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Billions saved for FCTA in staff ICT training
Atang, Director, Office of Permanent Secretary
Novemebr, 2021

A massive, but hitherto silent, revolution that is changing lives is presently taking place in the Information Communications Technology (ICT) firmament of Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). Indeed, many things are happening simultaneously in this sector, unknown to the public.

For instance, very shortly, a resident registered, say, with Asokoro General Hospital, and on a trip suddenly takes ill in Maitama or anywhere else. Now, such resident can simply walk into the General Hospital Maitama or similar health facility, and personnel on ground will tap into a computer and the resident's medical details pop up, thus enabling the ailing person receive instant treatment there, to save lives.

Also, work is at advanced stage for FCT residents to begin to enjoy free internet at the airport, railway stations and other public places, to boost business, generate higher incomes, create wealth, stimulate greater general happiness and make for a more peaceful society. These are few samples lifted out of the pot of huge benefits which the citizenry stand to enjoy with the current computerization program of FCTA. Be it in health management, media, public enlightenment, security, clerical, administrative, monitoring and evaluation and many more areas, life cannot be same for residents as FCTA staff are currently receiving relevant ICT trainings in-house to make these happen.

To say billions of Naira which should have been flung away on outside trainings, have been saved is a big understatement. These are all thanks to the trendy thinking and foresight of FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello; Minister of State, FCT, Dr. Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu; and the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Olusade Adesola. But the engine room, the dynamo, to execute these is a man known as the institutional memory on FCT, Mr. Samuel Udo Atang, who is Director in Office of the Permanent Secretary (OPS).

A tireless bureaucrat, the ebullient Atang approaches his very busy daily schedule with a smiling face. He has a service-wide proven reputation and acclaim for making difficult things easy, for getting the job done; has ability to squeeze water out of stone, to the satisfaction of his bosses. Alongside Malam Bala Zakari Ya'u, his Deputy Director, ICT Unit, which the OPS oversees, Mr. Atang, in an interview with Abuja Digest Weekly duo, Felix Durumbah and Wisdom Ikediashi, last week revealed loads of useful information on what FCTA is doing to deploy a multimillion Naira ICT Lab located in Garki to serve public ends in so many hugely beneficial ways.

Abuja Digest Weekly: What are the goals for establishing this lab?

Atang: I want to first and foremost appreciate God Almighty for this day and to thank you for doing what you do because your paper has been of quality in terms of professionalism, balance in reporting and objectivity. I want to welcome you to the FCT ICT Lab. The Federal Capital Territory Administration, in its quest to ensure that quality training in terms of ICT capacity building is being provided for the over 30,000-strong workforce of the FCT, the Honorable Minister, FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, during his inspection of this facility during the UNESCO/Youthmobile training, had directed for the upgrade of facilities in this Lab.

In the course of his inspection of the facilities, he mandated the FCT ICT Unit, under the Office of the Permanent Secretary, to ensure that standard facilities are provided in the Lab to ensure the continuous training of staff across board in the FCT, to ensure that we comply and keep pace with the expectations of the Federal Government, most especially the e-governance project of government. As you are aware, there is a clear departure now from our paper-based administration and it is geared towards ICT compliance.

First and foremost, this is to deepen ICT penetration in the conduct of business of the FCT Administration. Also, it is to ensure efficiency and timely delivery of services. The essence of the ICT Centre is also to reduce the huge cost the Administration pays each year for training of its officials in various ICT- based institutions.

Indeed, the ICT Lab and the Unit are being repositioned not just for efficient service delivery, but to become a veritable source of revenue to FCTA. As you can see, this Lab has provided a platform for the training of various staff in various Secretariats, Departments and Agencies (SDAs) of FCTA at no cost. The multimedia system here is world class. The ICT facilities are world class; they are fitted with softwares that can match any institution in this country. So, the expectation of the FCTA is to make the FCT ICT Lab a centre of excellence in ICT training.

Abuja Digest Weekly: What facilities are available in the Lab?

Atang: Thank you very much. The FCT ICT Lab is segmented into four major halls. We have the hall one, where you have a training going on right now. The training is being handled and coordinated by FCTA Health and Human Services Secretariat. The hall comprises 50 state-of-the-art desktops equipped with up-to-date softwares, Microsoft, Excel, Powerpoint; you name any software you can find in any ICT institute, we have the equivalent here.

