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Corporate Nigeria jolted as Access Holdings’ Wigwe, wife, son, Ogunbanjo feared dead in air crash

Corporate Nigeria jolted as Access Holdings’ Wigwe, wife, son, Ogunbanjo feared dead in air crash
  • PublishedFebruary 11, 2024

Corporate Nigeria was thrown into mourning, yesterday, by the death of one of the nation’s leading bankers and Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings, Herbert Wigwe, his wife, son and former President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, in a plane crash in the United States of America.

Corporate chiefs and investors who declined to be quoted because the immediate constituents of the individuals involved in the crash had not made any statement, said it was a sad weekend.

According to them, Wigwe and Ogunbanjo represented the heartbeat of the investor community, especially in the financial sector, as the institutions they represented contributed much to enriching the investors.

According to reports, the aircraft carrying them was headed to Las Vegas when it crashed near a border city between Nevada and California on Friday night.

United States’ Daily Mail also reported that the helicopter crashed near Nipton on the edge of the Mojave Desert at about 10 pm Friday American time, and 6 am Nigerian time Saturday, just at the onset of the 2024 Access Bank Marathon race in Lagos.

The helicopter, a Eurocopter EC 130, had been carrying six people onboard at the time of the incident
It came just days after a Navy chopper carrying five troops crashed during a routine training flight in Pine Valley, California

The helicopter carrying six people crashed in San Bernardino County overnight, with authorities saying they have been unable to locate any survivors.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said they had been made aware of the downed aircraft near Baker shortly after 10 pm on Friday.

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In a statement, they said, “We are not able to confirm how many people were on board or their names. No survivors have been located.”

The FAA confirmed that the Eurocopter EC 130 crashed near Nipton on the edge of the Mojave Desert Preserve, and is east of the 15 Freeway near Halloran Springs.

According to NBC, the helicopter is registered to a Burbank-based tour company called Orbic Air.

About Wigwe

Wigwe, a banker, entrepreneur and an emerging educationist, was born in August 1966.

Before emerging as the CEO of Access Holdings Plc, Wigwe was the Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank Plc for 1o years within which he transformed the tier-1 bank into a holding group, trading as Access Corporation.

Wigwe had his bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and a Master’s degree in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales, (now Bangor), and also an MSc in Financial Economics from the University of London. He was an alumnus of the Harvard Business School Executive Management Program.

Career

Wigwe started his career at one of the world’s leading accounting firms, Coopers & Lybrand, Lagos (which has now merged with PwC) as a management consultant, later qualifying as a chartered accountant.

After a stint at Capital Bank, he joined GTBank where he spent over a decade working in corporate and institutional banking, rising to become the executive director in charge of institutional banking.

In 2002, Wigwe and his business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, brought into Access Bank, then a small commercial bank, positioned in size as 65th of the 89 banks in the country.

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As of date Access Bank is one of the top five banks in Nigeria and ranked among the top 500 global banks according to a 2015 report by The Banker magazine and is aiming to be Africa’s top bank.

It currently serves over 6.5 million account holders, through 350 branches and with more than 1,500 ATMs in major centres across Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa and the UK.

Wigwe also served as the Chairman of Access Bank Ghana, Access Investment & Securities Limited, Central Securities and Clearing System (CSCS) and was at the time of his death the Chairman of Access Bank (UK) Limited.
He was a board member of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company and a member of the Advisory Board for Friends Africa.

He was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN – FCA), a Fellow of The Institute of Credit Administration, and an Honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.

Wigwe was involved in the creation of the ‘Thought-Leadership Series’ known as The Access Conference. The biennial event is Access Bank’s response to a global call for corporate involvement in resolving the major challenges facing humanity.

Wigwe recently invested in the educational sector, setting up Wigwe University as a world-class learning centre.
Meanwhile, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, has expressed shock at the incident, describing it as a great loss to Nigeria.

His words:”The news of the passing of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Access Bank Holdings, Herbert Wigwe, who died in a helicopter crash in the United States of America has left me extremely shocked and devastated.

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We also unfortunately lost Wigwe’s wife and son as well as the former group chairman of the 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.’’

On his part, a former governor of Abia State, Sen Orji Kalu, described the late banker as a thoroughbred professional with a proven track record in the financial sector.

He said: “The death of the Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings, Mr Herbert Wigwe, alongside his wife and son is devastating.

“It is a huge loss to the nation as the deceased was a notable and patriotic Nigerian who played vital roles in the economic development of Nigeria through various platforms.

“He was a skilled financial expert with outstanding qualities. The late banker will be greatly missed”.

Written By
Regina Robinson

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