Hajiya Rakiya: The Predicament of ICT Guru at CBN

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By Yushau A. Shuaib

Upon completing the routine security check, we ascended to the impressive Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) complex in Abuja. Led to a spacious yet modest hall where an event was unfolding, we found seats beside a woman modestly dressed in a Muslim Hijab. She greeted us warmly and invited us to sit beside her. Her humility and warmth immediately put us at ease.

We initially assumed she was a guest or another participant at the briefing. However, as we discussed the media industry, she listened intently, nodding in agreement. When she finally spoke, her insightful comments on disruptive technologies and their impact on the communication industry left us in awe. Her deep knowledge spanned online streaming services, virtual events, and redefining audience engagement through innovation, leaving us with a profound respect for her expertise.

She elaborated on how blockchain, 5G networks, and artificial intelligence facilitate secure, faster connectivity and interactive experiences with enhanced royalty management. Beyond aiding in content generation and personalisation, she noted media production is becoming increasingly democratised. Moreover, she ‘schooled’ us on the latest technological tools for fact-checking, cybersecurity, and digital journalism—all without a trace of arrogance or pomposity.

As the event concluded, we offered our printed business cards. In response, she shared her digital business card. Scanning the QR code revealed her identity: Hajia Rakiya Shuaibu Mohammed, the Director of Information Technology at the Central Bank of Nigeria. This position speaks volumes about her expertise and influence in the field.

Curiosity drove me to search for her profile upon leaving. What I uncovered was astounding. Despite not being a celebrity tech expert paraded on social media or television, she is an extraordinary IT specialist. Former CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele described her as such, having promoted her from Head of Information Security Management after a rigorous selection process.

In his remarks at the eNaira Hackathon Grand Finale in Abuja in 2022, Emefiele, the then CBN Governor, credited the success of Africa’s first central bank digital currency partly to Hajiya Rakiya. He admitted to underestimating her suitability for the Director of Information Technology position, initially preferring a male candidate. He said, “I must single her out. When she was considered for the director role, I initially doubted. I was thinking.. I’m Sorry, ladies, please forgive me. I said a lady IT Director. I went back and began to read her CV. She is a First-Class computer science graduate, a brilliant erudite lady from Northern Nigeria, and a chartered accountant. I said you could not have a better person as head of IT for Central Bank of Nigeria.”

Her academic and professional accolades are extensive. Rakiya was the Head Girl of the Federal Government Girl College, Bakori, and the Best Graduating Student in 1982. She obtained a First-Class degree in Computer Science from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in 1987, followed by a Master’s degree in Information Systems Engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) in 1994. She has also attended executive education programs at Harvard University and Oxford University.

Rakiya’s professional journey spans over 25 years across the financial, telecommunications, and technology sectors. Before her promotion to IT Director at the CBN, where she spearheaded and implemented the Industry Security Operation Centre (NFICERT) and Africa’s first Digital Currency, Rakiya had headed the System Services and Information Security Management (CISO) Division of the bank, where she modernised the IT infrastructure and introduced innovative solutions like video conferencing. She had developed and implemented robust information security strategies, maintaining ISO 27001 certification and ensuring zero major security incidents.
Previously, she was Head of Strategy and IT at Galaxy Backbone Plc (2009-2011), CIO at Premium Pension Limited (2005-2008), Deputy General Manager (IT) and CIO of NITEL (2003-2005), and Head of Branch Banking Systems in the Northern Region of Continental Merchant Bank (1988-1995).

She holds numerous certifications, including Lean Process Practitioner, Certified IT Business Manager, Certified Chief Information Security Officer (CCISO), Certified Enterprise and Solution Architect, Certified IT Governance Professional (COBIT, CGEIT), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Chartered Accountant (ICAN) and Honorary member of the Certified Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

On May 16, 2024, she made an outstanding presentation to the CBN board on maximising the utility of current IT facilities. However, a week later, despite her impressive background, certifications, and contributions to the bank, Rakiya has become one of the victims of an inexplicable spate of officers retrenched by the current CBN Governor, Yemi Cardoso.

Here is a woman who has contributed immensely by ensuring increased revenue, reduced costs, and improved security in various organisations she had worked for and could just be retired due to political exigency.

It is perplexing to understand the rationale behind retrenching such highly qualified and integral personnel among several others in that bank, especially considering the ongoing appointments of external consultants. If retaining and promoting the best within the service is not prioritised, what justifies these replacements with outsiders?

*Yushau A. Shuaib is the author of “Award Winning Crisis Communication Strategies.” yashuaib@yashuaib.com

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