The Nigerian banking industry and educational sector are mourning the loss of Herbert Wigwe, Group CEO of Access Bank, one of Nigeria’s largest financial institutions. Wigwe, along with five others, tragically lost their lives in a helicopter crash in California on Friday. Among the victims were Wigwe’s wife, son, and a former president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
President Bola Tinubu expressed profound sorrow at the loss, describing it as an “overwhelming tragedy” for Nigeria. The crash, which occurred in the southern California desert, is under investigation to determine its cause. The chartered helicopter was en route from Palm Springs to Boulder City in Nevada when it went down approximately 96km (60 miles) from Las Vegas. Poor weather conditions, including rain and snow showers, were reported in the area.
Wigwe, aged 57, was reportedly traveling to Las Vegas to attend the Super Bowl, according to Nigerian media. As the co-founder of Access Bank in 1989, he played a pivotal role in shaping Nigeria’s banking landscape. Access Bank rose to prominence, becoming the country’s largest bank in 2018 after its acquisition of Diamond Bank. Wigwe’s vision extended beyond Nigeria’s borders, as he spearheaded efforts to expand across Africa, acquiring banks in Kenya, South Africa, and Botswana. His ambition further stretched to Asia, with plans to launch a new banking service in the region in early 2024.
Tributes poured in following news of his death, with President Tinubu expressing shock and describing the loss as a blow to Nigeria and Africa’s banking industry. Wigwe’s impact extended beyond the realm of finance. In January of the same year, he emphasised the importance of investing in higher education to address global migration challenges. In line with this vision, Wigwe was in the process of establishing Wigwe University, set to launch in September in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, his hometown.
In a poignant newspaper article earlier in the year, Wigwe articulated his belief that education was instrumental in curbing mass migration and fostering societal development. He viewed Wigwe University as an opportunity to contribute positively to society by empowering individuals in his home country and beyond. His untimely demise leaves a void in both the banking and educational sectors, underscoring the profound impact of his legacy on Nigeria’s economic and social landscape.
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