The hall erupted in cheers and backslapping while the trio of Chinyere Abbattam, Kafayat Ogundeko and Rahmat Usidebhoforeacted with shock as the reality of the moment dawned on them.
After two grueling months of competing in the SEPLAT PEARLS Quiz competition during which they answered over 2,000 questions on a wide range of subjects, from Mathematics to English, Biology and Physics, the three young and amazingly resilient women from Ufua Memorial Group of Schools, Uromi were declared first place winners and they were going home with N1.3m in cash as well as a brand new school bus.
It was a moment many could not have envisaged a day earlier when, in an almost cruel twist of fate, the girls, who had shown class all along, barely managed to qualify for the final round by a hair's breath as the best losers.
But they were on fire that morning, from the moment they mounted the podium and began to take questions from the quiz master, Dr. Chidi Enwerem, and his team.
They displayed not just intelligence but a calm composure that spoke of all that is possible when preparation meets opportunity.
And then, just a few minutes shy of half past 2pm, the hall erupted as the three young girls easily vanquished their last challengers, three shell-shocked boys from what seemed like a more prestigious school, the University Preparatory School, Benin.
It was a moment any parent or teacher or student for that matter would be proud of.
Others in the top five were students from Gbenoba Grammar School, Agbor; Bethel International Secondary School, Agbor; Lumen Christi, Uromi and St. Anastasia Heights Secondary School, Effurun.
Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited, one of the foremost independent oil and gas companies in Nigeria, operator of the NPDC/SEPLAT JV assets, OML 4, 38 &41, and its partner, the National Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), had announced the commencement of the landmark initiative: SEPLAT PEARLs Quiz competition, in October 2012.
The sole aim of the competition is the promotion of academic excellence in secondary schools in Edo and Delta States.
The oil company's education based initiative was launched barely five months after the implementation of the highly successful sight restoration project, the SEPLAT "Eye Can See" programme.
PEARLs is targeted at students in public and private secondary schools in the company's states of operation.
This quiz competition it is expected to stimulate healthy competition among schools in the designated areas, encourage learning and reward outstanding academic performance.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Petroleum Development Company, Mr. Austin Avuru, said during the launch that, as a socially conscious corporate citizen, NPDC/SEPLAT JV has "continually demonstrated firm commitment to a long term infrastructural development of her host communities, as well as, to growing the human capital and intellectual aptitude of the people in these areas."
Speaking during the awards ceremony, Dr. Chioma Nwachuku, General Manager, Corporate Affairs & New Business Development congratulated the winning schools and runners up for their consistency and gamesmanship while noting that SEPLAT inaugurated the quiz competition as a means of promoting academic excellence in secondary schools in Edo and Delta States 'because young people represent the future of any community, and indeed the nation and they need to be encouraged to embrace the spirit of scholarship and supported to understand and appreciate the fact that there is good reward for scholastic excellence."
Dr. Chidi Enwerem, Lead Consultant, Inquest Integrated (consultants to SEPLAT PEARLs Quiz competition), was pleased with the level of success recorded during the six months span of the programme.
The representative of the principal of the winning school, Mr. Akinmodu Mathew, who is also a Physics and Mathematics teacher at Ufua Memorial Group of Schools, also bared his mind on the competition. An elated Akinmodu described his mood as "very happy and excited to see that our school has emerged the winner. When we started the competition, I had faith that we were going to win because on the first day it was only one student that represented our school. We were the best losers yesterday and today we are the winners; so I feel very happy."
His proud students were no less effusive in their reaction. Miss Abbattam Chinyere, who was obviously the most impressive of the trio, said: "feels great to be a winner. First, I give God the glory because he is the one that made it possible for me to win. I want to say thank you to SEPLAT because they made me read harder because, on my own, I won't be able to read this well. I even bought past questions to prepare me for this competition."
Her colleague, Kafayat Ogundeko, expressed similar sentiments. "I feel very happy to have won this. From the beginning, I was hoping and praying to God to help us win the competition and God indeed helped us. I want to say a big thank you to SEPLAT Petroleum Development company for organizing this competition. Through the quiz they challenged us and they gave us the opportunity to challenge ourselves."
Rahmat Usidhebhofo, the third member of the winning team from Ufua Memorial, was also in a rapturous mood.
"I feel very happy and honoured to have won this competition and I want to encourage SEPLAT to keep the flag flying."
The girls who received cash prizes for their resilience and scholarly excellence are already looking forward to the next edition of the SEPLAT PEARLs quiz competition which Nwachukwu had already promised that "SEPLAT will sustain beyond the inaugural one."