), Dr. Victor Chilaka (President of the International Liaison of Mbaise Indigenes -ILMI), Prof Remy Uche (Dean of Engineering at Federal University of Technology, Owerri), members of the family, academics, medical doctors, students and the general public.
Additionally, Dr. Victor Chilaka (ILMI President) and Engineer Prof. Dike, (Director of Education, ILMI) coordinated the session on the Professor Celestine Onwuliri Scholarship Awards, that saw 12 scholarships given to undergraduates of tertiary institutions from across Nigeria including the University of Calabar, the University of Nigeria, the Imo State University, the Federal University of Technology Owerri. The council of ILMI disclosed that a minimum of 6 scholarships have been given out yearly since 2014 and a total of 48 scholarships have been given to students who are put through a rigorous, merit-based, selection process – including a written screening examination and subsequently, a series of interviews. The scholarship is funded collaboratively by ILMI and the Onwuliri family who have jointly sustained the scholarship since inception.
The Valedictorian and best student of the Class of Scholars for 2021 – Miss Esther Gerald-Ashiegbu thanked the Professor Celestine Onwuliri Foundation (PROFOUND), the International Liaison of Mbaise Indigenes (ILMI), the family led by Professor Viola Onwuliri and God Almighty for their commitment to the education of the next generation, their sustenance of the legacies of Professor Celestine Onwuliri and the unflinching pursuit of Excellence and Unity of the Mbaise Nation. She promised on behalf of the Class of 2021 to enshrine excellence in all her (their) endeavours and make an impact on humanity like Professor Onwuliri, while he lived.
The host of the 9th Memorial Lecture – Professor Viola Onwuliri and her first daughter – Dr. Ijeoma Dozie, appreciated all attendees for their participation, their support to the Foundation and their goodwill and enjoined them to continue to play active roles in developing community and country.
Engr. Kennamdi Onwuliri, closed the day with words of prayer and committed all to God.
Finally, Dr. Chinemerem Daniel Onwuliri who was the Moderator of the event brought the lecture to a close while also appreciating Dr. Jude Iheoma (Mbaise Policy Roundtable (MPR) Chief Program Director, who provided robust technical support to the meeting.
Dr. Chinemerem Dan Onwuliri