The Gem Called COEO

Late Professor Celestine Onyemobi Elihe Onwuliri.
FAS, KSJ, JP, BSc, PhD (Nigeria), C. Biol. (London),

This is a tribute to a great one, Professor COE Onwuliri who died in the ill fated June 3rd, 2012 Dana Air crash, near Lagos, Nigeria.

Nature bestows greatness on many people in life. One of such great men of our time best described as a man of distinction and integrity, a first class scholar, researcher and administrator and a devoted, caring and consummate family man is Professor Celestine Onyemobi Elihe Onwuliri. Professor Onwuiliri was the first son of Mr Adolphus Elihe and Mrs Rosanna Ihemegbulem Onwuliri of blessed memory. A native of Umuokazi, Amuzi, Ahiara Mbaise, Professor Celestine Onwuliri was groomed from the Community Grammar school Amuzi where he was deputy senior prefect (1967) and later senior prefect(1970/71).

He attended the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka and obtained a Bachelors degree- BSc. (2nd class honors upper division) in Zoology in 1975 and a PhD in Parasitology (1980) after a year’s training at the University of Leeds United kingdom. His academic brilliance earned him the University of Nigeria Foundation AID scholarship (1972-75) and the Vice Chancellors prize as the best overall graduating post graduate student (1980). He thus became the first person to receive this honor from the University of Nigeria.

Professor Celestine Onwuliri  had over 32yrs of teaching, research, administrative and community service experience in over 6 universities in Nigeria and many others abroad. He was twice Head, Dept of Zoology, 3 times Dean, Faculty of natural sciences, Sub-Dean, School of Post Graduate studies, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Acting  Vice Chancellor, all at the University of Jos (1988-2006), Director Academic Planning, Imo State University Owerri (1992-1994), and Immediate past Vice-Chancellor  2006-2011. He served as alternate chairman of the committee of VCs (CVC) of Nigerian Universities (June 2010- Feb 2011) and briefly as Chairman of CVC (Feb 2011-June 2011). He is currently a visiting professor at the National Universities Commission, Abuja where he was Chairman Standing Committee on Private Universities (SCOPU).

An accomplished leader in helminthic parasitological research, Prof Celestine Onwuliri  has made outstanding contributions on the ecology and epidemiology of parasitic helminthes responsible for many debilitating communicable diseases of significant public health and socio economic importance such as Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), Onchocerciasis (River blindness), Filariasis, schistomiasis and other intestinal helminthosis. Through this endeavor he had successfully supervised 25 doctor of philosophy (PhD) candidates and more than 160 other candidates at MSc. and Bsc. levels for the advancement of science and technology education in Nigeria and overseas many of whom today are distinguished professors, administrators, politicians, businessmen and women etc. He published over 200 well researched articles in peer reviewed journals and delivered several invited papers nationally and internationally.

Prof Onwuliri had served the larger society in various capacities such as National President Nigerian Society of Parasitology (now Parasitology and Public Health Society of Nigeria) 1993-1997, Honorable commissioner for Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Imo state 1997-99; Hon commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources 1998, Member Board of Governors University of Jos, Demonstration Secondary school (1983-97), Member University Press (1993-2001, Chairman Board of Directors University of Jos Bookstore, Chairman board of director NYSC Imo state 1997-99, Chairman Imo Broadcasting Cooperation 1997-1999, Chairman Imo Sports Council 1997-99. He hosted the 11th National Sports Festival tagged “Imo 98” (1998-99), Member of Council University of Jos 1996-2006, was first Vice President, Supreme Subordinate Commandery Nigeria, KSJ international 2003-09, Member Committee of Assessors, Nigeria National Merit Award 2002-08, Member Federal Government  official delegation 2005 Christian pilgrimage to the holy land (appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo, member of council  Federal University of Technology Owerri (2006-2011).

