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Accountants Are Critical To National Development -Owoyemi

Addul-Lateef Owoyemi
Posted: Oct 6, 2016 at 8:29 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chief Abdul-Lateef Owoyemi is the chief executive officer of LOP Consulting, a management accounting firm that restructures companies and agencies for better performance. He is a chartered accountant and former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). He has also headed many other accounting bodies in the country. He spoke to Ikechi Nzeako on accounting practice in the country and other issues. Excerpts:

 

What exactly does LOP Consulting do?

We restructure companies for better performance. For instance, LOP Consulting restructured the Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigerian Institute of Management and many other companies and institutions. We look at what they are doing and institute ways they can do better. We also help banks to recover their debts; we serve as receivers for banks. These are some of the things we do and we have been doing them in the last 35 years.

What did you have in mind when you set up LOP Consulting?

Right from my student days, I found out that I was good at consultancy. When I was a student, during the time of training, the solutions that I proffered were always the right ones out of many. From early years, I know I was gifted in consultancy; helping to find things others could not find and proffering solutions others could not see and that has been the situation since my early days in the accounting profession. I never went for any other profession apart from accountancy and I have done very well in the profession. I have been president of the Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria; I have also been president of the Institute of Management Consultancy Companies of Nigeria and many more.

Who did you study accountancy and not any other profession?

I had my first scholarship to study public administration at the Nigerian College of Arts, which became the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). I had a four-year scholarship but fortunately for me, I was able to do the course in three years and I passed the examination in flying colours. The head of department, an European, asked me to go for another scholarship in accountancy. I would have gone for law but he said I was very good in accounting and that I should go for accounting. That was how I got my five-scholarship to study accountancy and in 18 months, I was able to pass the examination and I came tops as the best graduating student.

Some people allege that most of the corruption in the country is perpetrated with the help of accountants. What is your reaction to this allegation?

There are ways to look at the issue; there are issues that go on in places like the Central Bank of Nigeria; you should not blame the accountant for those things; yes no voucher can be cashed without an accountant signing it. If the accountant is disempowered that he cannot stand up to his bosses, he cannot but do their bidding. I think that the standard has fallen; the older accountants will not accede to such things. But the younger accountants want to join the train; they want to make money and this may be because they are not well paid. Many accountants in government service are not well paid; I remember a senior accountant telling me that his pay could not take him pay. How can a man like that stick to the truth? If an accountant gets meagre pay, he mostly to compromise. However, are most likely not to compromise because they are well trained and are principled.

What is your assessment of the accountancy practice in the country?  

In terms of serving in the government, Nigeria has been snubbing accountants in the last 20 years. Only in the current government do we have Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance, an accountant, in the government. In the countries of the world that are doing well economically, the common factor is that accountants are given key roles in the government. This has not been the case here in Nigeria. In the past 10 to 12 years, we have not had an accountant in government and we are spending so much money with none to tell you what to do and how to do it properly. If the country wants to move forward, accountants should be given their proper place in government at the state and federal levels so that they can advise on how to do the right things. This is because resources are limited and government and it is only chartered accountants that can guide you and advise you on where you should go and where you should not go.

Younger accountants have alleged that the older ones not paying them adequately and that is why they starting their firms without getting adequate tutelage. How do you react to this?

That is not true; there is no senior accountant that will employ and train a junior accountant and underpay him. Remember that accountancy training has two stages; first you go to the university to get your degree; you do not have any experience. You need to get the pupilage to become a professional. In any profession, anybody who is getting pupilage does not get the money of a professional. The employer takes time and makes effort to teach employee. In Europe, for example, you pay to be trained. But here in Nigeria, we pay the trainees while teaching them to become professionals. But after your articleship and you get your membership certificate, you begin to earn higher pay because you are sent out to do audit jobs. No employer will send an underpaid accountant to do an audit job, this is to prevent him from saying he saw things he did not see.

What do you say to young accountants, who want to open their own shops without getting adequate training and experience?

Opening an accountancy firm without getting adequate training and experience, you cannot do well at it. You must train under a senior accountant to get the needed experience and training. There is a difference between what you learn in school and how things are done in practice. You need to be properly articled under a senior chartered accountant of some years of experience. For instance, I went to Author Mbanefo, Akintola Williams and Co despite the fact that I was head of department in government. The time I spent there was most beautiful part of my career; the things I learned there guide what I do today. They should be patient and see the training as part of their university education. If start practising without proper training, they will not get good clients and they will not get top jobs.