Who is Khalil Halilu, the 32-year-old Tinubu appointed NASENI boss?

Adebari Oguntoye
Adebari Oguntoye
Khalil Suleiman Halilu

Khalil Suleiman Halilu has always had a knack for spotting problems and working on the desired solution. It is arguably this solution-driven mindset that earned him his appointment as the executive vice-chairman and chief executive officer of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI). 

President Bola Tinubu appointed him into the capacity on Friday after terminating the tenure of Bashir Gwandu who held the position for just four months. 

In the statement announcing his appointment, Ajuri Ngelale, special adviser to the president, said Halilu is “expected to bring his significant experience as an innovator and technology expert to bear in this important new national assignment” — and without doubt, the 32-year-old KSH, as he prefers to be called, has a track record to validate this statement.


When he started filling the gap for ice needs in his community, he may not have known that it was the first of the stepping stones through which he would build his career in entrepreneurship and digital innovation.

Halilu was born on October 29, 1990, into a lineage of traders in Kano, Nigeria’s centre of commerce. As a young man, Halilu once took to selling ice in his neighbourhood after he observed a shortage of electricity in a rather hot-weathered Kano. Halilu said he saved up his pocket money and got a refrigerator where he froze the water packs using power supply from his household’s generator, and then sold them to those who had no alternative access to power.

When he was in secondary school, he took advantage of the internet access in his house to download music tracks, burn them into CDs, and sell them to his friends in school.

Later on, he built on his interest in music production by working as a disc jockey (DJ) in his high school years. As part of his university course requirements in 2008, Halilu said he led a team to plan and launch a gaming centre that attracted a number of customers. With the profits generated from the business, they planned and hosted an African-themed party where Halilu performed as the DJ.

And that was the start of his entrepreneurial streak.


Halilu attended the Rainbow Primary School in Kano in 1996 and began his Secondary School Education at St. Thomas Catholic School (2001-2003) which he completed at Prime College in Kano in 2006.

He then enrolled at the University of Hertfordshire and obtained his bachelor of science degree in business administration in 2009, and a master’s degree in international business in 2010.

In a TEDx Talk, Halilu said he joined his family factory business upon completing his education, but at a point, he was “not very motivated because factory has a lot of repetitions and I wanted to chase my dreams which is to build technology products,” hence he moved from Kano to Abuja to chart his own path at a time when the tech industry was still relatively new.

A golf and polo lover, Halilu had become friends and later business partners with Bashir, a younger brother to the person who took care of his horses. Halilu said he took a liking for Bashir when he noticed the latter’s meticulous attitude to work.

“Then there was the boom of construction in Abuja and then we said why don’t we have a block manufacturing industry? But unlike any block manufacturing industries, we wanted to do something very different. So we ordered equipment outside the country and we got a special mould that moulds a different kind of set of blocks. We ensured that we were building the best of blocks,” Halilu said.

At the time, due to limited resources, he shared a container that served as his office, Bashir’s room, and a store for raw materials.

“One thing was clear, whatever we were building cannot be conventional, has to be very very different,” he said.

Together with Bashir, he later ventured into waste recycling while waiting for the tech industry to “mature”.

Halilu said he owes this work ethic to “the kind of culture and attitude that Bashir has infused in me over the years we’ve worked together”.


Halilu said right from his early years, he loved creating value, and as he grew, he developed a passion for providing affordable yet sustainable technological solutions to businesses operating in the agricultural sector.

In 2019, Khalil founded The CANs, which he described as the “first-ever” eco-friendly technological hub in West Africa.

Prior to CANs, in 2018, Halilu founded OyaOya Strategic Services Ltd and ShapShap Logistics Ltd. OyaOya is a technological application designed to connect commodity traders in an ecosystem that is both fast and efficient while ShapShap is an on-demand platform that connects clients with drivers supported with flexible route options and insurance cover on goods being transported.

In the same year, he also launched Zabe, an election monitoring application that provides detailed feedback on the election process to observers. During the 2019 general election, Zabe was said to have “recorded the voting process of over 2,000% of users within a single election week”.


Halilu has served in various capacities throughout the course of his career, including as co-founder and CEO of KSH Construction & Design LTD in 2014; creative director/business developer at Africa Infotech Consultancy in 2015; operations manager at ZCET Global Meter Services Ltd; and chief operating officer at Scirrocco International Limited, a company which specialises in the manufacturing of tea and cold beverages.

He was also the marketing manager at Gongoni Company Limited — a vertically integrated aerosol manufacturing company and sister company of Scirrocco.

Halilu served on the board of Africa Infotech Consultancy, as well as the JIGS Environmental Services and Agro-Allied Ltd. Until his appointment as NASENI boss, he was the chairperson of MACE Nigeria Ltd.

He also played an integral role in the setup of New AD, a UK-based company that is developing and supporting the global anaerobic digestion industry and other important technology inventions and devices used in the renewable energy enterprise.

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