When President Muhammadu Buhari, Sir Joseph Ntung Ari, announced him as Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in September 2016, the Fund was in near disarray. The crisis that until now was tearing workers apart was paralyzing harmonious labor relations. Less than six months after his appointment, he launched a renewed mandate vision for the ITF with the sole aim of returning the Fund to being the country’s leading human resource development agency.
Now in his second and final term as head of the ITF, more than any of his predecessors, the Plateau-born technocrat, who is also an expert in public relations and legal status, has led the Fund to the pinnacle of excellence, as It shows his uncommon passion. in leading critical stakeholders, including workers, to rewrite the history of the ITF, once an agency riddled with controversy and tug-of-war between angry management and workers.
Prior to Ari’s appointment in 2016, he was one of the longest-serving members of the ITF’s management staff, having held critical positions during the administrations of his predecessors. While serving as senior staff, Ari deployed his inside knowledge for an effective roadmap capable of changing the fortunes of the agency. Because of his willingness to put humanity as his focus, it wasn’t hard to understand the dynamics behind the mass appeal he enjoyed in the agency workforce.
A devout Catholic who is a Knight of the Catholic Church of the Order of St. Mulumba (KSM) and a Knight of St. Sylvester (KSS), Ari’s exceptional quality of leadership is seen in his humility. The DG’s outlook on life is shaped by his aphorism: “This too shall pass.” Considering that life and positions are transitory, the need to embark on development when presented with the opportunity to serve remains the best option for Sir Ari, who is aware that leadership is basically about serving people. and develop the system. Not surprisingly, his leadership in the ITF has been based on service and has attracted the attention of critical organisations. His trajectory reflects a deliberate journey in acquiring what is necessary to provide quality human resource management through the acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Born on December 21, 1960, less than three months after Nigeria’s independence, Ari’s path in public service began when he completed a diploma in broadcast journalism and a postgraduate diploma in journalism. He would later expand it and cap it off with a Graduate Diploma in Management. Always filled with the insatiable quest to expand his intellectual prowess, he earned a law degree and later added an LL.M. Determined not to be left in the dark in business management, he would acquire another MBA, thus synchronizing his legal knowledge with his business intelligence, thereby broadening and sharpening his leadership potential.
He was a reporter and show host for the Plateau State Broadcasting Corporation. He would move to the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), and then he accepted bigger challenges and broadened his horizon in broadcast media by transferring his services to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as a news editor and broadcaster. After many years of broadcasting, his search for more challenges led him to the Nigerian National Insurance Corporation (NICON) where he was appointed Northern Public Relations Manager. It was an appointment that not only exposed him to the practical application of the theoretical postulates learned in schools; the then rising practitioner of public relations learned the dynamics of public relations for corporate development.
He served as Director of Press and Public Affairs at Plateau State, where he served in two administrations. His hard work and diligence earned him the position of Sole Administrator and later General Manager of the Plateau Publishing Company, (PPC). He later became General Manager of Plateau Radio Television Corporation (PRTVC), where he turned the fortunes of the media team around. After leaving the Plateau State Civil Service as Permanent Secretary in Charge of Plateau State Government House Administration, he was appointed Director of the ITF Public Relations, External Affairs and Publicity Department.
As Director in charge of Public Relations for the Fund, he deployed his experience as a top-level public relations professional to improve the quality of service to the agency. As well as heading the Fund’s Public Relations Department, he was also at different times Director of the Administration and Human Resources Department, Corporate Planning Department and Director of the Business Training Development Department at ITF Headquarters.
Since his appointment as head of the ITF more than six years ago, Ari has left behind unprecedented infrastructure developments, innovations and momentum aimed at improving the agency’s fortunes, especially in implementing the Fund’s renewed vision. More than ever, the Ari-led management has been leading the springboard for the emergence of a new redefined and revitalized ITF aimed at providing employable skills for job and wealth creation in areas where the country has comparative advantages, especially in Agro. -Related, Construction, Services, ICT and Digital Jobs, Metal and Solid Minerals, and Oil and Gas, among others.
In a bid to ensure Nigerian youth gain skills, the Fund under Ari since 2016 has successfully empowered no less than 500,000 youth in various skills through the following programs: National Industrial Skills Development Program (NISDP); Women’s Skills Empowerment Program (WOSEP); Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (Training on Wheels); garment design and making (training on wheels) for young Nigerians; Skills Training and Empowerment Program for People with Physical Disabilities (STEPP-C), among others.
The ITF under Ari has completed and commissioned several projects, including the Mechatronics Workshop and Administrative Block at the Kano Industrial Skills Training Center (ISTC); Katsina area office complex with an administrative and vocational wing; Lagos Island Area Office Complex and Vocational Wing; Modern electronic library complex and Central Stores in the Headquarters complex; and the Classroom Blocks and Intro-tech Laboratory at the ITF Staff School, among others.
Currently, no less than 24 projects are waiting to be commissioned. Some of these projects that have been completed and are awaiting commissioning include the Multi-Purpose Building in Maitama, Abuja; the Oba Akran Institute of Hotel Management in Lagos; Auditorium and Gymnasium and Access Road; A special agricultural greenhouse at Ofadaland in Ogun State and improved facilities at its Industrial Skills Training Centers (ISTCs).
Sir Ari has addressed the perennial difficulties experienced by participants in the Student Industrial Work Experience Program (SIWES). The SIWES program, prior to September 2016, was plagued with student assignment backlogs and unpaid supervisors. Since he became CEO, Sir Ari has paid out 23.1 billion naira as student allowance, while 1.05 billion naira as supervisory allowance within the same period.
Working so hard to improve service delivery has also been a focus for the ITF helmsman. In 2020, it expanded the then-existing 10-apartment, 4-unit structure to a 16-apartment, 2-unit structure to address administrative needs. Some of the new departments include Administration and Human Resources; Job training; Corporate planning; Field services; Finance and accounting; Information technology COMMUNICATION; Internal audit; Legal and Board Affairs, Acquisitions; Public Affairs, among others.
Demonstrating his faith in finishing strong in the end, he once told me, “Every morning I come to the office, I am reminded of the transitory nature of life and public office. There was someone before me; and certainly, there will be someone after me. Therefore, I am reminded that the position I hold today is a public trust. There is nothing to be proud of when you hold public office. I have learned never to be swayed by the allure of public office and to do the best I can for the system and the people.”
As a testament to his human-centered leadership, the ITF Director General was overwhelmingly named the Plateau Man of the Year 2022. His people also honored him with the title: Goemai Nation Kurnajam (Defense Minister) in everyone. His nomination for LEADERSHIP Public Servant of the Year 2022 is a clear demonstration that Ari’s quiet revolution in transforming the ITF into a national pride in Nigeria’s human resource development is slowly being recognized. More than that, he has portrayed leadership as service-oriented, thus reflecting the essence of management as an important change agent in national development.