.Obaseki, Keyamo Mourn
A chopper transporting the CEO of Access Bank and Access Holdings, Herbert Wigwe, and about five others aboard has crashed in California, United States.
The chopper, identified as a Eurocopter EC 130, was headed to Las Vegas when it crashed last Friday night near Nipton, between Nevada and California.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in a statement, yesterday, confirmed that all onboard are dead.
The FAA said no survivors had been found as of yesterday.
“We were made aware of a downed aircraft at approximately 10:12 p.m., on February 9, 2024. The scene of the crash was determined to be east of the 15-Freeway, near Halloran Springs Road,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board said they were investigating the cause of the crash at the time of filing this report.
Wigwe started his professional career with Coopers & Lybrand Associates, an international firm of Chartered Accountants. He later moved to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc where he spent over 10 years and managed several portfolios, including financial institutions, large corporates and multinationals.
He left Guaranty Trust Bank as an Executive Director to co-lead the transformation of Access Bank Plc in March 2002 as Deputy Managing Director. He was appointed Group Managing Director/CEO effective January
1, 2014 and served in that capacity till May 2022.
He was subsequently appointed a Non-Executive Director of the Bank effective May 2022.
Wigwe, until his demise, was an alumnus of the Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme. He holds a master’s degree in Banking and International Finance from the University College of North Wales, a master’s degree in Financial Economics from the University of London and a B.Sc. degree in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). Wigwe is the Chairman of The Access Bank (UK) Ltd and a Non-Executive Director of Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company Plc; FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange; Shared Agents Network Expansion Facilities Ltd and Agri-Business/ SME Enterprises Investment Scheme. He is also a member of the Governing Council of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).
His remarkable achievements in the transformation of Access Bank into a holdco structure cannot be over emphasised.
Indeed, under his leadership, the bank, previously ranked 65th among 89 banks operating in Nigeria, was transformed into a world-class African financial institution.
He succeeded in giving the bank international visibility and prominence with subsidiaries across Africa, Europe and Asia.
In addition, he played a remarkable role in the merger between Access Bank and Diamond Bank in 2018 that transformed the bank to number one slot in some parameters like assets and retail business with over 600 branches.
Wigwe recently bagged the ‘African Banker of the Year’ award at the 2021 edition of the African Banker Awards for his outstanding leadership skills in the market expansion of the bank during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond his role at Access Bank, Wigwe was also involved in various philanthropic activities through the Herbert Wigwe Foundation, which focuses on education, health, women empowerment and entrepreneurship. He is a strong advocate for sustainable development and social impact in Nigeria.
He is a respected and influential figure in the Nigerian banking industry, known for his leadership, strategic acumen and commitment to driving positive change.
He embarked on a university project, Wigwe University, but couldn’t live to see it and his other visions through as the wind of death has blown him away.
In a tribute titled ‘Tragic Loss: Remembering Herbert Wigwe, the Visionary CEO of Access Holdings’, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, described him as a visionary leader whose legacy extends far beyond the realm of finance.
The tribute, signed by the Special Assistant, Media and Communications to the Minister, Tunde Moshood, read: “In a shocking turn of events, the world just bid a painful farewell to Herbert Wigwe, the esteemed CEO of Access Holdings, who died in a tragic helicopter crash that claimed his life, beloved wife, child, and business partner, Bimbo Ogunbanjo.
“Their journey, which began with ambitious business aspirations, ended abruptly, leaving behind a void felt not only in the corporate world but also in the hearts of those who knew them.
“Wigwe, a luminary in the banking and financial sector, was not merely a tycoon chasing profits; he was a visionary leader with a fervent dedication to his nation’s progress. His untimely demise occurred during a crucial juncture, as he sought to revolutionise Nigeria’s aviation infrastructure.
“A scene was set recently, specifically on Tuesday, February 6, 2024, at the office of the Honourable Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo SAN CON FCIarb (UK), as Wigwe, accompanied by his topflight team, engaged in discussions with the Honourable Minister.
“Their mission: To forge a groundbreaking synergy that would elevate the nation’s airports to global standards.
“Access Bank, under Wigwe’s astute leadership, pledged to undertake the refurbishment of vital airport facilities, including toilets, lifts and other visible infrastructure. In exchange, the bank secured a visibility barter agreement, signaling a strategic partnership aimed at enhancing both customer experience and national pride.
“During the intense negotiations that ran for hours, Wigwe’s passion for his country’s aviation sector was palpable. His enthusiasm was not merely a business facade but a genuine commitment to fostering progress and excellence.
“Despite his towering success and financial acumen, Wigwe remained grounded in his roots, recently investing significantly in a varsity project in his hometown of Port-Harcourt.
“Beyond the boardroom, Wigwe’s charisma and warmth endeared him to all who crossed his path. His rapport with the Honourable Minister transcended the confines of business, as they exchanged banter and sealed their agreement with a handshake, emblematic of their shared vision for a prosperous Nigeria.
“As we bid farewell to Herbert Wigwe, we mourn the loss of a visionary leader whose legacy extends far beyond the realm of finance.
“His unwavering dedication to his nation and his indomitable spirit serve as inspiration to us all. Though he may have left this world prematurely, his vision and values will continue to guide us as we strive for a brighter future.
“Adieu, Herbert Wigwe. Your presence will be sorely missed, but your legacy will endure as a beacon of hope and progress.”
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, also expressed shock over Wigwe’s death.
In a message he personally signed, the governor described Wigwe’s death as painful and heart wrenching.
The message read: “The news of the passing of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Access Bank Holdings, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, who died in a helicopter crash in the United States of America, has left me extremely shocked and devastated.
We also unfortunately lost Wigwe’s wife and son as well as the former group chairman of Nigeria Stock Exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, in the crash.
“The tragic incident is painful and heart wrenching and we pray for God’s abiding comfort in this profoundly difficult time.
“Wigwe was a colossus in Nigeria’s financial sector, leading Access Bank to become an international brand that placed Nigeria on the global map of first class financial services.
“I commiserate with the Wigwe Family, the Ogunbanjo Family, Access Bank Holding, the Nigeria Stock Exchange, friends and associates and pray that God will grant all the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”