Akintola Williams, foremost accountant and statesman, dies at 104

The death, on Monday at age 104, of Mr Akintola Williams has robbed our country of a patriot, a foremost accountant and a statesman. Not surprisingly, there have been an outpouring of tributes from across the country for the man who earned the sobriquet ‘Doyen of Accounting in Nigeria’. But the remarkable life and career of Williams transcended the profession he pioneered in the country. He made far-reaching contributions to the growth and development of several sectors, including arts and music and remained a worthy role model to the very end.  

Born in Lagos on 9th August 1919, Williams was the older brother to the late legal luminary, Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams. He attended both Baptist Academy and CMS Grammar School in Lagos before proceeding to Yaba Higher College where he obtained a Diploma in Commerce on a United African Company (UAC) scholarship. His journey to accounting as a profession is an interesting story of its own. As he once recalled, his main interest was in surveying, a course not available in Yaba College of Technology at the time. But a chance meeting with an expatriate named John Selby changed his perspective and he decided to pursue accounting. 

During the Second World War in 1944, Williams left for the United Kingdom on a government scholarship to pursue his dream. In London, he joined the firm of Binder Hamlyn & Co. as an articled clerk while studying for his accountancy examinations. At the same period, he completed his degree programme in Commerce at the University of London. And in December 1949, Williams passed the final examinations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. With his admission into the membership of the Institute early in 1950, Williams effectively became the first Nigerian chartered accountant.   

Williams started his professional career with the Colonial Office in London and was posted to Nigeria same year to take the post of Inspector of Taxes where he would work with Selby, whose counsel had prompted him to study accountancy. After working for two years, Williams decided it was time to venture out into private practice. And in May 1952, he established his own firm of Akintola Williams & Co. as the first indigenous firm of accountants in Nigeria. Today, the firm has more than 600 members of staff and operates under the name of Akintola Williams Deloitte. 

Williams lived a disciplined life as attested to by many Nigerians, including President Bola Tinubu in his tribute. Having chosen to stay outside partisan politics, Williams became a mentor to many Nigerians in the profession he pioneered and helped to grow. In December 1960, two months after Nigeria’s independence, Wiliams co-founded and was named the first president of the Association of Accountants in Nigeria. It was from that position that he worked with a few others to ensure the incorporation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) through an Act of Parliament in September 1965 during the First Republic.  

 Beyond accounting, Williams pursued other interests. He was particularly instrumental to the establishment in September 1960 of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). Until his death on Monday, he remained the last surviving signatory to the original NSE Memorandum and Articles of Association. In his lifetime, Wiliams also received several honours both at home and abroad. In April 1997, the late Queen Elizabeth honoured him with the title of the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for the promotion of arts, culture, and music through the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) which he helped to establish. 

Without any doubt, the late Williams impacted our society greatly. May his gentle soul rest in peace. 

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