The establishment of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) began in 1961 following the recommendation of the Ashby Commission on "Post-School Certificate and Higher Education in Nigeria". A Law establishing a Provisional Council for the University was passed by the Legislature of Northern Nigeria in April while the Council itself was constituted in November, 1961, under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Shettima Kashim, CBE, who later became Sir Kashim Ibrahim KCMG, CBE. Sir Norman Stanley Alexander, a New Zealander and a Professor of Physics at the University College, Ibadan, was appointed the First Principal, later Vice-Chancellor, of the University in July and he assumed office in November, 1961.
Ahmadu Bello University began full operation in 1962, on the cites of these educational institutions: the defunct Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, founded in 1955; the Clerical Training Centre, Kongo, founded in 1957; the Samaru Agricultural Research Station, established in 1924, and the Shika Livestock Farm, started in 1928. The University was named after SirAhmadu Bello (1901-1966), "the Sardauna of Sokoto" and the Premier of Northern Nigeria. As the first Chancellor of the' University, Sir Ahmadu Bello performed its Opening Ceremony on the 4th of October, 1962. In 1975, the University was taken over by the Federal Government through a Decree (the Ahmadu Bello University [Transitional] Provisions Decree of 1975), thus becoming a Federal University.
Evolution of the University
Ahmadu Bello University began with the faculties of Agriculture, Engineering, Law and Sciences, fifteen academic departments and 426 students. The University increased in size and scope under the successive Vice-Chancellorships of the late Professor Norman Alexander (1961-1966), the late Professor Ishaya Audu (1966-1975), Professor Iya Abubakar (1975-1978), Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe (1978-1979), Professor Ango Abdullahi (1979- 1986) the late Professor Adamu Nayaya Mohammed (1986:-1991), Professor Daniel Saror (1991-1995), the Sole Administrator, Major General Mamman Kontagora (rtd) (1995-1998) , Professor Abdullahi Mahadi (1999-2004), Professor Shehu Usman Abdullahi (2004-2009), Professor Jarlath U. Umoh (2009), Professor Aliyu (2009-2010) and Professor Abdullahi Mustapha (2010 to date). As a result of its rapid growth, the University has been transformed into the largest and the most extensive of all the universities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The University covers a land area of about 7,000 hectares and encompasses two campuses, twelve Faculties, a Postgraduate School and 82 academic departments. It also has five Institutes, six Specialized Centers, a Division of Agricultural Colleges, a School of Basic and Remedial Studies, a Demonstration Secondary School, a Primary School and a Consultancy Outfit which .provides a variety of services to the University and the wider society.
The total student enrolment in the University's degree and sub-degree programmes is about 35,000, drawn from every State of the Federation, Africa and the rest of the world. Currently, the University has about 1,400 academic and research staff and over 6000 non-teaching, senior and junior administrative staff. The University has also nurtured two University Colleges, - the Abdullahi Bayero College (now Bayero University), Kano and the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa College (now Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University of Technology), Bauchi, while 27 institutions made up of Colleges of Education, Polytechnics and Schools of Basic or Preliminary Studies are currently affiliated to it.