The United States authorities said rain , winty weather could be responsible for the crash in the helicopter that claimed the lives of Herbert Wigwe, Group Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank Plc, his wife and son, including Abimbola Ogunbanjo, immediate past Chairman, Nigerian Exchange Group Plc.
Speaking during a media briefing Saturday (3am Nigerian time, Sunday), a National Transportation Safety Board member, Michael Graham, said officials were on the scene to gather perishable evidence.
Graham said the team was “methodically and systematically reviewing all evidence” and considering all potential factors to determine the probable cause of the crash.
He added that although the information provided was only preliminary, witness reports suggested that a wintry weather condition was among the factors that contributed to the accident.
“The crew consisted of a pilot in command and a safety pilot. The accident flight was operated by Orbic Air LLC as a Part 135 charter flight.
“Witness reports of the weather conditions at the time of the accident suggest rain and a wintry mix.
“The helicopter was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder. This helicopter was not required to be equipped with those types of recording devices,” Graham said.
Asked about more information on the passengers, Graham stated there were no details but added that “any names will be released through the coroner’s office” without specifying a time frame.
He added that the NTSB would look into the chopper’s airworthiness; maintenance and structure of the helicopter, operations, meteorology, and air traffic control.
“Parties to the investigation include the FAA and Orbic Air LLC. As the investigation continues, other parties could be named,” he said.
“The BEA — the French aviation accident investigation agency — will serve as an accredited representative because France is a state of the manufacturer of the Airbus helicopter and the Turbomeca engine.”
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Presidential candidate of the Labour Party LP, Peter Obi and other corporate leaders in the capital market and banking sectors have continued to mourn the sudden death of Dr Herbert Wigwe, Group Managing Director, Access Bank Holdings Plc and immediate past chairman of Nigerian Exchange Limited, NGX , Abimbola Ogunbanjo, expressing shock and sadness.
Wigwe, his wife and son together with Ogunbanjo died on Friday following a helicopter accident in the United States.
Meanwhile, Access Holdings Plc , has confirmed the death of its Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, along with his wife and son, in a helicopter accident in the United States.
The announcement was made in a statement signed by the Group Company Secretary, Sunday Ekwochi, on Sunday.
The statement said, “It is with deep sadness that the Board of Directors of Access Holdings Plc, announces the passing of Dr. Herbert Wigwe, CFR, the Company’s founding Group Chief Executive Officer and former Group Managing Director of its flagship subsidiary Access Bank Plc (‘the Bank’).
“Dr. Wigwe died alongside his wife and son on Friday, February 9, 2024 in a helicopter accident in the United States of America.
“The entire Access family mourns the loss of Herbert, Doreen and Chizi. We extend our deep and sincere sympathies to his family and loved ones.
“Dr. 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.
“Commenting on the passage of Dr. Wigwe, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh, Chairman of Access Holdings said: The Access family has suffered a major 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.
Dr. Wigwe was instrumental in the growth of Access Bank, which he co-founded with his friend and business partner AigbojeAig-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.
Dr. Wigwe was a member of the Access Bank UK board as well as the board of the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA). He has 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.”
Board will announce acting CEO soon
“In line with the Company’s policy, the Board will soon announce the appointment of an Acting Group Chief Executive Officer even as we remain confident that the Access Group will build further on Dr. Wigwe’s legacy of growth and operational excellence” the statement added.
Rain, wintry weather responsible for crash – US Authorities
United States authorities on Sunday said preliminary reports suggest that a wintry weather condition was among the factors that contributed to the Chopper crash that killed the Group Chief Executive Officer, Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Wigwe.
Wigwe, his wife and son were onboard the helicopter when it crashed in California near the Nevada border on Friday.
Also on board was the former group chairperson of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo.
More tribute for Wigwe, Abimbola
Meanwhile, more tributes have continued to poor in for the late banker. The latest is President Tinubu, business man, Femi Otedola, who described Wigwe’s death as a “loss of banking genius”.
