Africa’s first chartered accountant and founder of the country’s oldest indigenous accounting firm, Akintola Williams, today, Friday, August 9, 2019, clocks 100 years with several remarkable and enviable achievements to his credit.
Among many surviving Nigerians who played vital roles in shaping the economy of Africa’s most populous nation, Williams even at 100 continues to serve as a source of inspiration to younger ones who look up to him as a role model.
Akintola Williams is particularly celebrated for his pioneer efforts in the history of Nigeria’s accountancy profession. Not only has he been passionate about his profession, but he’s also been committed to using his intelligence and brilliance to set a pace for others to follow. No wonder he is referred to as the doyen of accountancy profession in Nigeria.
Born on August 9, 1919, in Lagos to the affluent yet humble family of Thomas Ekundayo Williams who was a successful lawyer and businessman, Akintola Williams’ life is a success story as he overlooked the luxury around him and pursued his career with utmost diligence despite the challenges that accompanied it, this made him attain the peak of his career.
Williams has sustained the success in his family lineage. His grandfather, Zachariah Archibald Williams, was a merchant and farmer from the ancient city of Abeokuta, and his father was a clerk in the colonial service who established a legal practice in Lagos, after he returned from London in 1923 where he studied, to practice the profession until 1938 when he died at a young age of 48.
Nigeria’s first chartered accountant began his primary school education in 1928 at Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, Apongbon, Lagos. Shortly after, he proceeded to Church Missionary Society (CMS) Grammar School, Bariga, Lagos in 1938 for his secondary school education with records of academic success.
Akintola Williams was among the twelve students who sat the final Cambridge certificate examination in 1938 and came out in flying colours – he was exempted from the London Matriculation Examination, an unusual feat at that time.
With his enviable records in secondary school such as being the most brilliant student at the time, he won a scholarship funded by the United African Company (UAC) after he gained admission to study at the Yaba Higher College in 1939 where he was awarded a Diploma in Commerce in 1941.
He proceeded to the United Kingdom in 1944 on a Nigerian government scholarship to train as a chartered accountant. While Williams was preparing for his accountancy examinations, he completed a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce at the University of London in 1946.
Three years after, he successfully passed the final examinations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and became a member of the institute in 1950, making him the first Nigerian and one of the first black Africans to become a chartered accountant in the United Kingdom.
In the midst of all these, Akintola was keenly interested to use his wealth of knowledge to contribute to the development of the nation. He returned to Nigeria in 1950 to serve in the Inland Revenue as an assessment officer in the agency, a position he occupied until 1952. He resigned from the civil service and founded Akintola Williams & Co., now Deloitte & Touche, in 1952.
The establishment of Akintola Williams & Co. came at a time when the accountancy business was dominated by five large foreign firms. Although some local accounting firms were in existence, they were certified rather than chartered accountants. Severally indigenous companies including Nnamdi Azikwe’s West African Pilot, K.O Mbadkwe’s African Insurance Company, Fawehinmi Furniture and Ojukwu Transport engaged the services of his firm.
These services were not limited to private companies; he also provided services to state-owned enterprises including Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, the Western Nigerian Development Corporation, the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation, the Nigerian Railway Corporation and the Nigerian Ports Authority.
With his astute management and hard work, the company advanced both in size and scope of service to become the largest professional services firm in the country with staff strength running into hundreds having merged with two accounting firms between 1999 and 2004. In 2004, the now expanded firm changed its name to Akintola Williams Deloitte.
Williams played a major role in establishing the Association of Accountants in Nigeria in 1960 with an objective to train accountants. He was a founding member and the first president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). ICAN is Nigeria’s foremost professional accountancy body with its national secretariat located in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and named Akintola Williams House.
Williams also participated in founding the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), the Lions Club International District 404, and a music centre and concert hall for the Music Society of Nigeria (MUSON) after his retirement.
Currently, the distinguished accountant is the only surviving signatory to the original Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) at the founding of the NSE on September 15, 1960. As a member of the National Council of the NSE, he contributed his quota to deepen the capital market such as establishing rules which reduced the barriers for companies to list on the domestic bourse.
His services to the accountancy profession and the Nigerian economy earned him several awards and honours which speak volumes of his personality and legacies. In 1982, he was honoured with a national award of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Federal Government of Nigeria, he was also appointed as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in April 1997 for the promotion of arts, culture and music through MUSON.
The Akintola Williams Arboretum at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation headquarters in Lagos was named to his honour. On May 8, 2011, the Nigeria-Britain Association presented him an award alongside the then President of Ghana, John Kufuor, for their contributions to democracy and development in Africa.
Williams held many public sector positions including Chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners (1958-68), member of the Coker Commission of Inquiry into the Statutory Corporations of the former Western Region of Nigeria (1962), Member of the Board of Trustees of the Commonwealth Foundation (1966-1975), Chairman of Lagos State Government Revenue Collection Panel (1973).
Others include Chairman of the Public Service Review Panel to correct the anomalies in the Udoji Salary Review Commission (1975), President of Metropolitan Club in Victoria Island, Lagos, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of MUSON, founder and council member of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, member of the committee set up by the Nigerian government to carry out a feasibility study on the viability of establishing a stock exchange in Nigeria.
Without a doubt, the exemplary leadership qualities and passion to promote good governance of the renowned chartered Williams, led President Muhammadu Buhari to describe him as the man who taught Nigerians how to seek and achieve transparency and accountability.
“President Buhari enjoins other professionals to emulate the dedication, steadfastness, industry, commitment and untiring sense of responsibility that Chief Akintola has continued to exhibit for many decades in order to take their professions to higher realms,” a statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, read.
Williams was married to Efuntiloye Mabel Williams until she died on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, and plays a leading role in developing national capacity in the fight against cancer in the country. He believes in the Christian faith and listens to classical music, plays the piano, and reads poetry.