It is also equipped with multimedia facilities that can give our trainees hands on training on ICT. We also have the hall two or lab two which is a purely technical training lab; we have both the regular and practical trainings there where the trainees are being made to put into practice all they have learnt. Our training modules are designed in such a way that in the morning, you have the routine basic training and afternoon you go into practical and at the end of each session, we carry out a kind of evaluation of the trainees to determine their level of proficiency.

Also, our facilities are structured in a way that we have both questionnaires for the basic trainees and facilities for advanced ICT training. Like I said, in the course of such training, we have conferencing materials and facilities. When we have issues that are policy-based, we retire to this central conference room (where this interview is taking place) which you can see is fitted with state-of-the-art conferencing facilities to discuss, brainstorm and agree on policy directions.

The last one we had here was a joint deliberation on issues involving viable ICT quality for the FCTA, jointly partnered by NITDA (National Information Technology Development Agency) and FCTA. Such deliberations were anchored here and with our conferencing facilities; that also gives us an edge.

Furthermore, we also have our lab three or hall three. This is basically designed for hardware maintenance training. We want to really express our gratitude to the Honorable Minister of FCT and the Permanent Secretary for their tremendous support in terms of capacity building for staff of ICT. Currently, we have computer engineers that have been trained both in and out of this country on computer hardware maintenance.

Let me digress a little by informing that recently, in a bid to promote ICT learning in our schools, the Honorable Minister approved that we mop up all obsolete ICT facilities across the SDAs. After this interview, we will take you round. Those facilities that have been mopped up are going to be remodeled and upgraded into functional ICT desktops and laptops that will be repaired, put to use and then deployed to our schools, especially the public schools, for our children to benefit. So, we are working on that; that is part of the training here. We also train officers on software development.

In the course of the Honorable Minister's visit to this Lab, he had directed that a partnership be maintained between the ICT Unit, this Lab, and Abuja Enterprise Agency (AEA) such that products produced from this Lab, especially like we did in the UNESCO/Youthmobile programme (over 1000 youths of FCT were trained in this Lab and most of them, as we speak today, are self employed).

We trained them on software development and we are liaising with our sister agency, AEA, such that the ones we will train in due course, we deploy them to AEA for further engagement in micro, small and medium enterprises. The Lab here, we will multi-task and do all we can to ensure that not only the staff of FCTA but residents of FCT, benefit from our facilities. Abuja Digest Weekly: FCTA authorities have been talking about transforming FCT into a Smart City. Is it right to say this Lab is one of the pillars of that model?

Atang: With a deep sense of gratitude to the management of FCT Administration, before now we discussed the need for a Smart City as if it were rocket science; but we are pleased to tell you that the Lab here comprises various facilities and downstairs we have the model FCT Smart City office.

When we are done with this interview, we will take you round to see the facilities we are installing in the Smart City office. The Permanent Secretary, Mr. Olusade Adesola visited this Lab. He inspected the Smart City office and being so impressed with what we started, he also directed that multimedia facilities that can transmit real-time Smart City developments across the world be fitted into that center. That is part of the procurement that the ICT office under the Office of the Permanent Secretary has proposed for the 2021 procurement to enable us equip that office and make it one that can stand the test of time at any point in time.

Secondly, the FCTA ICT Unit, as part of the Smart City programme, is engaging with the MTN, Huawei and other stakeholders to develop a standard micro-booster station that will enhance the quality of internet services across the FCT. That project, to the glory of God, has received the nod of the Honorable Minister. We have also gotten the BPP (Bureau of Public Procurement) certificate of no objection. We have gotten the NITDA clearance. I think we are at the point of getting it in such a manner that you don't have huge and intimidating telecom masts dotting our city because it is no longer fashionable across the world.

The thinking and proposal by the FCTA Smart City Unit is to liaise with various service providers across the capital territory for free internet service, wifi in some strategic locations like the airport, railway stations and other places---like you find in other capital cities of the world. Those are part of our Smart City programmes that we have already mapped out under the Smart City project of the FCTA.

