The Many Firsts of Akintola Williams

Akintola Williams
Akintola Williams

By the time he died on Monday morning Akintola Williams had become synonymous with accounting in Nigeria. There is no way the story of the growth of accounting practice in the country would be told, now or in the future, without a notable mention of him. He was the first Nigerian to qualify as a chartered accountant, having qualified in in England in 1949. He returned to Nigeria in 1950 and enlisted in the Government Inland Revenue department as an assssment officer, where he worked for two years before leaving the civil service. He established the first indigenous accounting firm in Nigeria in 1952 at the age of 33, making him not just the first accountant in Africa but the promoter of the first accounting firm in the continent.
Though he had to contend with five foreign accounting firms that were already established in the country, he doggedly grew his company by securing the services of establishments like the Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot, K O Mbadiwe’s African Insurance Company, Fawehinmi Furniture, the transport company of late Ojukwu, father of the late Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, ECN, the precursor of the former National Electricity Power Authority, NEPA (which later transformed to Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN before the unbundling of the power sector), Western Nigeria Development Corporation, the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation, the Nigeria Port Authority, NPA and the Nigerian Railway Corporation.
He started going into partnership with other accounting firms, home and abroad, in 1957 and by 1992 the company had had 19 partners and 535 staff members. Out of these partnership the bond with Touché Ross International and Deloite was a lasting one that resulted in the change of name, first to Akintola Williams Deloite and later Deloite and Touché. The firm is recorded as the largest professional services in Nigeria with a staff strength of 600.
He was known to have played a leading role in the establishment of the Association of Accountants, and he was the first president of the association in 1960. He also was the founding member and first president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN. Williams, elder brother of the late legal luminary, Rotimi Williams, also inspired the establishment of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, where he played active role for many years.
Akintola Williams was chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners between 1958 and 1968, a member of the Coker Commission of Inquiry into the Statutory Corporations of the old Western Region of Nigeria in 1962. He was on the board of Trustees of Commonwealth Foundation for nine years, from 1966 to 1975, and also chairman of the Lagos State Government Revenue Collection Panel in 1973. In 1975 he headed the Public Service Review Panel that advised government on the correction to the popular Udoji Salary Review Commission.
As busy as he was, Williams found time to relax. He was a member, and actually a former president of the Metropolitan Club, Lagos and a founder of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, as well as founder and chairman of board of Trustees of the Musical Society of Nigeria. The latter engaged his attention after retirement as an active accountant in 1983, when he started a project for a music centre and concert hall for the society.
He got many awards from Nigeria and overseas. The British government honoured him with the Order of the British Empire, OBE in 1997. He is also a holder of the Order of the Federal Republic, OFR in Nigeria, which was conferred on him in 1982, a year to his retirement. The Nigerian-Britain Association honoured him along with former President John Kufor of Ghana in 2011. The Akintola Williams Arboretum at the Nigerian Conservation headquarters in Lagos was named in his honour. He died at the age of 104, in his home in Lagos. The news was broken by Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State where he hails from.

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