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Akintola Williams: A portrait of integrity, professionalism

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Akintola Williams

One of the professionals in Africa who has distinguished himself, not only as a seasoned administrator, dynamic entrepreneur, and an accomplished businessman but also demonstrated a high standard of professionalism in both financial and business fields, is Chief Akintola Williams – the first chartered accountant and accomplished financial expert in Africa.

Mr. Williams was born in Lagos in 1919 to the family of Thomas Ekundayo Williams. He attended CMS Grammar School, Lagos – the first and the best secondary school in Nigeria after his primary school education at Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, Lagos.

As a brilliant student, Williams completed his secondary school education at CMS Grammar School in 1938 and thereafter attended the Yaba Higher College, Lagos, where he obtained a Diploma in Commerce. In 1944, he proceeded to the University of London, England where he obtained a Bachelor of Commerce Degree (majoring in Banking and Finance) in 1946.

As a man of focus, he continued his studies and qualified as a chartered accountant in England in 1949. Indeed, with this feat, Williams became the first African to qualify as a chartered accountant and became a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1949.

After returning to Nigeria in 1950, Williams served with the Inland Revenue, as an assessment officer until March 1952, when he left the civil service and founded Akintola Williams and Co. in Lagos. As an entrepreneur and financial expert, his firm became the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Africa – at the time the accountancy business was dominated by five large foreign firms. But Williams, as a man with the capability to translate vision into reality, started gaining business from indigenous companies including the Ojukwu Transport Company, K.O. Mbadiwe’s African Insurance Company, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot, Fawehinmi Furniture, to mention but a few.

Also, he provided services to the new state-owned corporations including the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, the Western Nigeria Development Corporation, the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). As a man of vision and focus, Williams expanded his services abroad through the help of his local and foreign partners. In 1964, a branch was established in Cameroon, followed by branches in Cote D’Ivoire and Swaziland while affiliates were opened in Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, and other African countries.

It is worthy of note to state that by March 1992, the company had grown to become the first and biggest indigenous accounting firm in Africa with 19 partners and 535 workers. In 1983, Williams – a man who is always interested in the advancement of accountancy in Nigeria, in particular, and Africa in general, spearheaded the establishment of the Association of Accountants in Nigeria (AAN) in 1960 with the sole aim of training accountants within the country.

In 1965, Williams became one of the founding members and the first President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) – a leading Institute in Africa today. Also, as a catalyst of economic development and agent of positive change, Williams championed the establishment of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in 1960, a market that he is actively involved in till date as an adviser to the operators.

Truly, Williams has distinguished himself in many areas and has touched, transformed and empowered many lives not only in the field of accountancy but also in many areas of human endeavours. For instance, he is a former board member of several companies in Nigeria including the Nigerian Tobacco Company Limited now the British-American Tobacco Company, BEWAC Limited, Bentworth Finance Limited, John Holt Investment Limited, G. Cappa Plc, Shell Trustees (Nigeria) Limited, Universe Re-Insurance Company Limited, United Nigerian Textiles Plc, and Mandilas Limited.

He was also the former Chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commission, member, Coker Commission of inquiry into the Statutory Corporations of the former Western Region of Nigeria, former Chairman, Lagos State Government Revenue Collection Panel, former Chairman, Public Service Review Panel instituted to correct the anomalies of the Udoji Salary Review Commission (1975), founding member of the Metropolitan Club, Chairman, the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON), founding chairman, African Cancer Centre (ACC), founding member, Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCE), member, OGS Board of Trustees, founding Chairman, International Lions Club District 404, member, Ikoyi Club and former Trustee for Nigeria on the Commonwealth Foundation.
Honours and awards.

In recognition and appreciation of his commitment to the advancement of accountancy and enormous contributions to the economic development of Nigeria, Williams has been honoured by many organisations and institutions within and outside Nigeria. These include: Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the accountancy profession and promotion of arts, culture and music through the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) and encouraging amicable relationships between Nigeria and Britain; Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR) in 1982, for services to the accountancy profession and Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR) in 2001; Life Achievement Award (LAA) by the Old Grammarians’ Society (OGS) Lagos; the Akintola Williams Arboretum at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation headquarters in Lagos is named in his honour; and Knight of the Order of Rio Branco of the Federative Republic of Brazil and First Gold Medalist, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).

It is imperative to state that the high level of professionalism exhibited by Williams over the years and the record of achievements and legacies have made him the ‘Father of the Accountancy profession’ in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. Also, his pragmatic and exemplary leadership qualities, mentorship and insightful solutions to the plight of the masses continue to stand him out.

Indeed, he is a catalyst for economic development, a visionary leader, an agent of positive change and a rare gem whose life is celebrated today as a role model in Africa. He was for over 60 years married to Mabel Efuntiloye Williams until her death in 2009. He has two children, Tokunbo Williams, and Seni Williams.


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