21 February 2017, Lagos – The literary community has suffered a setback, following the decision of Chevron Nigeria Limited, a multi-national oil company, to withdraw its sponsorship of one of the annual literary prizes of the Association of Nigerian Authors.
Citing the current economic recession in the country as the reason its the action, our correspondent gathered, the company recently informed ANA in a letter that it could not continue to fund the ANA/Chevron Prose Prize for Environmental Writing.
The news was broken a few days ago in a message posted on Facebook by the current President of the association, Mallam Denja Abdullahi, who had initially set out to announce the redemption of the prize money won by Jonah Agunwamba and May Ifeoma Nwoye, authors of the winning novels for the 2011 and 2014 editions of the award, titledThe Poacher’s Daughter and Oil Cemetery,respectively.
Abdullahi wrote that the current national executive council of ANA, in line with its resolve to ensure due diligence in the affairs of the association, was recently able to re-establish the relationship between the writers’ body and Chevron. The result, he added, was the redemption of the prize money for the category, valued at $2,000 and won by Agunwamba and Nwoye in 2011 and 2014.
The ANA helmsman also noted that Chevron Nigeria Limited had been funding the literary prize, which was last advertised in 2014, since 2001 and the company had in 2006 and 2007 sponsored workshops on writing and the environment for members of ANA besides other forms of assistance that it rendered to the association.
“However, In a recent letter to the association, the company announced the cessation of the sponsorship of the environmental prize, in line with the outcome of its recently concluded social investment realignment exercise,” he added.
With this, Chevron becomes the third major sponsor of ANA literary prizes to throw in the towel due to the unfavourable economic climate in the country. The others are Cadbury Nigeria Limited and the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Abdullahi, in an interview with our correspondent, recalled that Cadbury, which used to be one of the biggest sponsors of ANA literary awards, was the first to quit as a result of economic challenges some years ago. “The Cadbury Prize for Poetry used to be the highest literary prize for poetry in Nigeria at a point. The prize was well sponsored, too. I think the company decided to stop funding it when its fortunes began to decline. The management told us that they could not continue to sponsor the prize because the company was no longer doing well. That should be between 2009 and 2010,” he said.
The NDDC followed a few years later. Before then, the commission had influenced a significant increase in the monetary value of ANA prizes from a paltry N10,000 to N100,000 in 2003. “NDDC endowed a total of four prizes in that year. But, the endowment could no longer be sustained. We complained to them about it, but they did not listen to us. We had to suspend the prizes around 2010,” Abdullahi recalled.
However, the ANA president said that the NDDC had made moves to renew its endowment of the abandoned literary prizes. The prizes are the ANA/NDDC Ken Saro-Wiwa Prize for Prose, ANA/NDDC J.P Clark Prize for Drama, ANA/NDDC Gabriel Okara Prize for Poetry and ANA/NDDC Flora Nwapa Prize for Women Writing.