‘I rose above gender discrimination’
assisted in the design and implementation of the Computer Audit Department programme, including the corporate/executive training curriculum of the firm. Overtime, I became an executive training consultant under the Computer Audit Department of KPMG Nigeria and also anchored the Computer Audit Training and Computer Audit assignments of the firm nationwide. In all, I worked with KPMG Nigeria for a decade with responsibility for auditing, tax, management, computer auditing assignment/ computer training.
In search of self-fulfillment and greater challenges, I left KPMG in 1993 to set up my professional practice— Comfort Olu Eyitayo and Co. (Chartered Accountants)—a firm of financial/ management accountants and tax practitioners. I became the Senior Partner of the firm in 2002. I also set up a consulting arm of the firm, COE Consulting, in 1993.
What do you consider to be the lowest moment in your career?
That is a pretty difficult question as I have never considered any moment the lowest. Even in the face of challenges in my career journey, I have learnt to make the best use of every circumstance. I see challenges as opportunities to prove my mettle and use any form of stumbling block as stepping stones for greater achievements.
What inspired you to become an accountant?
My career pursuit in accounting was greatly influenced by one of the founding fathers of ICAN— the late Chief Adedoyin Ogunde, who also hailed from my hometown. His stature, demeanour and great accomplishments were a great inspiration to people like me. Indeed, because of his accomplishments and gait or carriage, accountancy became the vogue. My elder sister, Mrs M.O. Onasanya, who for several years served as an ICAN council member before voluntarily stepping aside in 2006, was also an inspiration to me to choose this noble profession.
lessons you have
What are the most important learnt in the course of your career?
If there is any lesson I have learnt in the course of my career, it is my conscious effort to uphold the motto of ICAN, which is ‘accuracy and integrity’. These are non-negotiable attributes for professional accountants. With accuracy, one would win the trust of one’s clients to deliver quality jobs, while integrity would win their confidence in one to deliver the job in line with the dictates of the profession. Another lesson I have learnt is that a tree cannot make a forest. One needs productive relationships and collaborations to achieve success in any career one chooses.
Beyond accounting, what are your other interests?
I am an entrepreneur with ventures that cut across the financial, information technology and hospitality industries. I like to write and I have authored a number of books. I also have appreciation for good indigenous music.
You are the CEO of Eden Comfort Place. What stirred your interest in the hospitality business?
I was principally motivated by a sense of fulfilment I derive from one of my eclectic skills in hospitality. This prompted me to establish Eden Comfort Place to care for the welfare of tourists and persons who carry out activities in Ikeja, Lagos, and need a place of comfort to rest after the day’s activities.
You worked with KPMG Peat Marwick and KPMG Mcclintock, both in the United Kingdom, at different times. What were the highlights of your time in both companies?
That would be the building of intellectual capacity and selfconfidence. Thankfully, those qualities have continued to help me in every step of the way in my career.
You also worked with the United Bank for Africa. What do you consider to be your most significant contributions while working with the company?
I would say effective and harmonised customer relations.
one possess to be a good
What qualities must accountant?
As an accountant that is worth one’s salt, one must pay painstaking attention to details, be able to participate effectively as a team member, possess high and impeccable ethical disposition and integrity, be inclined to lifelong learning, build one’s leadership skills and be creative.
Have you ever experienced gender discrimination in the course of your career?
Yes, but I will quickly add that it is not out of place, so I build myself to rise above it. Even if there are gender discriminations, I want to encourage my fellow females to continue to put in their best. Society and fortune have a way of rewarding those who give it all that it takes. However, we should not, as females, start competition war with our male colleagues. We should rather see ourselves as collaborators towards a common goal in whatever organisation we find ourselves.
Despite its wealth, many Nigerian citizens live in poverty. How do you think the country’s resources can be better managed?
It is a paradox that Nigeria has assumed the sad status of one of the poorest nations in the world in spite of her human and natural endowment. Currently, over 40 per cent of the population live in abject poverty. The major problem is in the mismanagement of our collective national wealth, lack of accountability and transparency, and a large number of the population not benefiting from growth and development strategies. When fiscal transparency is entrenched across all levels of government, Nigeria would have adequately arrested the recurring illegal leakages from the economy.
The focus can then shift to using the dividends from the fiscal transparency to bring about inclusive growth by increasing the quality of life of those in the federal poverty level or poverty threshold. One of our approaches to addressing this ugly occurrence of high poverty rate is to entrench a culture of accountability and transparency in public governance through the
ICAN Accountability Index.
