Wigwe’s legacy and how his death ‘ll affect financial institutions in Africa

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Herbert wigwe
  • Roads deserted in late banker’s community over tragic death, fate of 5,000 youths hangs in balance

With his impressive career and strategic vision, Herbert Wigwe established himself as one of the most influential leaders in the banking sector in Africa.

As the CEO of Access Bank, he led the bank to significant growth, both in terms of assets and geographic expansion.

Born on August 15, 1966 in Lagos, Nigeria, Wigwe showed an interest in finance from a young age. He furthered his education in this field by obtaining a degree in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, as well as a Masters in International Banking and Finance from the University of Wales (now Bangor University).

His career began at Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers), where he worked as a management consultant. He then joined Capital Bank (formerly Guaranty Trust Bank), where he gained extensive experience in corporate banking, corporate finance, financial control and strategic planning.

In 2002, Wigwe and his partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede bought Access Bank, a small Nigerian bank at the time. Under their leadership, the bank embarked on an aggressive expansion and remarkable transformation. Wigwe’s strategic vision has been a key element in making Access Bank one of the leading financial institutions in Africa.

During his tenure, Wigwe implemented several initiatives aimed at improving operational efficiency, customer service and corporate governance.

The bank is also committed to sustainable development and gender equality in the banking sector.

Wigwe was recognized numerous times for his contribution to the banking industry and his leadership excellence. He was praised for his role in promoting financial inclusion and for his efforts towards sustainable banking practices.

Apart from his professional activity, Wigwe was also known for his philanthropic commitment, particularly in the areas of education, health and youth empowerment through the Access Bank Foundation.

Personally, Wigwe was discreet about his private life, preferring to emphasize his professional achievements and philanthropic activities.

Wigwe’s legacy in the banking industry is marked by his visionary leadership and the transformative impact he had on Access Bank. His approach to banking, focused on innovation, sustainable development and inclusive growth, has not only taken the bank to new heights, but also contributed to the broader development of the banking sector in Africa.

His burning passion for quality education in Nigeria moved him to establish a university that is described as top notch by those who have caught a glimpse of it. The project located in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, is yet to be inaugurated before his tragic death.

Roads deserted in late banker’s community over tragic death, fate of 5,000 youths hangs in balance
It was revealed on Sunday that Wigwe has so far employed over 5000 youths.

His tragic death along with some members of his family led to major roads and streets being deserted in Isiokpo, the traditional headquarters of Ikwerre ethnic nationality and headquarters of Ikwerre local council area of Rivers.

Shops were closed and other businesses under lock and key since news spread over the death of the son, Herbert Wigwe, founder of the world class institution of higher learning, the Wigwe University.

Clusters of men and women wearing gloomy faces dotted the entrance to family houses along the road feeling very sad. Youths dressed in black marched in procession, reciting traditional dirges common among the Isiokpo communities to register their sadness and the depth of their grief for the irreparable loss.

That was the only sound that could be heard asides that trickled from the churches along the road, across Umuike Community, home of the deceased CEO of Access Holdings.

A dark cloud of silence right now hovers over the entire Isiokpo town as many are yet to recover from the shocking news of the death.
The atmosphere spoke to the reality of the situation of the broken community. The heavy silence could be felt miles away from the family home of the deceased.

Some residents of the community, who spoke in an interview with newsmen, described the death of Wigwe as a tragedy not just for the Umuike community, the ancient Kingdom of Isiokpo and Rivers State, but for the entire business community and the world at large.

One of the residents, Nsirim Samuel, an indigene of Umuike Community lamented that the death of the renowned banker and businessman said the news sent a shock wave that kept the entire community awake and weeping all of Saturday night. Everyone in the community has remained uncontrollable.

He said that the sad event would have a negative but lasting impact on the economy of the community because, as he stated, Wigwe during his lifetime, engaged over 5,000 youths of the community in his various companies and was presently engaging more in the Wigwe University situated in the community.

Another resident, Wisdom Chijioke, said the entire community was mourning because Wigwe was a man who brought Isiokpo from darkness to the limelight, an enviable height never imagined by the people. He stressed that the community, Isiokpo, Rivers State and the country were bleeding.

Chijioke called on the international community and the Government of the United States of America to investigate and tell the world what was responsible for the crash, saying that the people of Isiokpo would speak on the matter at the appropriate time.

He said the cause of his death is not one to be swept under the carpet.

