Nigeria: Cardoso, Otedola, Obi, Others Mourn Wigwe, Ogunbanjo

The Eurocopter EC130 crashed around 10 p.m. local time near Nipton, Calif

Many Nigerians have continued to express condolences to the family of Herbert Wigwe, Access Holdings Chief Executive Officer, who was involved in a helicopter crash in the United States late Friday.

Mr Wigwe, his wife, and his son were among the six passengers in a helicopter that crashed in the US early Saturday Nigerian time (late Friday local time).

Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former group chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (NGX Group), was also among the passengers.

The Eurocopter EC130 crashed around 10 p.m. local time near Nipton, Calif, an unincorporated community approximately 60 miles south of Las Vegas in eastern San Bernardino County, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Officials from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department were notified of the downed aircraft at 10:12 p.m. local time, according to Mara Rodriguez, a public information officer with the department. She added that the crash site was located east of Interstate 15, near Halloran Springs Road.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the ill-fated Flight N130CZ, operated by Orbic Air LLC, took off from Palm Springs, California, at 8:45 p.m. but was last seen near Fort Irwin/Barstow, California, at 9:49 p.m., Friday.

The cause of the crash of the Airbus Helicopter EC-130 remains unclear.

Access Holdings on Sunday announced the passing of Mr Wigwe and others involved in the crash.

Condolences

The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, in his tribute extended condolences to the family of Mr Wigwe.

Mr Cardoso expressed his condolences in a statement posted Sunday on the CBN official X handle and wished the souls of the departed eternal rest.

“Our profound condolences to the Wigwe family and Access Holdings on the passing of the co-founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings, Dr Herbert Wigwe, his wife, Chizoba, and son, Chizi, alongside Otunba Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former Group Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group, in the United States of America, on February 9, 2024. “May their souls rest in peace,” he wrote.

Femi Otedola, billionaire businessman and chairman of Geregu Power Plc, also expressed shock over Mr Wigwe’s demise.

“I am shocked and saddened to hear of the loss of a banking genius Herbert Wigwe, his dear wife Chizoba and first son Chizi.

“Exactly two weeks ago Herbie and his wife hosted myself and Aliko to dinner at his newly built home in Lagos. I will cherish and fondly remember my memories of time spent together with him over the years. Herbie, we will all miss you.

“Your legacy will live on forever. My heartfelt condolences go out to his children Tochi, Hannah and David. I pray God comforts them during this tragic time. May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace,” he said.

The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 election and former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, described Mr Wigwe’s passing as a tragic loss of a dear friend.

“I’m deeply saddened by the tragic news of the passing of my dear friend, Mr Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Holdings, along with his wife and son, and another close friend, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former group chairman of NGX Group.

“This loss is profoundly felt across the nation. I first met Herbert during his early days, on the brink of starting his marital journey. I vividly remember assisting him in preparing for his traditional wedding and being there for the ceremony with his wife, Chizoba, from Achina, Anambra State. Since then, I’ve maintained a connection to his endeavours in my own modest ways. Herbert, a determined and forward-thinking individual, led Access Bank to new heights following his brother Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

“His noteworthy contributions extended beyond the professional realm, with commendable philanthropic efforts in health and education, exemplified by the establishment of Wigwe University, showcasing his deep commitment to education as a driver of development.

“The loss of such an exceptional individual reminds us of life’s fleeting nature, encouraging us to live with a purpose that contributes to the betterment of humanity. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Herbert, his beloved wife, his son and all those who lost their lives in the tragic plane crash. May God grant them eternal rest and provide strength to Herbert’s family, Access Holdings, and all of us mourning this irreplaceable loss,” he said.

A senator from Abia State, Orji Kalu, also expressed shock and sadness over the death of Mr Wigwe.

Mr Kalu, lamenting the demise of Mr Wigwe, condoled with the board, management, staff and stakeholders of Access Holdings while noting that Mr Wigwe’s demise is a huge loss to the country.

He described the late banker as a thoroughbred professional with a proven track record in the financial sector, stressing that the deceased was a complete gentleman and patriotic Nigerian.

In a condolence message, Mr Kalu prayed to God to grant the Wigwe family the fortitude to bear the sad losses.

“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,” Mr Kalu said.

