Early Days and Education
Born 9 August 1919, Akintola came from a lineage of success. His grandfather, Z.A. Williams, was a merchant prince from Abeokuta, and his father, Thomas Ekundayo Williams, was a clerk in the colonial service who set up a legal practice in Lagos after training in London, England.
Akintola;s primary education in 1928 was at the Olowogbowo Methodist Primary School, Lagos. He thereafter proceeded to the CMS Grammar School, Lagos and to Yaba Higher College on a UAC scholarship, obtaining a diploma in commerce. In 1944, he moved overseas to the University of London and studied Banking and Finance, graduating in 1946 with a Bachelor of Commerce. In 1949, he passed the finals of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. With that, he became the first Nigerian and one of the first black Africans to qualify as a chartered accountant in the United Kingdom.
Akintola Williams: Professional Career
Upon 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 & Co. in Lagos. The company was the first indigenous chartered accounting firm in Africa.
At the time, the accountancy business was dominated by five large foreign firms. Although there were a few small local firms, they were certified rather than chartered accountants. Williams gained business from indigenous companies including Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot, K. O. Mbadiwe’s African Insurance Company, Fawehinmi Furniture and Ojukwu Transport.
He also 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. As at 2004, after a series of mergers with many firms that offer the same services, Williams’ firm became one of the oldest indigenous firms and the largest in its trade in Nigeria with over 600 staff.
Akintola Williams: An Iconic and Influential Figure
Williams was instrumental in the establishment of the Association of Accountants in Nigeria in 1960 with the goal of training accountants. He was the first President of the association. He was also a founding member and first president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, and was also involved in establishing the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Akintola 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 in September 15, 1960. As a member of the National Council of the Exchange, he contributed to the growth of its listing portfolio and established rules reducing barriers for companies to list on the exchange.
At different times, he held the following positions in the public sector:
- 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 the Lagos State Government Revenue Collection Panel (1973).
- Chairman of the Public Service Review Panel to correct the anomalies in the Udoji Salary Review Commission (1975).
- President of the Metropolitan Club in Victoria Island, Lagos.
- Founder and Council member of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation.
- Founder and chairman of the board of Trustees of the Musical Society of Nigeria.
- Member of the committee set up by the Federal Government to carry out a feasibility study on the viability of establishing a stock exchange in Nigeria.
Akintola Williams: Legacies
A very aged man, his life and times have been honorable. Some of the legacies tied to his name includes:
- Being honoured by the Nigerian Government with the O.F.R. in 1982.
- Venturing into the project to establish a music centre and concert hall for the Music Society of Nigeria following retirement in 1983.
- Appointed as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to the accountancy profession and for promotion of arts, culture and music through the Musical Society of Nigeria in April 1997.
- The Akintola Williams Arboretum at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation headquarters in Lagos being named in his honour.
- The Nigeria-Britain Association awards presented to John Kufuor, past President of Ghana, and to Akintola Williams, for their contributions to democracy and development in Africa on the 8th of May, 2011,
Tom G. Forrest, International African Institute (1994). The advance of African capital: the growth of Nigerian private enterprise. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 110–112.
David S. Fick (2002). Entrepreneurship in Africa: a study of successes. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 16.
Richard L. Sklar (2004). Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation. Africa World Press. p. 67.
Featured image source: The Guardian Nigeria