Why I’m embedding technology in ST&D work - Mrs. Riki

By Ijapari Ben-Hirki
Mrs. Riki fielding questions from the NOUN News correspondent

As the director of ST&D for barely six months, Mrs. Eunice Riki has already brought certain palpable changes to the activities of the directorate. In this interview with the NOUN News correspondent, IJAPARI BEN-HIRKI, she also talks about her intention to prioritise technology, feedbacks to applications as well as introduce pragmatic innovations to take NOUN above its peers. Excerpts:


Can you please introduce yourself and how was it when you were posted as the director, ST&D?

My name is Mrs. Eunice Riki and Im currently the Acting Director, ST&D (Staff Training & Development.) I was posted here on the 4th of September 2023. I hit the ground running immediately because there were quite a number of things that needed to be handled, especially as it was the last quarter of the year. Usually, the last quarter of the year can be very busy, because we’re trying to fill-in any gaps we had during the year so I had to pick up on those. We carried out as many trainings as we could for key staff; and some of them rolled over into this new year which we are trying to fine-tune into the training calendar for the year 2024.

What has the experience been like compared to when you were the director of SERVICOM?

The thing is that, we have more staff here at ST&D.  So the work is more intense. There are more directorates now to train as more have been established. So obviously there’s more work to be done as we are dealing with a larger group.

Can you highlight the changes you have brought thus far and what plans do you have for the future of the directorate?

Technology is now coming into play heavily in our world today, so what we’re trying to do is to kind of marry everything with technology. We know tech is taking a larger part of training, so we have to keep up to speed with the rest of the world and be abreast with the trends. The environment we’re in, we’re doing as much as we can but we need to move faster. With the way technology is, it doesn’t wait. We now have real competition, it’s not speculation any more. We are no longer the only ODL institution, we all know the government through the NUC has approved the opening of more ODL institutions, delivering in the same mode as we are and to compound it, we now have conventional universities that have what they call DLIs. Whether we like it or not, these people have students thereby taking in to our market; whether we acknowledge it or not. We have to have a competitive edge, especially as being the first and being the largest when it comes to students’ figures.

The VC keeps harping on us finding creative ways to increase our numbers. The reason I’m going in this direction is: this is where training comes in. In every organisation, your most valuable asset are your people. We have to put in more training for our people in order to ensure that we’re doing and giving our best. We need to train our staff; especially when it comes to things like customer service which should be key. When we have happy customers; we’ll have a happy organisation and more income. Thankfully, management is on our side; it sees ST&D as very important. The VC has equipped us with more tools to make this happen. Of recent we’ve had equipment here to help us, from computers to other things to help make the directorate move forward. We are coming up with innovative ways to ensure that we meet our mandate.

Like I said earlier, I subscribe to using technology as much as we can. We need to meet international standard and stand with our peers outside the shores of this country.  

This may sound small, but it’s not, because it has become very effective. When I got here, I noticed that responses to applications, inquiries and requests for training from the study centres, particularly, were experiencing delays. You would see staff coming to the office maybe three months after they had applied for a training complaining that they didn’t get a response. For some of them the training would have lapsed and they wouldn’t know that it was approved or not approved. So after sleeping over it, my answer became my scanner. For every letter, whether approved or not approved; as soon as the letter is out with the end result; we scan and send to your email address or maybe the HOD before the hard copy, which might take time to reach the staff, is being sent. This has helped a lot. I’ve also asked that documentation should be digitalised and it has made accountability and our work easier from both our end and that of the recipient. With this we have been able to reduce the amount of paper work we have.

I have also tried to streamline the way things are done here. I see most of it as training on the job. And that was why I was well pleased when I got here to see the virtual training being held for registry staff from AR upwards. That has been very successful and I think we will, by the grace of God, continue.

My future plan is to make the directorate as vibrant as possible. To create awareness as well about what we’re here for because there are people that don’t really understand what we are about.

For any organisation, in order for you to be able to give management feedback on who has been trained, the effect it has on the university as a whole, what areas staff need training on, the unit has to buy in on it. Meanwhile, we have some people that don’t want to buy into it. Some people even conduct training on their own and we don’t get information on it. So what happens now, the downside of it is that management does not have the complete information and a full picture and it shouldn’t be like that. If we were in the private sector, that will not be tolerated. Our mindset has to change. We are trying to see if management can buy into trainings that will aid commitment, and make people understand why it is important for staff to remain committed to their jobs. Most of us don’t have any other jobs or means of livelihood. We are here for so many hours in the day, so why not give it your all and be dedicated to the job, the university, management and even to yourself in order for us to get the best.

This is the divide between the private and public sector. If you look at the private universities; when they were coming up, we had many people laughing at them saying they couldn’t meet up to the great public universities; but today, most Nigerians will rather take their children to private universities than public ones. This is why I am saying we have to embrace training and technology so we don’t make that same mistake.


