As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate the 2022 edition of International Women’s Day, this feature celebrates women who have carved a niche in the nation’s science and technology sector by breaking the bias in a male-dominated field.
Barr. Sharon Ikeazor.
Barr. Sharon Ikeazor is presently the Honourable Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Environment, of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and following a successful screening exercise conducted by the National Assembly. Before this appointment in August 2019, Ikeazor served as the executive secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) from 2016 to 2019 during which she was tasked with steering the organization towards its mandate of sustainable welfare fulfilment for pensioners. In 2017, she was nominated for the LEADERSHIP Persons of the Year award. She also received the Public Service Excellence Award from BusinessDay in 2017. She founded The Wakiliyan Mata Empowerment Initiative, an NGO for Internally Displaced Women, which avails them of interest-free loans to start small scale businesses. Ikeazor is the Vice President of Women in Politics Forum (WIPF) which she also co-founded to build the capacity of female politicians across political lines.
She is a Nigerian lawyer, politician and management consultant. Ikeazor commenced her primary school education at St. Mary’s Convent School in Lagos. Thereafter, she attended the Queen of The Rosary College, Onitsha and proceeded to the Godolphin School, Salisbury, England where she obtained her GCE A’ levels. She completed her Higher Studies at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1981 and graduated from the University of Benin with a Bachelor of Law degree (LL.B Hons.), in 1984. In 1985, she obtained her Certificate of Practice from the Nigerian Law School. Ikeazor has continued to organize and participate in leadership, training and mentoring of young women and other socially disadvantaged persons. She has carried on the philanthropy work of her late father, Chimezie Ikeazor (SAN), founder of the non-governmental organization (NGO), Free Legal Aid for the Poor in Nigeria. The organization, which she now oversees, provides reimbursements for legal services offered to under-served citizens living below the poverty line. Similarly, she runs a prison outreach program that pays the fines of those awaiting trial as well as provides free legal representation for some of the inmates. Since her appointment as the Minister of State for Environment, Ikeazor has been on the vanguard of advocating for policies that will enhance environmental conservation in Nigeria. She has led the nation to many international fora where she constantly highlights the Nigeria’s efforts at promoting environmental conservation.
Prof. Ekanem Braide
Professor Ekanem Braide is the 19th President of the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) and is the academy’s first female president. Braide, a professor of Parasitology/Epidemiology was a member of the national committee that achieved the laudable feat of guinea worm eradication in Nigeria. She has rich professional experience as a researcher and an administrator. In July 2010, Braide was honoured by the President of Nigeria with the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) for her contribution to disease control in Nigeria. She was nominated by the Honourable Minister of Health to serve in the Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Health Sector Response (MEACoC-HSR).
Between 2003 and 2006, Braide served as a member on the committee of Mectizan Expert. From 2007 to 2018, she served as a member (alternate chairman) of the National Steering Committee, Nigerian Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme. In 2018, Braide was appointed Chairman, Technical Advisory Committee, Cross River State Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of Sightsavers for eight years and was the chair of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG, the 4-year Sightsavers) DFID funded NTD UNITED project that ended in 2019. Braide is Chairman of the Board of Trustees, The Leprosy Mission (TLM) Nigeria. She was the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Lafia (2011 – 2016) and Vice-Chancellor Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), Calabar (2004 – 2009). She is also one of the board members of Nigeria’s foremost non-governmental organization, Society for Family Health, Nigeria. Braide is a recipient of the Jimmy/Roslynn Carter Award for outstanding dedication and achievement in the eradication of guinea worm in Nigeria. In 2000, she received the Cross River State 2000 Millennium Award.
Dr. Abimbola Alale
Dr. Abimbola Alale is currently serving as the managing director and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Communication Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Abuja, Nigeria. She holds a post-graduate degree in Space Studies and an MBA degree from the International Space University, Strasbourg, France. Listed as one of the top women in the African Space Industry, she has pursued an active career in the Space Sector for over 17 years, a career that began at the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) where, as the assistant project manager, she was part of the team that championed the manufacture and launch of the first sub- Saharan African communication satellite, NigComSat-1 in May 2007. In 2019, she was re-appointed for another four years term in office by President Muhammadu Buhari and currently sits on the Honorary Board of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC). Alale actively worked on some national priority projects such as the NigComSat-1, NigComSat-1R projects and the establishment of a National Direct-to-Home Digital Transmission Centre. She is presently driving the full commercialization of NIGCOMSAT Ltd. She sees so many good things happening to the space industry in Nigeria and most especially NIGCOMSAT Limited in terms of being repositioned to deliver innovative satellite service to meet national and continental broadband demands of the populace towards the digitalisation of Nigeria and Africa. Going further, she would very much like to witness NIGCOMSAT Limited procure and launch satellites from Nigeria through an indigenous satellite manufacturing and launching agency/company. She stated that “NIGCOMSAT Limited is a satellite communication platform provider for all forms of the internet of thing solutions as it affects all sectors” and that “the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami recently repositioned NIGCOMSAT as a strictly upstream company and established two downstream companies that would partner with the private sector to deliver services that are tailored towards achieving the set-out goals at stated in the sustainable development goals roadmap.”