There is systemic brain drain in the accounting profession, with many brilliant accountants leaving the country in search of greener pastures. What do you think that portends for the future of the profession and how can the trend be curbed?
The systemic brain drain is not peculiar to the accounting profession. It is a reflection of the general economic performances, particularly low wages and poor purchasing power of our currency, resulting in the migration of professionals and non-professionals to other seemingly promising societies. Addressing this trend requires a revamping of the economy and an aggressive national reorientation. It goes beyond what a single body or entity can effectively tackle. Let me also quickly state that the international mobility of our members, like other competitive professions, is an indication of the competitiveness of our certificate. Nevertheless, ICAN is embarking on aggressive marketing to ensure that the country is supplied with adequate number of chartered accountants who would meet the local demand for professional accountants.
What changes would you like to see in the accounting profession?
The accounting profession is designed to 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 always act in the public interest.
With the disruption occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, I would like to see the accounting profession less reactionary and more proactive in technological and financial innovations. Innovations should not be at the mercy of whatever foreign IT professionals come up with. These indigenous innovations will save Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange.
Can you recall how you met your husband?
Yes. We met in my secondary school days, precisely at the Lagos City College, Yaba.
What were the qualities that endeared you to him?
His gentle demeanour and unassuming disposition were the qualities I found admirable in him.
What role has your husband played in your career advancement?
My husband has been a great supporter. As you know, if the home front is shaky, attaining such an enviable height of ICAN President would be difficult, if not impossible. I am grateful for his support of my passion for the profession and my services to the institute.
What advice do you have for career women, as regards combining and balancing their work and family?
The home front is very important, so also is one’s work. None should be allowed to suffer for the other. Striking this balance is critical for career women. While pursuing professional relevance, we should never neglect the home front. A truly successful career woman is one that can be successful at home and at work. It is not easy, but the benefit is worth the cost.
It is a commonly held belief that accountants are stingy people. What’s your take on that?
(Laughs). Accountants are not stingy people. We are only efficient managers of resources.
There have been calls for more female technocrats to get involved in politics. Do you see yourself running for any elective office now or in the future?
I am of the opinion that running for an elective position in the political space is not the only way to make impact. However, I must confess that the idea has crossed my mind. Perhaps, I would give it more consideration now that you have raised it. I encourage female technocrats and professionals to partake in active politics as this will give us the opportunity to be fully involved in decision making in the country. If elective offices are left to the unqualified, we must not complain. I also want to encourage governments at all levels to implement both the spirit and letter of the ‘affirmative action’.
In many cases, accountants have been known to cover up frauds and help in money laundering, thereby soiling the image of the noble profession. How does that make you feel and how can that trend be reversed?
I need to emphasise that not all the people providing accounting services are chartered accountants. We hold our members high in terms of integrity and frown at any form of professional misconduct. ICAN has a robust disciplinary mechanism to deal with any form of infraction among its members. To ensure compliance to the professional code of ethics, we have a disciplinary tribunal and investigating panel. This is aside from the investigative committees set up for our professional students. The judgment of the disciplinary tribunal is equivalent to that of the High Court. We continue to encourage the public to report any misconduct to the institute’s disciplinary tribunal through the Registrar/chief Executive.
There is no profession without bad elements and it is saddening when such acts become public. We can, however, reverse the trend by having the right professionals in positions of trust in the country.
How would you describe your childhood?
In short, it was a very exciting time. I enjoyed my childhood even though it had its challenges. It was never the less experiential.
What were your childhood ambitions?
I wanted to be on top of my career and make a difference.
decide to study Economics at the
Why did you university?
I loved Economics as a subject and I found it very interesting and enriching.
What are your hobbies?
I love swimming, dancing and reading novels.
How do you like to dress?
I like to dress very well, appropriately and comfortably.
How would you describe your personality?
I would describe myself as a goal getter. I have a can-do spirit borne out of the believe that nothing is impossible if one applies oneself to it.
What advice do you have for young people regards making the most out of their careers?
My advice for young people is that success is never achieved on a silver platter. There is nothing like get-rich-quick syndrome for any success that would stand the test of time. Good success is incremental and one should be patient enough to rise in life. They should prayerfully choose their career and pursue it with all due diligence. Also, the role of mentors in any profession is very important. They (young people) must identify individuals they are responsible to and can look forward to for professional direction and guidance.