…How He Earned His Place in Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Train

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi was appointed Director-General/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in August 2019. He took over the role from Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami who had just been appointed as Minister of Communication and Digital Economy by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Abdullahi’s renewable four-year tenure was to elapse by August 2023, the period coinciding with the active formation of the new government and other leadership changes at the Federal level by Buhari’s successor, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But before President Buhari left office in May 2023, he had given approval for the reappointment of Abdullahi as the DG/CEO of NITDA for another term, but the new term was not effective before Tinubu took over. This left the new President with ample opportunity or justification to put Buhari’s approval aside and appoint another person in Abdullahi’s stead. But Tinubu went ahead to confirm Abdullahi’s reappointment for another four years. This is an affirmation of Buhari’s judgment and Tinubu’s confidence in Abdullahi’s ability and capacity to continue to steer the affairs of NITDA in the desired direction into the future.

Abdullahi is a transformational expert with key competencies across policy formulation, administration, growth management, talent development, solutions architecture, resource mobilisation and strategy implementation. He is a thoroughbred IT professional, with an impressive resume in public and private sector IT development, policy formulation, and IT governance.

Since assuming office as the Director General of NITDA in 2019 at the youthful age of 39, Abdullahi has proved that Nigeria can be Africa’s largest digital economy. He has been steadily building upon the foundation laid by the previous occupants of that office, driving the agency to fulfill its core mandate in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) of the Federal Government.

To put Nigeria on a path to effectively operate a digital economy, NITDA, under the stewardship of Abdullahi mapped out a Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2021-2024), identified by the Agency as the fulcrum of the digital economy development.

In his numerous public presentations, the NITDA DG/CEO has spoken extensively about the pillars of SRAP, namely Developmental Regulation; Digital Literacy and Skills; Digital Transformation; Digital Innovation & Entrepreneurship; Cybersecurity; Emerging Technologies; and Promotion of Indigenous Content.

Abdullahi has achieved significant progress since taking over the mantle of leadership at NITDA. His dedication and passion for the vision of an ICT-enhanced economy has contributed towards making NITDA the most significant parastatal in the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy through the implementation of more than 300 infrastructure projects in the ICT industry in just the first year under his leadership.

He also launched the Nigerian National Public Key Infrastructure, the Digital State Initiative and the National Adopted School for Smart Education (NASSE), among other initiatives that have catered for the development of the country’s youthful population’s capacity.

Based on his belief that a country must operate in a setting where the youth have a level of competence comparable to that of their counterparts anywhere in the globe, NITDA, under Abdullahi’s leadership, introduced a scholarship programme which has prepared more than 2,000 Nigerians for Masters and Doctoral programmes around the globe. The majority of the recipients frequently return home after completing their funded studies.

In addition to the above contributions, NITDA has constantly provided the Nigerian people and NGOs with digital devices and equipment, as well as outfitted and supported digital economy centres located throughout the nation’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). These have given birth to groundbreaking initiatives such as the establishment of the nation’s first National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, which will oversee the nation’s ability to fully utilize the enormous potentials of the AI industry. A smooth implementation of the national policy on virtual engagement in the public service enabled the Federal Government system to function without major disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic lock down of the 2020 -2021.

Across the nation, more than 940 digital capacity centres, IT hubs, innovation, and incubation parks, and IT community training centres have been constructed. In addition, there are also initiatives like Start-Up Friday, Start-up Clinic, FutureHack, the NITDA Graduate Internship Programme, and training for craftsmen. Abdullahi has led NITDA to carry out several projects that saved the country billions of Naira. His contributions to the emerging digital economy revolution in Nigeria has not gone unnoticed as evidenced by NITDA becoming the sole government organization to win the coveted National Productivity Order of Merit Award on May 12, 2022.

Abdullahi’s goal is to make NITDA one of the leading IT regulatory bodies worldwide. He hopes to make NITDA the leading knowledge-based, well-respected, laser-focused, and success-driven government agency in Nigeria.

Abdullahi graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi. He holds various executive certificates from top-notch universities such as Harvard University, University of Cambridge, London Business School and Oxford University, UK. Abdullahi is also an alumnus of the prestigious IMD Business School, Switzerland, and a trained strategist from the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds many professional certifications in telecommunications, service management, networking, and solution design.

Abdullahi who is the first Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) in Nigeria’s public sector has earned about 20 years of experience in the public and private IT space.

He started his professional career at Galaxy Backbone Ltd where he served as a network engineer and senior network and lead solution architect. In 2014, he joined the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as a Technology Architect where he was part of the team that developed the CBN Technology Architecture Repository (TAR) and also executed software license rationalization that increased cost savings for the bank in licensing annual subscription.

He joined NITDA in 2017 as the Technical Assistant to the then

Director General, Professor Pantami, and has significantly contributed to the Agency’s growth and development since then.