AN OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF
THE CHEMICAL SOCIETY OF NIGERIA (CSN)
The Chemical Society of Nigeria (CSN) was founded in 1971. It is the umbrella body of all Chemists in Nigeria which, among other things, seeks to protect the professional interest of chemists as well as promote the propagation, study and practice of the science of chemistry in Nigeria. The Society currently has its branches (called “Chapters”) in about thirty centres across the country.
An attempt at tracing the history of the CSN will be incomplete without simultaneously tracing the history of chemistry education and practice in Nigeria.
Records have it that the British colonial government in 1931established the Department of Government Chemists / Laboratory, initially to analyze water and other consumables available then and advice the Government on their safety. But beyond the activities that took place in the said Department / Laboratory, not much was known about the chemistry profession in Nigeria; nor was any attempt made by chemists themselves at that time to come together to form a professional association that would work for and protect their common interest.
Later on in 1948, the University College, Ibadan, was established as a College of the University of London and one of the first departments in its Faculty of Science was the Department of Chemistry. Suffice is to say that the aforementioned Department of Government Chemist and the Chemistry Department of the University of Ibadan were the initial centres of Chemistry activities in Nigeria.
It is also noteworthy that the late Prof. Stephen Oluwole Awokoya, widely believed to be Nigeria’s first chemistry graduate, bagged his B. Sc (London) Degree in 1946. It thus stands to reason that from 1946 till date, the country has been producing scores of indigenous chemists.
Shortly after Independence in 1960, chemistry practice in Nigeria got another boost with the establishment of three more Universities in quick succession, with each one having a strong Department of Chemistry. These are the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife); and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Meanwhile, with the advent of manufacturing industries producing chemical-based products like soaps, soft drinks etc, chemists became more and more economically relevant. By the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, it was estimated that not less than 500 graduate chemists were in employment in the academia, industry and government service (Akoh, 2007).
But there was yet no recorded attempt by chemists to form an association; and this probably gave rise to the erroneous impression the public had (and still have!) about a chemist as “the man selling or compounding medicines by the roadside.”
In the mid 1960s, what looked like a precursor to the formation of an association for chemists emerged – i.e. the formation of the Science Association of Nigeria (SAN) as an umbrella professional body for all branches of science including medicine and engineering. SAN was formed at the instance of some professors in the faculties of science in the existing universities and senior members of some professions such as medicine and engineering who realized that science deserved to have recognition in Nigeria. However, attempts to form smaller associations along specific subject lines (like Chemistry) were viewed within several SAN quarters as acts of “rebellion.”
FORMATION OF THE CSN
Despite the obvious resistance from within the ranks of SAN, some chemists remained resolute in their determination to establish a professional association to cater for the common good and professional interest of chemists. The doggedness of these chemists, under the inspiring leadership of Mr. Daniel Alfa Akoh, did not yield to the resistance of the day. Thus on the 21st of September 1971, Mr. Akoh convened what turned out to be the inaugural meeting of what is known today as the Chemical Society of Nigeria (CSN). The meeting took place at Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos; and present at that meeting, among others, were Dr. P. C. Ojechi, Late Dr. A. K. Fasina, Mr. G. O. Baptist, Dr. I. A. Akinrele, Dr. I. I. O. Allinson, Mr. E. U. Usoro, Madam Victoria Adeniji and Mr. G. O. Okolo.
Though the initial growth of the infant association was painfully slow, some senior chemists were later to join the membership, amongst who was the legendary Prof. Awokoya who subsequently became the third National President of the Society.
PRESIDENTS OF THE CSN
Prof. Akintunde Akinsanya 1971 – 1973
Prof. Emmanuel Emovon 1973 – 1976
Prof. Stephen Oluwole Awokoya 1976 – 1979
Prof. Donald E. U. Ekong 1979 – 1983
Dr. Ayoola K. Fasina 1983 – 1987
Dr. I. I. O. Allinson 1987 – 1991
Prof. Oladele Osibanjo 1991 – 1995
Prof. Chukwuemeka C. Nwadinigwe 1995 – 1999
Dr. Eniang E. Nkang 1999 – 2003
Prof. Simon K. Okwute 2003 – 2007
Prof. Felix E. Okieimen 2007 – 2011
Dr. Shettima A. Saidu 2011 –
THE CSN TODAY
As mentioned earlier, the CSN currently has its Chapters in about thirty centres spread across all the geo-political zones of the country.
Membership of the Society has grown to well over 2,000 persons in different spheres of practice, including the academia, industry, public service as well as private practice.
The Council is the apex decision – making organ of the Society. It is made up of the National Executive Committee and the Chairmen of all the Chapters. The President is the Chairman of both the Council and the National EXCO. The EXCO itself is made up of the President, Vice President, National Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretary and one Zonal Secretary (also called Assistant National Secretary) each for the four zones, namely East, West, North-East and North-West.
Council meetings are held quarterly round the year and the venues are rotated around different parts of the country.
The most prominent event currently in the Society’s annual calendar is the Annual International Conference which normally takes place in the latter part of September each year. This event is also rotated across different parts of the country.
Another major event of the CSN is the Annual National Chemistry Competition (formerly National Awokoya Memorial Competition in Chemistry, a contest staged among secondary schools nationwide to stimulate interest in the study of chemistry. The competition begins at the Local Government Area level and then moves to the state level. The best two candidates of each state represent the state at the national level, the national contest being part of activities of the Annual International Conference.
Perhaps the greatest watershed yet in the history of the CSN is the establishment of the Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria (ICCON), a professional body established by Decree 91 of 1993 and charged with the statutory responsibility of regulating the practice of chemistry in Nigeria. ICCON, a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Health, currently has over 2,000 members in different spheres of chemistry practice nationwide.
Records have it that the struggle for the establishment of ICCON was ignited by the CSN in the early 1980s. However, the agitation came to a head in 1992 when the CSN mandated Mr. Daniel A. Akoh (one of its Fellows) to prepare a position paper on the role of chemistry in national development. With this paper, the CSN approached the government of the day; and the struggle finally yielded fruit on August 23rd, 1993 when the then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida signed Decree 91 into law.
The first President of ICCON, himself a veteran of the aforementioned struggle, was Professor Oladele Osibanjo who was elected in 1995. The second (and current) President of the Institute is Mr. Harry C. Okolo, with Mrs. Gladys E. Eke as the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer.
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