President Tinubu said : “I am shocked and deeply distressed by the news of the passing of Mr. Herbert Wigwe, a distinguished banker, humanitarian, and entrepreneur, and Mr. Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former Group Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, along with members of the Wigwe family – Herbert’s wife, Chizoba, and son, Chizi.
Their passing is an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension. I extend my condolences to the Wigwe and Ogunbanjo families, the business community, and all those impacted by this harrowing incident. I pray for the peaceful repose of the departed and ask God Almighty to comfort the multitude of Nigerians who are grieving and the families of the deceased at this deeply agonizing moment.
Otedola said: “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.”
Obi mourns Wigwe, others
The Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party LP, in the 2023 general elections, Peter Obi, has canceled a scheduled trip to Abidjan, the capital city of Côte d’Ivoire where he was to watch the finals of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Football tournament, between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and the Ivorian Elephants.
Obi, took to his X handle on Sunday to express sadness over the death of a close friend and Chirman of Access Holdings, Herbert Wigwe, his Wife, Son and a seasoned Nigerian banker, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, who died along with others in a helicopter crash in California, the United States.
The LP standard bearer who is known to be a staunch supporter of the Super Eagles from his days as Governor of Anambra state (2006-2014), was in Abidjan to cheer the Eagles to victory during their quarter-final match against Angola.
A statement from his Media Office said, Obi had purchased a return ticket and was to depart Nigeria by 1 pm Sunday when news of the helicopter crash reached him and he took the decision to cancel the trip in honour of those killed in the tragedy.
According to the Office, “OBI’S love for football dates back to his days as a student at Christ the King College, CKC, Onitsha during which he was also an ardent supporter of Rangers International of Enugu and the old Green Eagles.
“As a Governor he further demonstrated his love for the game when he renamed the Onitsha township stadium in Fagge, Onitsha after the first National team Captain Godwin Achebe.
“But he will not watch the epic match today following a helicopter crash in California, USA on Saturday that killed two Nigerian seasoned bankers, a sector Obi professionally belongs, the Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, his wife and son, and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former Group Chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (NGX Group).
“As a result, Obi is in shock, and mourning and can no longer Tavel to Abidjan as already scheduled but his heart remains with the boys as he wishes them victory to bring home the trophy.”
NGX Group mourns loss of former Chairman, Ogunbanjo
Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, NGX Group is deeply saddened to acknowledge the tragic passing of our former Group Chairman, Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, OFR, and the Group Managing Director of Access Holdings Plc, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, CFR, along with his wife and son, in a helicopter accident in the United States of America.
Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, a visionary leader and luminary in Nigeria’s corporate legal and capital market spheres, served as the President of the National Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) from 2017 to 2021 and as the first Group Chairman of NGX Group from 2021 to 2022, following the demutualization of the Exchange. His strategic acumen and dedication were instrumental in shaping NGX Group’s transformative journey.
Expressing his heartfelt condolences, the Group Chairman of NGX Group, Alhaji (Dr) Umaru Kwairanga, stated, “NGX Group mourns the untimely departure of Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo and Dr. Herbert Wigwe, along with his wife and son. Bamofin Ogunbanjo’s leadership has left an indelible mark on our organization and the broader Nigerian financial community, and his legacy will continue to inspire us. Dr. Wigwe also leaves an unblemished footprint in our private sector. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time. May their souls rest in peace and may the Almighty comfort their families”.
The Group MD/CEO of NGX Group, Mr. Temi Popoola, added, “The passing of Bamofin Ogunbanjo is a profound loss for NGX Group and the entire Nigerian private sector. He played a crucial role in shaping NGX Group, and while he will be sorely missed, his visionary leadership and impact will never be forgotten. It is heartbreaking to learn that Dr. Wigwe, his wife and son also lost their lives in the accident. The contributions of these two respected leaders to the financial markets and the overall private sector will be remembered, and we are committed to preserving their legacy by upholding the principles of leadership, innovation, and dedication that they exemplified.”
