The Nigerian National Honours are a collection of awards given each year to deserving Nigerians and foreign friends of the country. The ancient chieftaincy system of the country is distinct from and legally defined apart from these honours. When a citizen of a country receives a national honour, that person has received the highest possible award for service to that country. To recognise and reward Nigerians who have contributed to the betterment of their country, the National Honors Act No. 5 of 1964 was passed during the First Nigerian Republic.
To have performed an act of service to one’s country means to have brought honour to that country through an exceptionally meritorious or heroic effort. A citizen may be awarded national honour for various reasons, including but not limited to:
- The invention of a useful tool.
- Outstanding service in a high-profile position.
- The production of a groundbreaking work of literature.
Often, opinions will differ on deserving recipients of prestigious awards. Occasionally, the honoree may decide that he or she does not deserve the recognition. After being honoured by the Nigerian government in 2004, renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe turned down the honour because he was unhappy with the country’s leadership. It is up to the government of Nigeria to bestow awards on deserving citizens.
Former Nigerian presidents, vice presidents, and military chiefs of staff are among those who are traditionally awarded the GCFR and GCON. During their first year in office, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the President of the Nigerian Senate are also granted the GCON; other Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria are given the CON. On November 14, 2011, Alh. Aliko Dangote was presented with the award of GCON in Nigeria, making him the first recipient of the honour who did not hold a political office. There have been 4,700 recipients of the National award since its inception in 1963.
- Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR)
- Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR)
- Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR)
- Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR)
- Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON)
- Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON)
- Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON)
- Member of the Order of the Niger (MON)
- Forces Service Star (FSS)
- Grand Service Star (GSS)
- Distinguished Service Star (DSS)
- Meritorious Service Star (MSS)
- Command Medal of Honour (CMH)
- Command Medal (CM)