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Akintola Williams: The Pioneering Spirit of African Accountancy

The accounting and financial sectors of Nigeria, and indeed Sub-Saharan Africa, owe a great deal to the foundational work of Chief Akintola Williams, who passed away recently at the venerable age of 104. Known as the doyen of accounting in the region, Williams carved out a legacy marked by integrity, resilience, and an unyielding commitment to excellence.

Early Life and Education

Born into a lineage of merchant princes and legal professionals on 9 August 1919, Williams had his early education at Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, Lagos. Furthering his studies, he went on to CMS Grammar School and then to Yaba Higher College, where he earned a diploma in commerce on a UAC scholarship. His thirst for knowledge led him to the University of London, graduating in 1946 with a Bachelor of Commerce. By 1949, he became the first Nigerian to qualify as a chartered accountant in England.

Trailblazing Accounting Career

Returning to Nigeria in 1950, Williams initially served with the Inland Revenue before founding Akintola Williams & Co. in 1952, the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Africa. Breaking through a field previously dominated by foreign entities, Williams built his client base with both indigenous companies and new state-owned corporations. His firm grew exponentially over the decades, culminating in a merger that created Akintola Williams Deloitte in 2004, currently the largest professional services firm in Nigeria.

Impact on Public and Private Sectors

Williams was instrumental in establishing critical financial institutions in Nigeria. He had an active role in the inception of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). Beyond accountancy, Williams held various public service roles, including serving as the Chairman of the Federal Income Tax Appeal Commissioners and the Public Service Review Panel.

A Life of Honours and Philanthropy

Throughout his long and illustrious career, Williams received numerous accolades, including the Nigerian Government’s OFR and the British CBE awards. However, his contributions go beyond his professional life. Williams was a philanthropist at heart, significantly supporting educational and healthcare initiatives. He was also a patron of the arts, notably founding the Music Society of Nigeria.

Remembering a Legend

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, along with the government and people of Lagos and Ogun States, recently mourned the loss of this giant in the accounting field. President Tinubu affirmed that Williams’ legacy extends far beyond accountancy, leaving an indelible impact on the nation’s growth and the upliftment of its most vulnerable citizens.

As the accounting fraternity and the nation at large bid farewell to Akintola Williams, his legacy as a trailblazer and a paragon of professional integrity lives on, inspiring future generations to excel and contribute meaningfully to society.

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