Wigwe was key driving force, larger-than-life personality – Access Holdings

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Ime Akpan

The board of directors of Access Holdings Plc has formally announced the passing of its founding group chief executive officer and former group managing director of its flagship subsidiary, Access Bank Plc, Mr Herbert Wigwe.

Wigwe, along with his wife Chizoba, his son, and a former President of Nigeria Exchange Group, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, died in a helicopter crash in California, United States on Friday.

It was gathered that Wigwe who, until his death, was the group chief executive officer of Access Holdings, boarded the chopper, identified as a Eurocopter EC 130, headed to Las Vegas when it crashed near Nipton, between Nevada and California.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in a statement confirmed that all onboard were dead.

The FAA said no survivors had been found as of yesterday.

According to the report, “officials at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department were made aware of the downed aircraft at 10:12 p.m. local time, a public information officer with the department” Mara Rodriguez, said in a statement, adding that the scene of the crash was determined to be east of Interstate 15, near Halloran Springs Road.

Access Holdings, in a press statement, said “Wigwe was a key driving force and a larger-than-life personality who brought his remarkable passion, energy, and experience to the transformation of the Access franchise since joining the Bank in 2002.”

The company said the “entire Access Family mourns the loss of Herbert, Doreen and Chizi” and expressed “our deep and sincere sympathies to his family and loved ones.”

Commenting on Wigwe’s the passage the chairman of Access Holdings, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh said the Access family “has suffered a major loss with the passing of Wigwe whom he described as 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.

We remain confident that the Access Group will build further on Wigwe’s legacy of growth and operational excellence,” he added.

The deceased, according to the statement, was instrumental in the growth of Access Bank, which he co-founded with his friend and business partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

He took over as Access Bank Group CEO in 2014, focusing on the Bank’s expansion in Nigeria and Africa before taking the helm at Access Holdings in 2022. Under his leadership, Access Bank drove its African strategy to become Sub Saharan Africa’s largest retail bank by customer base.

Wigwe was a member of the Access Bank UK board as well as the board of the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA).

He had long been an advocate for the eradication of malaria in Africa, working with the Corporate Alliance on Malaria to support this objective.

He also sat on the board of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company and Friends Africa and was an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Institute of Credit Administration.

A two-time winner of the African Banker of the Year award from the African Banker Awards, Wigwe was a passionate advocate of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which form the bedrock of Access Holdings’ growth strategy.

His academic credentials included a degree in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, an MA in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor University), and an MSc in Financial Economics from the University of London.

He also completed the Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme.

Recently, he founded Wigwe University, Africa’s first ivy league institution dedicated to providing a world-class education and raising the next generation of fearless leaders.