John Obaro – NIGERIA’S ICT TOP10

Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Systemspecs Limited

In 1992, Mr. John Obaro, founder and chief executive officer of SystemSpecs Limited, set out with a vision to building a software solutions provider of reference in Africa. He has succeeded in establishing a company that has become a leading software producer, reputed as the consummate innovator in the country’s information technology industry.

His company has emerged as a household name in Nigeria and pioneer of the software industry development in Africa. For over two decades, Obaro has been in the forefront of providing robust software solutions to individuals, business organisations big and small and governments at state and federal levels in Nigeria and across the African continent.

SystemSpecs commenced operations with sales and support of SunSystems – an internationally renowned financial management solution and its own indigenously developed payroll and human resource management solution, HumanManager. The home made software has revolutionised the payroll and human resource processes of several organisations and has been a market leader for over 20 years.

SystemSpecs has emerged as the leading electronic financial transactions company with the deployment and support of its flagship product, Remita. The electronic payment platform is the instrument that powers the government’s treasury single account [TSA] project – the largest and most effective of its kind in Africa.

The swiftness in pulling all bank accounts of different federal government agencies in all banks into the TSA domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) speaks loudly of the robust capabilities of the software. The exercise has saved the country hundreds of billions of naira that were subject to all manner of manipulations under the opaque accounting systems of many government agencies. The CBN selected the payment platform after a rigorous, multi-level evaluation exercise that featured other major foreign and local applications.

Obaro is known for his passion for promoting indigenous software solutions. He has always held a firm belief that locally produced software is as good as those coming from anywhere else in the world. It was not a theoretical view; he has proved it with Remita – that has changed the face of Nigerian banking.

With the accomplishment with Remita, Obaro has attracted attention internationally. His company has been honoured in far away Scotland for offering “a tool of national and economic development”, promoting excellence, best practices and innovation through the electronic payments solution. This attests to his commitment to the development of innovative financial software solution to Nigeria and Africa at large, which his company’s flagship product, Remita is now clearly leading the way.

Many people go through the systems of working and living without making any improvements to what they find in place. Obaro differs from the lot. His ideas of offering solutions were prompted when he headed the information system department of International Merchant Bank. In that position, he led a team that implemented Nigeria’s first international banking application on a network linking Lagos and four other states – a pioneering effort in the country’s online, real time banking.

When he left the bank in 1992, he knew exactly what to do – to develop software solutions to challenges he found in the system. In 2006, his company led a consortium of firms that implemented the HumanManager software solution on the payroll and personnel information system project that was jointly financed by the federal government and the World Bank. The project involved seven ministries, departments and agencies of government and saved the government over N12 billion during the 24 months of its implementation.

Obaro is acclaimed as a trail blazer on many fronts with footprints of a solutions provider in many sectors of the Nigerian economy. He stands out among hardworking Nigerians doggedly determined to devise innovative, home-grown solutions to the various challenges facing the nation. He has a clear goal for his effort, which is to contribute his quota in making Nigeria great again.

He is holding the light to show the way to ICT development in both the public and private sectors. He serves on the boards of the several agencies, including the Ministerial Advisory Council on Information and Communication Technology, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria, Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria, Nigerian Information Technology Policy Drafting Committee and the governing council of the national ICT incubation programme.

Obaro is committed to issues that promote advancement of local software manufacture, IT entrepreneurship and youth empowerment, including empowerment of university graduates for gainful employment. He also offers scholarships to university undergraduates in the area of ICT.

He is a man who identified a great purpose in the development of ICT and has pursued it with a great zeal and focus without any distractions to its fulfillment. He has built a software house and he has remained focused on software development several years on and has led the company to become a foremost software house in Nigeria and Africa. Obaro is convinced that his vision will give the continent its deserved recognition on the global software landscape.