“Beyond his role at NGX Group, Bamofin Ogunbanjo was a distinguished legal practitioner, serving as Managing Partner of Chris Ogunbanjo LP (Solicitors). He served on the boards of several multinational corporations and non-profit organizations including Beta Glass Plc and the Advisory Board of the University of Buckingham Centre for Extractive Studies. He also served on the Board of GTL Registrars Limited, AIICO Insurance Plc and ConocoPhillips Limited amongst others. His contributions to the legal profession and corporate governance were exemplary, earning him widespread respect and admiration” Popoola said.
Oluwole Adeosun- President, Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers, CIS, Oluwole Adeosun, said: “ This incident that claimed the life of Herbert Wigwe was quite an unfortunate tragic occurrence. He was quite a brilliant and focused person as I knew him when we were colleagues in the professional accounting firm of Coopers and Lybrand in the late 1980’s . Post C& L , we did not interact much but monitored his performance in the Banking industry as a great , courageous banker with big dreams. He will be greatly missed . He has gone to the terrestrial world and pray for the repose of his soul . May his soul and those of others involved rest in peace”
Olatunde Amolegbe- The Immediate past president, Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers, CIS, CIS President, Amolegbe, said : “ An absolute visionary with a can do spirit. Those two attributes rarely come in one person.We are lucky to have front role seats to watch him dream and execute on those dreams successfully to the great benefit to all that believed and came along with him on the journey. To take Access Bank from a failing institution to the largest bank by total asset within a few decades was remarkable. Do you know also just announce the creation of the 2nd largest PFA in the country. The birth of Wigwe University was also going to change the landscape of private tertiary education in the country. He does all this without airs and in an unassuming way. Unfortunately his journey has come to an end and pray for his vision to live on. Adieu Herbert.”
Mrs Toyin Sanni, Group Chief Executive Officer, Emerging Africa Capital Group, who also lamented their death, said: “The loss of two great Nigerian business leaders – Herbert Wigwe CEO, Access Bank Holdings and Abimibiola Ogunbanjo, former Chair, NGX in an helicopter crash in California, USA, is a big blow and tragic loss for the Nigerian capital market, the financial services sector and indeed, our nation as a whole.
“Mr. Herbert Wigwe played a significant role in the tremendous growth of Access Bank in the last decade while Mr. Ogunbanjo contributed greatly to the establishment of good governance at and restructuring of the NGX ( then NSE) and the Nigerian capital market. They will both be greatly missed.”
Tajudeen Olayinka, Analyst/ CEO, CEO, Wyoming Capital and Partners, said: “the entire capital market is in a mourning mood. The immediate past chairman of NGX Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, was involved in the crash. Sad and tragic.”
In his own reaction, Analyst /Executive Vice Chairman at Highcap Securities Limited, David Adonri said : “The death of Abimbola Ogunbanjo, Herbert Wigwe and family members sent the Capital Market into deep mourning yesterday when the tragic news was broken. Bimbo was immediate past Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group while Herbert was a venerated corporate guru in the economy and the Capital Market. Only God can comfort the nation as we suffer the pain of this calamitous tragedy.”
Patrick Ajudua, Chairman, New Dimension Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said: “ The death of Herbert has dealt a devastating blow to d corporate world. This is a man that reached an enviable height in banking business, become a trail blazer in educational world and become a board room guru in most corporate institutions. Oh death where is thy sting. The shareholders in Nigeria remain proud of enviable achievement of dis man in d transformation journey of Access bank. We also commiserate with the family of Ogunbanjo who is also involved in the accident. We remain his transformation role in given birth to NGX and ensuring stability of the Exchange. May his soul and that of the others, who died in this tragic death m, rest in peace. May God comfort the entire board, Management and staff of Access Bank, friends and well wishers.”