In line with the VC’S vision on where the directorate should go, we carried out a CPD (Continuous Professional Development) virtual training which I led, alongside ACETEL; to train staff of BUK (Bayero University, Kano), which was very successful. There was also a training we had for DRs and at that meeting the VC said something that has remained with me; he said NOUN is a business. We have to look for ways to lift that brand. You are NOUN, I am NOUN; We are NOUN. We have to lift it up and make NOUN shine. From the ACETEL and BUK experience, I don’t see any reason why we here cannot look towards becoming trainers and even sell our skills and knowledge to other universities. We need to have staff who are trained to be trainers.

I think we also need to work on succession planning; people don’t like to do that. This is actually my first job in Nigeria, even though I’ve been here 21 years; and I’ve learnt that people are not open to succession planning at all, especially in the public sector. You find those at managerial level wanting their subordinates to be unaware of what they’re doing or how they’re doing the work. This is something I don’t understand. Making your subordinate aware of how you work is supposed to make life easy for you and this is why anywhere I’ve worked in NOUN, I carry my people along. Knowledge should be shared, that’s where the joy comes for me.

I have some staff that are PARs now and some that couldn’t use a computer, that thank me for carrying them along while they worked with me. These people are doing great in the directorates and study centres they are in and I’m proud. You carry people along and train them. I tell people that the best thank you, you can give me is to do what I’ve done for you, train other people. I have maybe 7 years left to retirement, when this happens I want to sit back and be happy to see that those below me are doing great things and are taking the directorate I once headed to higher heights; we spoke about this during the CPD training, too. Continuity is very important.

How would you describe the receptive nature of NOUN staff to this technology?

We are getting there but to be honest we will need to move faster. I’ll use one of our departments as an example This is where you can see that there’s innovation and things are moving at a very, very remarkable speed and that is the NICC. The VC has championed it and it’s like his pet projects. They are bringing up ideas that would have been done then, but for some reason it wasn’t and I know for management to go that route, they have realised and acknowledged that if we don’t do things like the e-ticketing system, there will be trouble.

In the few months that I’ve been here,  we’ve already had major trainings with the NICC and we’ve moved up to another level. From networking with neighbour universities and others in different places, we are going the right way. We need to embrace technology. For the fact that our mode of delivery is ODL, we have to be as IT compliant as we can be; we have no option, everything needs to be digitalised. It is the only way forward and it all involves training. The students can learn as they go but we need to be at par if not ahead of the students in order for us to have the larger share of the market. Thankfully, virtual learning and ODL has come to stay but we need to think of ways of opening up and decentralising a lot of things that’ll allow us grow the way we should. We have to address certain things and all of it boils down to training. From staff given the right training to ensuring that they work efficiently and effectively, the sky will be the limit for us.

Which do you prefer, SERVICOM or ST&D?

Wherever I am posted to, wherever I can make my mark, which I know I did at SERVICOM, I will be happy to go there. I want to always be able to give my best, wherever I find myself no matter what. I always crack this joke to my friends, that even if it is DR main gate, I will make sure I make that place better.

How has the transition been for you, working with new staff?

 I must confess and I want to be honest and I don’t want to be painting anything that I’m not supposed to be painting. There is room for a lot of improvement from the staff even though I’m glad they are willing to learn. I found that in areas that I would have thought that they should be knowledgeable, they were lagging behind, especially with IT and documentation. Anywhere you have issues with documentation, then I’m sorry; you’re almost wasting your time. I found that sometimes you ask for something that should have been documented and it’s taking hours and sometimes days before you can get feedback. That is part of what I’ve done, once there’s a document I’m treating, I turn to my desktop and I input it, whether it has been approved or not. I can always retrieve things. I’m still at the stage where I’m trying to organise the directorate in ways that I know would work.

How do you cope with family and work and what are your hobbies?

God has been faithful, as career women, which most of us are here in NOUN, at a certain stage it can get difficult to juggle but what I try to do is time management and prioritising. The freezer is my best friend. Once a month I spend time to cook in bulk, from stew to soups and then portion them. I attend to my son as much as I can. His needs are met and thankfully his school isn’t far so I can see him from time to time. So far, there are no complaints and I’m blessed with a gentle husband that’s understanding. I still have time for my aged mother. The word is balance, really. I know when to slow down here at work and put in more at home and vice-versa.

For my hobbies I love singing, I love music a lot. If you follow me on Instagram or  Facebook you’ll find me. I sing! I’ve been singing for ages; myself and my twin sister, even though at one point my father wasn’t too pleased with it. (She goes ahead to play a video on her phone of her singing a Michael Jackson song) … I sing all the time. My husband and son know. My son says any time you offend mummy, just put on some good music for her and everything will be ok! I also love to bake, I bake even though I don’t have so much time any more. I don’t like decorating, but I bake my chocolate cake, fruits cake. They’re very delicious!