Others

The president of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, described Mr Wigwe as a visionary and brilliant banker.

“I am saddened by the tragic death of Herbert Wigwe, CEO and co-founder of Access Bank, his wife & son. He was a visionary and brilliant banker. May God comfort your aged parents, children, the Wigwe family and the staff and management of Access Bank. You will be greatly missed,” he wrote.

A former Nigerian Senate President, Bukola Saraki, also paid his tribute while describing Mr Wigwe as instrumental in transforming what was once a small commercial bank into one of the top five banks in the nation.

“I’m deeply shaken by the news of the helicopter crash in California that claimed the lives of my friend and brother, Herbert Wigwe, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, his dear wife, son, and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the Group Chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, alongside two others.

“As the longtime CEO and Group Managing Director of Access Bank, Herbert was instrumental in transforming what was once a small commercial bank into one of the top five banks in the nation.

“As we mourn his loss, we must view the passing of Herbert and these prominent individuals not just as a personal tragedy for their families but also as a significant loss for the business community and the nation at large.

“May the Almighty grant solace to the Wigwe family, the Ogunbanjo family, the Access Bank Group, and all families affected by this tragedy,” he said.

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, described Mr Wigwe’s passing as a huge loss to Nigeria’s financial sector.

“The passing of Dr Herbert Wigwe, Group CEO of Access Holdings PLC, his wife and son, is a huge loss to our financial sector and country as a whole.

“Dr Wigwe was a true pioneer and fine gentleman who blazed the trail in revolutionising our banking industry and more recently in education. Also saddening to hear was the loss of Mr Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chairman of the Nigeria Exchange Group PLC.

“My thoughts and prayers go to their families, friends and business associates and I pray that all the souls lost in this sad incident rest in peace.”

Rabiu Kwankwaso, the 2023 Presidential Candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and former governor of Kano State, in a statement posted on his X handle on Sunday, described Mr Wigwe’s passing as an unfortunate incident.

“I’m saddened by the unfortunate incident that led to the passing of Mr Herbert Wigwe, Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, his family, as well as Bimbo Ogunbanjo.

“Herbert Wigwe was one of the finest bankers in Nigeria, whose exemplary leadership led Access Bank to its present highs. I was also aware of the big plans he had for education, through his revolutionary university.

“My deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the loved ones and associates of all involved in this unfortunate incident,” Mr Kwankwaso wrote.

The Chairperson of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Tony Elumelu, also expressed sorrow over the demise of Mr Wigwe.

Mr Elumelu, in a statement posted on his Facebook page on Sunday, described the demise of Mr Wigwe and Mr Ogunbanjo as sad and distressing while noting that Nigeria has lost two of its brightest minds.

“Tribute to Great Lights- True Patriots.

“Nigeria, indeed Africa, has lost two of our brightest minds. I admired them both and we all shared the desire to drive Nigeria’s transformation.

“Herbert was an exceptional talent, committed to advancing the banking and financial sector in Nigeria, with Access Holdings. Likewise, Bimbo’s tenure as Group chairman of the NGX group was distinguished by excellence.

“Both will be sorely missed by all. Their leadership and entrepreneurial drive will continue to serve as shining examples to millions of our young people.

“May Bimbo, Herbert, his dear wife, Chizoba, and his son, Chizi, rest in perfect peace. May God give their immediate families strength and grace in this difficult time,” he wrote.

Governor Alex Otti of Abia State in a tribute message posted on his X handle on Sunday described Mr Wigwe as a brother while noting that his death is too big a blow to him.

“Herbert, why? Why? Why? You told me you were going for a board meeting in London from where you will head out to the US and return after a few days and immediately come to Abia to see me. So, what happened?

“Since this news filtered out, I’ve not been able to put my head down. I spoke to Peggy who was broken but strong. I refused to believe it. Many others confirmed but they were also reporting other people. Then comes this call minutes ago from Sola Faleye, my younger friend whom you “acquired” as you took over Diamond Bank.

He described the death as “a big a blow to me personally and all those that knew you closely,” adding that even in the most difficult moment, Mr Wigwe was always there to share ideas.

“Goodnight, my own brother Herbert! Good night, Chizoba! Good night, Chizzy! It is well with your souls,” Mr Otti wrote.

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