The then Military Administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo, by Act
No. 53 of 1979 set up the Nigerian National Merit Award (NNMA) to confer the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award on deserving Nigerian citizens who have contributed outstandingly to national development in the areas of Science, Medicine, Engineering/Technology, Humanities, including Arts and Culture and other fields of human endeavour.
Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida later ammended the legal instrument by Act No. 96 of 1992, recognized the NNOM as an Order of Dignity that permits the recipient to use the acronym and placed emphasis on according due recognition to outstanding intellectual and academic attainments, as well as contributions to the general development of Nigeria. The Award is usually conferred on the recipients by the President, Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Umaru Musa Yar'Adua,
President and Commander-In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2007-2010), approved the Annual Forum Of Lauretes in 2007. This is a forum for all NNOM Awardees to meet and exchange ideas on some salient and burning national issues.
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Johnathan,
President and Commander-In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2010- Date), approved the increase of the cash value of the NNOM Award from N5,000,000.00 to N10,000,000.00 in 2011 backdating it to 2010. This was to further encourage the Distinguished Awardees of NNOM and more Nigerians to do more of the research that brings about outstanding innovations, discoveries and inventions for the benefits of our dear country.