Nigerian National Honours are a set of orders and decorations conferred upon Nigerians and friends of Nigeria every year. They were instituted by the National Honors Act No. 5 of 1964, during the First Nigerian Republic, to honour Nigerians who have rendered service to the benefit of the nation.
The process began in 1964 during the era of Alhaji Tafawa Balewa with enactment of National Honour Act 5 of 1964. There was a short break during the Military era especially during Generals Yakubu Gowon, Aguiyi Ironsi, Murtala Mohammed, Ibrahim Babangida and General Sanni Abacha.There are EIGHT categories-GCFR, GCON, CFR, CON, OFR, OON, MFR and MON. GCFR is meant for past Heads of State. Only Chief Obafemi Awolowo has received GCFR without becoming Head of State. President Shehu Shagari gave him that award for his outstanding service to Nigeria before and after independence. The picture of Chief Awolowo receiving the award and beaming with smiles in 1982 at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos-a national asset now to be sold-is still in my memory.
Only three persons have rejected the National Honours.
The GCFR and GCON are customarily respectively bestowed on former occupants of the office of President of Nigeria and Vice President of Nigeria including former military heads of state of Nigeria and Chiefs of General Staff. The GCON is also customarily bestowed on the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the President of the Nigerian Senate during their first year in office, while the CON is customarily bestowed on Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The order has four grades:
Order of the Federal Republic
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)
Order of the Niger
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)