Access Bank CEO, Herbert Wigwe, Dies In Helicopter Crash

Nmesoma Okwudili


February 14, 2024

Herbert Wigwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, tragically died in a helicopter crash near the Nevada-California border. The unfortunate news persisted as the wreckage also took the lives of Abimbola Ogunbanjo, revered chairman of the Nigerian Exchange, along with Wigwe’s wife, and son. The tragic incident occurred on the night of February 10, 2024, as they traveled from California to Las Vegas.

The ill-fated helicopter was identified as a Eurocopter EC130 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Grief engulfed both the business and personal spheres as this sudden catastrophe extinguished the bright lights of leadership and familial ties. A tragic turn of events abruptly silenced the lofty hopes and shared dreams aboard the helicopter, leaving a gap in the hearts of those who looked up to and relied on these powerful individuals.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the helicopter crashed near Nipton, Cliff, an unincorporated village in eastern San Bernardino County that is roughly 60 miles south of Las Vegas, at around 10 p.m. local time. Authorities reported that, as of Saturday morning, no survivors had been found.

The chief executive of Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, who passed away on Saturday, March 31, at the age of 57, in a helicopter crash in California, was instrumental in turning a small bank into the largest lender in the nation. When he and his partner acquired the bank in 2002, it was the 65th largest bank in Nigeria; as of late September, its assets were valued at ₦21.4 trillion.

Before his passing, Wigwe successfully graduated from the Executive Management Programme at Harvard Business School. He obtained 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 bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Moreover, he held Fellowship status with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). Wigwe was serving as the Chairman of The Access Bank (UK) Ltd. and held a Non-Executive Director position in various organizations, including the FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange, Agri-Business/SME Enterprises Investment Scheme, Shared Agents Network Expansion Facilities Ltd., and Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company Plc. Additionally, he was a member of the Governing Council of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

In particular, Access Holdings, which lost its chairman Bababode Osunkoya less than two months ago due to “a brief illness,” is deeply affected by his passing. His demise, along with that of his wife and son, deeply saddens the corporate landscape in Nigeria.

According to the firm, the board will soon announce the acting Group CEO, and his or her goal will be to continue the “legacy of growth and operational excellence.”

There is no way to overstate his outstanding accomplishments in turning Access Bank into a holdco. After all, the bank became a world-class African financial institution under his direction, rising from its previous ranking of 65th out of 89 banks in Nigeria.

“The Access family has suffered a significant loss with the passing of Dr. Wigwe who was a great friend and fine gentleman. He had a prodigious intellect, admirable personal qualities, and vast business experience which he brought to bear on the Access Family and for which we owe him a debt of gratitude,” said Abubakar Jimoh, chairman of Access Holdings in a statement.


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