What I do as number one chartered accountant in Nigeria – Comfort Eyitayo, ICAN president
The 57th president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Comfort Eyitayo, tells TOFARATI IGE about her plans for the institute, her career, family and other issues
AS the President of ICAN, what are your shortterm and long-term plans?
The institute’s firm foundation is structured in a way to build on past legacies while the present administration is also expected to chart new courses, as desirable, in the overall interest of the institute, its members and society at large. My inaugural speech catalogued both the short-term and longterm plans for this presidential year. In summary, our plans are to provide the required leadership in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. We would play a visible role in the formulation of economic policies of the country and contribute significantly to tackling the economic and social malaise bedevilling us as a nation. Also, we are focusing on building the entrepreneurship capacity of our members through the establishment of an entrepreneurship centre. We would equally provide thought leadership on harnessing data in the profession and economy which is necessary in arriving at informed decisions.
How would you describe the process through which you became the president of the association?
My election as the 57th ICAN President and the eighth female president in the institute’s 56-year history followed the rich succession plan laid by our founding fathers. It is a seamless and rancour-free mechanism that has singled ICAN out among professional bodies, not only in the country but across Africa. We would continue to implore leaders across all levels to adopt the same spirit of sportsmanship that should rganization(?) any aspiration to leadership positions.
In your inaugural speech, you stated that there were efforts to weaken the profession. Please expatiate on that.
In my inaugural speech, I enunciated the circular issued by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation on the abolition of entry level of professionals into the civil/public service. The implication of this is not just for the noble accounting profession, but it has grave consequences on professionalism in the public sector. Lack of professionalism in the public sector, which the circular portends, would negatively and indirectly impact on the quality of corporate reporting, ability to attract foreign direct investment and grants from donor agencies. In essence, the public sector needs more, not less, professionals. It is therefore an irony that the nation is unwittingly discouraging the building of capacity by professional bodies through this policy.
In your inaugural address, you also mentioned that ‘ICAN will work closely with governments at all levels on the challenge of setting a new agenda for national rebirth’. How do you intend to do that?
Before now, we had championed a number of initiatives of national interest, including the globally acknowledged ICAN Accountability Index. We have, over the years, ensured the positioning of ICAN for great impact on the economy through strategic relationships with governments and other stakeholders. Few weeks into the new presidential year of the institute, we engaged political leaders at various levels where we had extensive discussions on the need for a national rebirth. Recently, we were at the National Assembly to meet with key actors in the upper and lower chambers on the need to promote healthy financial systems in the country. We were unequivocal in our commitment to collaborate with the House and Senate committees on finance in the area of capacity building for their members. The institute had also opened discussion with the Federal Inland Revenue Service in a bid to consolidate the achievements already made by the service in the country’s tax system. We are deepening our impact across all sectors of the economy. As an institute that promotes accountability and transparency, we would be more deliberate in working with governments as well as private sector stakeholders to entrench probity, accuracy and integrity in our national consciousness.
You have been on the governing board of ICAN since 2007. As a member of the board, what are the notable contributions you made to the association?
In all humility and with a high sense of responsibility, I would say I have paid my dues as a member of the governing council of the institute since 2007. I chaired several council committees, including the Finance and General Purpose Committee, the Technical, Research and Public Policy Committee, the Professional Examinations Committee, the Annual Accountants’ Conference Committee, among several others. During my Chairmanship of the Ikeja and District Society of the institute, I pursued vigorously and achieved the desire for the district to own its own building and thereby securing the first position as the pacesetter district among the Committee of ICAN District Societies to have its self-funded building.
You were once the Vice President of ICAN. How did that role prepare you for your current position?
I would say that my role as the Vice President was just an icing on the cake of my close to one-and-half decades of membership of the governing council. Before my election as the 57th President of the institute, I had spent 14 years on the governing council. Within this period, I was privileged to learn directly under 14 past presidents. The experience I garnered under these distinguished leaders, no doubt, prepared me adequately for my current position as the number one chartered accountant in the country. I have benefitted greatly also from my understanding of the workings of the institute that arose from the various rich discussions on the floor of the council.
What are the humanitarian activities ICAN is involved in and how do you intend to continue that legacy?
Essentially, ICAN is involved in capacity building of professional accountants and other finance experts. We have over the years created the necessary enabling learning environment in different tertiary institutions. These include the building of ICAN lecture halls, provision of books, computers and other learning facilities for tertiary institutions. Also, we have different categories of scholarships for outstanding and indigent students as well as engage a good number of industrial trainees and youth corps members. We also impact the immediate environment we operate in, both at the national secretariat and our other offices. We recently bought motorcycles for the Denton Police Station at Ebute-metta, Lagos, to contribute to the promotion of security in the areas we operate in. In this presidential year, we would not just sustain these corporate social responsibilities, but also expand them against the backdrop of emerging developments. I would work with my colleagues on the governing council to make our various stakeholders feel the impact of ICAN more profoundly.
Some small companies believe they don’t need to employ accountants. Is it every organisation that needs the services of accountants?
0I am surprised that in this present age, any company would still imagine not engaging at least one accountant. Apart from the mandatory regulatory demand, accountants provide strategic direction to businesses, irrespective of size. We (accountants) assist and guide in tax returns and preparation of financial reports.
What are the changes you would like to see in the accounting profession, especially in Nigeria?
The accounting profession is structured in a way that its adherents should act in the public interest and actively participate in entrenching accountability and transparency in the economy. My desire is that government across all levels would ensure that relevant accounting and finance positions in the country are made to be occupied by chartered accountants. As an institute, we would continue to implore the over 53,000 ICAN members to uphold accuracy and integrity, and remain committed to the institute’s code of professional conduct and to always act in the public interest.
What are the highlights of your career?
I started my working career in the banking sector as an account officer with the United Bank for Africa PLC in 1976, before proceeding abroad for further studies. On my return, I secured employment and trained with one of the ‘Big Four Firms’, the then KPMG Nigeria. During my ‘articleship’, I was seconded to KPMG, Mclintock, in the United Kingdom, (an international firm of chartered accountants) for a two year-training as one of the pioneer staff of the computer audit department, KPMG Nigeria. On my return from secondment, I