A devout Roman Catholic, Prof Celestine Onwuliri had contributed significantly to the growth of the church in Nigeria and abroad. He had been conferred with many awards in the church including the pontifical honors by his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Ezinna Chimereze by the St. Judes catholic parish Amuzi, the St.  Josephs’ the Worker distinguished merit award by Imo State University, Ambassador of Mary by the Ahiara Dioscesan CWO, Ambassador General of St. Jude, Provincial patron, Owerri Arch diocese Laity Council, Youth Ambassador, Catholic Ambassador Award, Patron CWO Umuahia diocese, and Grand Patron Federal University of Technology Owerri chaplaincy where he midwifed the building, the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Chaplaincy etc. He was the first Vice-President Supreme Subordinate Commandery, KSJ International Nigeria and currently Major General and Supreme Subordinate President (National President), of the same organization.

He was a proud recipient of several fellowships, honors and awards including; Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences (FAS), Fellow Nigerian Society for Parasitology (FNSP- now Parasitology and Public Health Society of Nigeria), Fellow Biotechnology Society of Nigeria (FBSN), Fellow Civilian Institute of Democratic Administration (FCIDA), Fellow, Nigerian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (FNSBMB), Fellow the Association  of Aquatic Sciences (FAAS), Honorary Fellow Nigerian Institute of Biomedical Engineering (HonFNIBE), Fellow, Society for Environmental Health (FSEH), Fellow African Scientific Institute (ASIF), Fellow Solar Energy Society of Nigeria (FSESN). Distinguished Academic Leadership Award (DALA) by COFICON etc. He had also served as consultant to several national and international agencies including World Health Organization, Japanese, International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Carter Center/Global 2000, African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), Federal Ministry of Health.

Prof. Celestine Onwuliri had been honored with several chieftaincy titles including Okanmuta Nwachinemere of Amuzi Autonomous community, Ezi -nwanwa 1 of Amaimo,the Ugo Mmuta of Okpuhu Nkpa autonomous community in Abia State, the Ezi- nwanwa 1 of Ikeduru clan, Ugo Nmuta of Mbaise, Nwa chimere eze of Amuzi.

A consummate and noble family man, Prof Celestine Onwuliri was happily married to Ezinne Noble lady Professor Viola Onwuliri who served the nation as Supervising Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Education. Together they built a model family of 5 children, 2 grand children and many adopted children. He enjoyed reading, writing, analytical discussion, table tennis, soccer and boxing.


  1. Kenneth Ohakwe Noble (Futoite

    With A heavey heart filled with tears, i will definitly miss a mentor, father and an adviser. Like you always told us at STACC that God is your streneth , who will stand on your behalf when we going dedicate the church you nearly build single handedly with your friends and well wisher ,we blv and agree that you are sleeping well at HIS right hand now.

    May God grany you eternal rest and may her light always shine upon you.

    R.I.P -Onyemobi

    Laa nkeoma CEO,

  2. Thaddeus Oscar Onyems (Former Onyemerekwe)

    Professor Onwuliri, a rare gem and above all, generous and would go to any length to render assistance whenever approached – he was my academic supervisor and lecturer when I was in Jos (unijo 1980-84). Because of his magnanimity and humane nature, Prof. Onwuliri was nicknamed by all of us as ‘DR KINDNESS’

  3. OMEGA


  4. Prof onwuliri, i withness it with my eyes on faitful day (black sunday) in iju-shaga lagos. Not knowing that my mentor, a great son of mbaise land was involved. we love u but God love u most. Mbaise has lost a great man. May God grant u eternal rest in his bossom. (Amen) Ekene Nwoke 4rm Obodo Ahiara.

  5. Ozee Nwad

    Clearly, COE achieved greatness…just in the manner Shakespare alluded that some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. From a humble beginning, COE was able to achieve all that is written in this piece. And we wonder why he is gone! Ogwugo! His job is done, finished, complete, retired and recalled…to rest in the Lord’s bossom. Rest in Perfect Peace COE.

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