Boniface Okezie , Chairman, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria, said : “ I’m very devastated over the death of Dr Herbert Nwaigwe’s and family members wife and son and that of immediate past NGX Chairman, Chris Ogunbanjo very sad indeed in faraway United state of America California ; it is a great loss to Nigerian and Banking Industry as a whole , via capital market where the two giants have made their mark and ‘ve contributed to the growth of the Bank from GtBank they via into Access Bank Plc . He and Iyke Imokwuede two of great friends whom came together to promote Access Bank when they invested in ; thereby they are able to buy out Chief Oni ,then they moved with speed to build the Bank. Today it IS one of conglomerates operating in and out side Nigeria; making great wave in African continent and beyond. All by the efforts of late Herbert Nwigwe’ s and Great Iyke Imokwuede whom ‘ve done very well in prompting the Bank to become household name in Nigeria today.”
Reacting as well, Mrs Bisi Bakare, Chairman, Progmatic Shareholders Association of Nigeria said: “Banking sectors in general has lost a genius, a business guru, very focus. When Aig Imokhuede retired from Access Bank many thought the bank might have a set back but that’s not with Herbert Wigwe. The Bank continues to move from strength to strength, paying dividends, enlarge their tentacles from Nigeria Bank to Africa and International Bank as of today. This is very sad news. May God console Nigeria, Console capital market stakeholders, Access Bank and Nigerian banks. The mission and vision, and the zeal Herbert Wigwe has for Access Corporation are very strong. The entire Shareholders are going to miss him.”
Moses Igbrude, Chairman, Independent Shareholders of Nigeria, ISAN, said: “It is a great loss to the banking sector and Nigeria as well as the shareholders community, a great guy, a merger specialist and expert who with his colleague Aig, brought a small Access Bank to mega a bank; local bank to an international bank. It is a great loss, I sincerely wish his soul personality and others a peace profound.”
Speaking on the incident, Adebayo Adeleke, Group Managing Director, Lancelot Ventures Limited and Former General Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria, ISAN, who described their death as tragic, said that they have left their footprints in the sand of times.
He said: “It’s rather tragic that it appears to be a season of death around the business community in general and Access Bank in particular.
“Ogunbanjo, former Chairman of NGX and serving chairman of Beta Glass Plc, just buried his father last month. Access Bank just lost both its Board Chairman and the PA to the GMD recently. Now, Herbert Wigwe, wife and two children have also gone.
“The entire shareholder community and the capital market are still in shock. We are deeply saddened by this development.”
“Herbert Wigwe was so much loved by shareholders for raising the bars of Access Bank higher after the exit of his soul-mate, Aig-Imoukhuede.
“He was my friend. We were born the same time, the same year and in the same town,” he added.
Ariyo Olugbosun, President, Exceptional Shareholders Association, said: “Herbert Wigwe was a man with passion for excellence and an unusual style of leadership. His dedication and passion to go beyond the usual has brought Access Bank (Now Access Holdings) to where it is today. He was a goal getter. I have benefited a lot from him from far and near at meetings. His doggedness brought the new company we are seeing today.
“He had compassion, and his philanthropy can’t be measured. He lived a great life that was impactful. I want to give it to him and his team at Access Corp.
“The former Chairman of NGX was also a man of innovation who spearheaded the demutualization of NGX to be a listed entity today.”
Another shareholder, Chibuzo Eke, General Secretary, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), also said: “Life is full of risk. Herbert Wigwe’s death is a very big loss to the capital market, the financial industry, Access Bank and the next as a whole.
“This is the time Nigeria needs them most to join in restructuring the financial industry and the economy of this country. Wigwe and Abimbola Ogunbanjo are great men in the financial industry.”
“Herbert was a man driven by his vision and he’s result-oriented looking at the role he played in not allowing the Intercontinental Bank and Diamond Bank to die natural death. In fact ,the capital market and financial industry will greatly miss them. My condolences to the families and the nation in general.”