We want, at this juncture, to thank the Permanent Secretary, to thank the Honorable Minister very immensely, for providing a budget head for Smart City developments in the FCT. That is one of the

initiatives of the current administration. So we want to sincerely thank them for that because it will go a long way in ensuring that we accomplish our set goals in making Abuja a Smart City. In addition, this Lab as it is, still remains a hub for the UNESCO graduates- those graduates who were trained here, who have made their mark; they still fall back on it for further collaborations.

Abuja Digest Weekly: How much is being saved by training FCTA staff here?

Atang: I won't be very definite here but ever since this laboratory was put in place, we have had series of trainings from various SDAs of FCTA. But of recent, I want to give a clear picture that the Honorable Minister, in his quest to ensure quality training for FCTA staff, approved the training of 1,950 staff of FCTA across board on ICT between now and the end of 2021. That training will hold in this laboratory and will run for 15 weeks.

Already, the sum of over N50 million has been released for this training programme. So, if we take that for one training within the last quarter of the year ---this is a training programme that if we were to pay per individual, if we were to pay DTAs (Duty Tour Allowances), local running, and every other thing, we can bet you that we won't spend less than half a billion Naira on that training.

But this has saved FCTA almost N500million of such training just within this period. By the time we aggregate all the trainings we have had on a weekly basis, the facilities and all other associated cost, then you will know that the value made for the FCTA from the utilization of this Lab is quite enormous.

Abuja Digest Weekly: What are the future plans for this lab?

Atang: Like I said, on the Lab here, we have just started and I can assure you that with the support we have enjoyed from the Honorable Minister, Permanent Secretary and the management of FCTA as a whole, our intention is to make sure that we keep improving facilities, training modules and keep tabs with emerging trends in global ICT development such that our staff will be given world class training.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Can we know your working relationship with the current Permanent Secretary?

Atang: (Smiling) The very beautiful thing is that I just have to be a little bit sentimental here. For a very long time, I have never worked with an administrator as Permanent Secretary. I think the last time I did was during the defunct Ministry of Federal Capital Territory. My working relationship with my current boss has made my job easier; so easy because he is an administrator par excellence and he knows I am one.

So, it's always easy for us to agree on issues because we are trained administrators and when we meet, we don't talk much to convince each other because already we know the end from the beginning, based on our training. My Permanent Secretary is one person who believes in the core values of an administrator. He is what makes an administrator, he knows when to draw his line and I think working with him has always given me some kind of satisfaction because I feel relaxed when we operate by the rules and I can go back home and sleep fine.

So, I will tell you that our relationship as far as I am concerned has been excellent. And, like I said, since we have the same professional bias, we have never had any cause to disagree on anything because we view it from the administrative prism. We have been trained in that field and we know what is right and what is not. An administrator is one person who when he does his job, narrates it and situates it as it should be. So, to the best of my knowledge, it has been so easy-going and I thank God for that. Thank you.

Abuja Digest Weekly: It's possible that the Deputy Director has something to say on how the Lab go to this level.
Ya’u: Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity and I thank God for having my

Director as my boss. He has been a guardian to me and has done so much for me to come to this level. I was thinking I will not be able to make it to this position but constructive criticism and pieces of advice he gave me really boosted my confidence to become what I am now.

Secondly, we started with almost nothing in our budget on coming on board, maybe N2million. When my Director came, from what we have in our budget, through understanding with the Honorable Minister and Permanent Secretary, they saw with their professional eyes and that is how we are where we are now.

It is not only in the ICT Unit he has done it; Servicom too and so many Units that were practically dead. Here we are and can raise our heads and say 'this is where we are now'. We are presently trying to see that we connect all the five basic hospitals that we have in the city that are paperless but are standing alone.

The reason is to increase mobility; people from Life Camp, for instance, and happen to be in Wuse, and then something happens to you and you can go to the Wuse General Hospital. Even if you have your card in Life Camp, you can go to Wuse General Hospital and all your medical particulars will be there.

The Director has approved that we should write to Galaxy Backbone and Galaxy has given us a bill which we have forwarded to procurement department. In no time, you can go to any hospital and all your particulars will be there; you will pay and run all your activities online.

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