Dr. Rose Gidado
Dr. Rose Gidado is the deputy director of the Agricultural Biotechnology Department at the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in Nigeria and the Nigeria country coordinator for the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa which is a platform initiated by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Nairobi, designed to facilitate the flow of information between the scientific community and policymakers, lawmakers, media, farmers, civil society groups, NGOs and the general public to support informed decision making. The OFAB Nigerian Chapter was launched in 2009 and the National Biotechnology Development Institute being the agency with the mandate of promoting, coordinating, facilitating biotech activities in Nigeria and creating awareness amongst others is the Host institution for OFAB while the Agricultural Research Council (ARCN) is the Co-Hosting institution in Nigeria. Dr. Gidado is actively involved in outreach to increase public understanding of biotechnology and biosafety, both locally and internationally, on issues like policies, regulations, communication, business, ethics, religion and education. She has published numerous scientific articles in national and international journals and has authored and edited various policy briefs and book chapters. A native of the village of Mapeo in the Nigerian state of Adamawa, Dr. Gidado received her early education at the Federal Government Girls’ College in Yola before moving on to the University of Maiduguri, where she earned a B.Sc. in Food Science and Technology in 1995. She then obtained a M.Sc. degree in industrial microbiology from the University of Abuja in 2008 and completed her doctorate in 2015. Dr. Gidado has received numerous awards, including the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Award in recognition of her role as a mentor for young scientists. She is married and has a daughter.
Mrs. Ndidi Nwuneli
Mrs. Ndidi Nwuneli is an expert on social innovation, African agriculture and nutrition, entrepreneurship, and youth development. She has over 25 years of international development experience and is a recognized serial entrepreneur, author, public speaker and consultant.
Nwuneli is on the boards of LEAP Africa, AACE Foods, Fairfax Africa Fund, Godrej Group, DSM Sustainability Advisory Board, AGRA, GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition) and Nigerian Breweries Plc. Previously, she participated in the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a committee member on the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership from 2011 to 2014. In 2019, an American Philanthropic organization, Rockefeller Foundation appointed Nwuneli to its board. In 2021, Mrs. Ndidi Nwuneli was appointed on the Board of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group.
In 1998, she accepted a position as the lead consultant with a non-profit founded by Professor Michael Porter called The Center for Middle East Competitive Strategy. She consulted with Palestinian and Israeli businesses and made recommendations for decreasing transaction costs and increasing trade across the region. In 2002, Nwuneli founded two non-profits, LEAP (Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability, and Professionalism) Africa and Ndu Ike Akunuba (NIA), Igbo words which translate in English to ‘life, strength and wealth’. NIA’s focus is on female empowerment—inspiring university students in Southeastern Nigeria to live full and meaningful lives. LEAP Africa is a youth-focused leadership development nonprofit organization. LEAP provides training on leadership, ethics and civics. As the founder of the organization, she has been invited to speak at the UN Commission for Social Development, the World Economic Forum and the Clinton Global Initiative. LEAP has worked in partnership with the Ford Foundation, Citi Foundation, World Bank, United States Government, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, ALI (Aspen Institute’s Africa Leadership Initiative), Nokia, and the International Youth Foundation. Nwuneli served as LEAP Africa’s founder and the chief executive officer from 2002 to 2007 and is still an active member of the organisation’s board.
Funke Opeke is a Nigerian electrical engineer, founder of Main Street Technologies and chief executive officer of Main One Cable Company, a communications services company based in Lagos, south-western Nigeria. MainOne is West Africa’s leading communications services and network solutions provider that built West Africa’s first privately owned, open access 7,000-kilometre undersea high-capacity cable submarine, a $240-million-dollar project that was completed in time and on budget in 2010. MainOne also built West Africa’s largest Tier III Data Center, MDX-i’s Lekki Data Center, a $40 million investment with a capacity for 600 racks. Ms. Opeke is an experienced telecommunications executive who returned to Nigeria in 2005 as the Chief Technical Officer of MTN after a 20-year career in the United States. Before her return, she was the executive director of Verizon Communications Wholesale Division. After MTN, Ms. Opeke advised Transcorp on the acquisition of NITEL and briefly served as the interim Chief Operating Officer, post-acquisition of NITEL.
Opeke attended Queens School (girls only) in Ibadan, Oyo, Nigeria, where she grew up, though she is a native of Ile-Oluji, Ondo. She obtained a first degree in electrical engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Nigeria and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University, New York. MainOne is a broadband infrastructure company providing innovative telecoms services and network solutions across West Africa. Since its launch in 2010, MainOne has developed a reputation for providing highly reliable services to major telecom operators, ISPs, government agencies, small to large enterprises, and educational institutions in West Africa.