He also wondered why such a tragic event would occur now that the renowned banker returned home to invest in his community. He stated that the death of Wigwe is a communal tragedy that befell all the households in Isiokpo.

On his part, Kenneth Ezewemgbe Nsirim, said the death has created a vacuum that cannot be replaced in the community, state or country, describing Wigwe as one who revamped and elevated Isiokpo community to an enviable position. He stated that the impact of Wigwe was felt by all in the community irrespective of age, sex or religion.

On Sunday afternoon, it was found that market women, business owners, students and even children in Isiokpo were crying. They said, no Wigwe, no more business, no more education, employment or empowerment, as his act of philanthropy was felt by all in the community.

He stated that the demise of the business magnate will result in a huge economic setback in Isiokpo. Families and individuals who were dependent on him would now be forced to return to a life of penury.

“On Sunday afternoon, it was found that market women, business owners, students and even children in Isiokpo were crying. They said, no Wigwe, no more business, no more education, employment or empowerment, as his act of philanthropy was felt by all in the community”

Speaking on the development, the Youth Chairman of Umuike Community in Isiokpo, Elechi Nyeche, said the community is in a state of mourning as the Access Bank CEO was at the forefront of the drive for development of the community.

He went further to lament the negative impact of Wigwe’s demise saying that it has truncated the massive academic and economic programmes driven by Wigwe.

The atmosphere in Isiokpo town remained heavy on Sunday as some were still in disbelief of the sudden death. The reactions of residents and visitors to the community remained the same; confusion and sadness.

As the community continued to count its loss caused by the death, business in the area appeared to be the most hit by the sad occurrence.
Three prominent Nigerians who lost their lives in helicopter crashes

Several prominent Nigerians have tragically lost their lives in helicopter crashes over the years. These incidents have occurred both within Nigerian airspace and internationally.

The most recent event, on February 9, 2024, involved the passing of prominent banker Herbert Wigwe, the group chief executive officer of Access Holding.

As the country continues to mourn the tragic loss of Wigwe, here are the names of prominent Nigerians who lost their lives in helicopter crashes.

Patrick Yakowa

December 15, 2012, witnessed the crash of a helicopter transporting the then-governor of Kaduna State, Yakowa, from Bayelsa State to Port Harcourt.

The incident occurred during the governor’s return from a funeral in Bayelsa State, accompanied by Owoye Andrew Azazi, the former National Security Adviser.

Yakowa, the first person from Southern Kaduna and the first Christian to govern the state, lost his life in the crash.

Andrew Azazi

Azazi, who served as the National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, was also on the ill-fated helicopter on December 15, 2012.

Prior to this role, Azazi had notable positions as the Chief of Army Staff and later as the Chief of Defence Staff. His retirement from military service was announced by President Umaru Yar’Adua on August 20, 2008.

Herbert Wigwe

Wigwe, the group chief executive officer of Access Holdings, met a tragic end alongside his wife, Chizoba, and son, Chizi. They were on board a Eurocopter EC 130 chopper that crashed near Nipton, a city between Nevada and California in the US.

A former group chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, and two other persons were also on the aircraft that met a tragic end.

The crash happened south of I-15 near Halloran Springs Road, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northeast of Barstow, according to Michael Graham of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

Graham said he did not have information about the two crew members, a pilot and a safety pilot.

The aircraft did not have a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder and was not required to have them, he added.

The Airbus EC-130 left Palm Springs Airport at around 8:45 p.m. on Friday and was traveling to Boulder City, Nevada, Graham said.

Boulder City is about 26 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Las Vegas, where the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers are set to play in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday.

It was a charter flight operated by Orbic Air LLC. Several people traveling on I-15 witnessed the crash and called 911, Graham said, and he urged them to contact the NTSB with more details, including photos and videos.

Witnesses reported that it was raining with a “wintry mix” at the time of the crash, according to Graham.

People also reported a fire on the helicopter plus some downed power lines.

“This is the beginning of a long process. We will not jump to any conclusions,” Graham said during a news conference Saturday night.

He also “expressed our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy.”

The crash site is not far from the California-Nevada border. Halloran Springs Road crosses the highway in an area known to travelers for an abandoned gas station with a sign declaring “Lo Gas” and “Eat.”

It’s a remote area of the desert, with an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet (914.40 meters), and about a 60- to 80-mile (100- to 130-kilometer) drive from Las Vegas.

The crash came just three days after a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter went down in the mountains outside San Diego during historic downpours, killing five Marines.