Jan. 27, 2014
NewsRescue.com at ABU Zaria
Hardly does a news item about any breakthrough in research or technology ever hit the tabloids from Nigerian Universities and research centres. In fact no one could have intelligently guessed that in these times, there was going to be worthy news from Nigerian Universities. And less possibly from a Northern Nigerian University; being that, the North, frequently graces the headlines only with reports about endemic poverty, overwhelming insecurity and persisting religious or sectarian crisis. But this sterotype has now been put to rest, at least, by the findings of NewsRescue.Com.
A recent visit to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the first indigenous modern University in the North, left lips agape and souls, wowed!
There is a team of astute young men led by a focused, ambitious and a very resourceful Professor of Computer Science, Sahalu Balarabe Junaidu, who are working round the clock, using world class industry standard technologies to produce revolutionary software suites that could match every of their kind anywhere across the globe. Prof Sahalu, NewsRescue.Com learnt, is also the first Professor of Computer Science from Northern Nigeria.
Mal. Adamu Auwal Gene, one of the software projects Team Leads and a head of Software Development Unit at Iya Abubakar Computer Centre of the University, said their mission “is to revamp the Nigerian software industry by leading and practically showing others how local talent can be harnessed to alter the narrative of software development in Africa”.
It was former minister of Science and Technology Dr. Alhassan Bak Zaku that once revealed how between 1995 and 2008, Nigeria spent over N23 billion on the purchase of software products. He also said Nigeria is a ‘dumping ground for software products emanating from software companies mostly in India, UK, Ireland, Middle East, Brazil and so on’. ‘if Nigeria is to realise her dream of being among the top 20 highest economies in the world by year 2020’, he added, ‘then it should realise that it cannot continue to remain insulated from the global requirement to be a software development nation, stressing that there is need to take note and recognise that software development is an important key to national economic development’.
Perhaps it is a similar concern shared with the management of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, that catapulted it to assume the lead to reduce the number of software being imported and captain the progress of the Nigerian ship of software production paving way to a set of new positive narratives in the nation’s economic development. “What naturally works and ensures efficiency in ABU Community can have its variables extended to cover other universities, government offices and private organizations spanning the country”, said Khalil Muhammad, one of the Team Leads who once worked for a leading software company in the UK but now teaches Software Engineering courses in the University’s Department of Mathematics.
For a starter, ABU has twelve academic faculties, a School of Post Graduate Studies and 84 academic departments. It has five Institutes, six specialized Centres and a division of Agricultural Colleges. The total students’ enrolment in the University’s degree and sub programs, per session, is about 35,000, drawn from every state of the Nigerian Federation, Africa and the wider world. The University also boasts of about five hundred thousand alumni.
To this end the ABU Software Committee, under which the work is done and led by the Professor, have produced a suite of about 12 state-of-the-art software having extensible relationships with one another. They touch on all aspects of the University administrations ranging from students admissions module that guarantees the automation of all the admissions processes, from adverts for sales of forms to all other basic and low level screening.
A Computer Based Test (CBT) Application that is web-based is included, where any prospective candidate needs to take a test before admission. The automated process minimizes the risk of interference with the test results and guarantees admission for the qualified candidates only. Another Application also automates all students’ registration processes and procedures.
Examination result processing is uniquely covered as there is an Application that takes care of the usually tedious and time-consuming academic transcript processing and generation. At least those who have had cause to place a request for transcript from abroad to any Nigerian University will understand why this working successfully in ABU should form a source of celebration.
There is also the University Staff Portal or Human Resource Information System Software (HR-MIS). It manages the realities of all the University staffs, ranging from job adverts, application, and invitations to aptitude test, interviews including the step-by-step process of documentation for employed candidates. The software suites, which are web-based, have modules that track and manage all official relationships between a staff member and the University for as long as the relationship lasts. In fact even promotions and salary disbursement advice can be processed on the portal and persons involved can obtain a comprehensive instant report online. Lecturers can always see the number of students’ enrolments on the courses they take for a semester as well the semester results can be viewed by authorized students and staff.
There is another comprehensive module that is tagged Smart Facility Manager (SmartFM) which has a distinct feature that sees and controls all ABU facilities. Booking halls and theatres for lectures and events are achieved by a click of a button. The program ensures also the prevention of any clash of timing and events in one location. So far the ABU Alumni Portal has successfully laid down the structure to collect and make ready the data of its over five hundred thousand alumni on the internet for easy access, verification and other forms of networking and improving alumni relation.
Prof. Sahalu Balarabe Junaidu the overall project lead and coordinator of the ABU Software Committee believes the achievements of his team to the credit of the management team of the University and specifically to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, whose strong sense of vision, personal integrity, and commitment made the work of the committee easier by providing all the support the committee needed at all times. On his part, Mal. Muhammad Shuaibu Umar, a Senior Project Lead in the team and a distinguished computer programmer, believes the individual team members can still benefit from further specialized training as he suggests that ABU Management should consider most rewarding incentives for the young men who technically revolutionized with further guarantee of efficiency, the way things are done at least for Nigerian Universities.