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BREAKING: S’Africa’s President, Ramaphosa, Mourns Wigwe, Says He Was His Country’s Continental Partner

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As tributes continue to pour in from all over the country and beyond for the Group Managing Director of Access Holdings, Herbert Wigwe, who died in a helicopter crash last Friday in the United States, President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, yesterday, described Wigwe as his country’s continental partner and banking sector pioneer.

Wigwe, a top banker and entrepreneur, was killed in the crash alongside his wife, Chizoba, son, and former Group Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Mr. Abimbola Ogunbanjo.

There were also tributes to the ace banker by leading political figures and banking sector players, including the governors of Bayelsa and Delta states, Senator Douye Diri and Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, respectively; Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr. Atedo Peterside; Chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mustafa Chike- Obi; Bank Directors Association of Nigeria (BDAN); the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN); National Institute of Credit Administration (NICA); and Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Senator Tokunbo Abiru.

The board of Wigwe University, while mourning the demise of its founder, pledged to continue to run with his vision and commitment to education.

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The Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) said it would cooperate with the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the investigation of the tragic Helicopter EC130B4 crash.

Meanwhile, Access Holdings Plc announced the appointment of Ms. Bolaji Agbede as acting Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) following the death of Wigwe. In a notification to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) last night, the company said the appointment of Agbede was subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Access Holdings, following an earlier statement dated February 11, explained that until her appointment, Agbede was the company’s most senior founding Executive Director in charge of Business Support.

Agbede has nearly three decades of professional experience, cutting across banking and business consultancy.

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Ramaphosa, in his condolence message on X (formerly Twitter), stated that he was deeply saddened by the aviation tragedy that claimed the lives of “our continental partner and banking sector pioneer, Nigeria’s Herbert Wigwe, Group CEO of Access Bank, his wife and son and former Chair of the Nigerian Exchange Group Abimbola Ogunbanjo.”

The South African president added, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the affected families, including the relatives and friends of the helicopter crew who perished, as well as the Access Bank family around the globe, including South Africa. May all the departed souls rest in peace.

“We value Access Bank South Africa’s support for our investment drive and we share in this terrible loss felt by the management and staff of a flagship African enterprise.”

US, Nigeria Collaborate to Probe Helicopter Crash

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The Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) indicated that it would cooperate with the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the investigation of the helicopter crash.

NSIB is a multi-modal transport agency in Nigeria responsible for promoting transport safety and conducting objective and thorough investigations into transport accidents. Similarly, NTSB is the counterpart agency in the United States charged with fulfilling the same function as NSIB.

NTSB had confirmed the helicopter crash, which occurred near Interstate 15 in Halloran Springs, California.

Following the crash, Director General of NSIB, Captain Alex Badeh, established contact with NTSB, in accordance with Chapter 5 subsection 27 of ICAO’s Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation – Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, which grants a State (nation) special interest in an accident involving its citizens.

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According to NSIB, section 5.27 indicates that a state, which has a special interest in an accident by virtue of fatalities or serious injuries to its citizens, shall be entitled to appoint an expert who shall be entitled to: visit the scene of the accident; have access to the relevant information, which is approved for public release by the State conducting the investigation, and information on the progress of the investigation; and receive a copy of the Final Report.

NSIB, in the statement made available to THISDAY, stated that ICAO’s Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation granted Nigeria, through the bureau, the prerogative to appoint an expert to actively participate in the investigation. It stated that the participation would ensure access to relevant information and facilitate cooperation with the investigating authorities, towards ensuring the investigation reached a conclusive outcome.

NSIB stated, “The ongoing discussion between the NSIB and NTSB has highlighted the diligent investigation efforts of the NTSB. NTSB investigators were present at the crash scene in Halloran Springs, California, on Saturday to collect evidence and conduct initial on-scene documentation. The documentation process included aerial mapping of the wreckage with a drone, and site measurements.”

The agency also disclosed that correspondence between NSIB and NTSB further revealed that the NTSB investigation into the crash was being led by Aaron Sauer as the investigator in charge, supported by Mark Ward as the deputy investigator in charge.

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Several other NTSB investigators would also be examining various aspects of the accident, including airworthiness and maintenance structures, operations, meteorology, and air traffic control.

NSIB added, “Notably, the airworthiness investigation group initiated a meticulous examination of the debris field, which spans approximately 100 yards. All significant components of the helicopter, including the main transmission, engine, and various avionic elements, were identified and accounted for at the accident site.”

It also said, “Parties to the investigation include Orbic Air, LLC, and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). As the investigation continues, other parties could be named. Additionally, the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), the French aviation accident investigation agency, will also serve as an accredited representative, due to France being the state of manufacturer for the Airbus helicopter and Turbomeca Engine. Both Airbus Helicopters and Turbomeca Engines will serve as technical advisors to the investigation.”

The agency disclosed that the accident investigation being conducted by NTSB was expected to take approximately 18 to 24 months to complete.

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It explained, “The actual duration depends on many factors. Each investigator carries a caseload of many accident investigations, which they work on concurrently, and each investigation presents its unique complexities.

“The NTSB accident investigation process typically comprises three major milestones. The first is the preliminary investigation report, which contains information gathered by investigators during the on-scene examination. This report is expected to be released within 14 to 21 days following the date of the examinations.

“The next milestone involves the compilation of the public docket, which includes a collection of information gathered throughout the investigation. This typically includes photographs, interview summaries, documentation, and other relevant data. Finally, the third milestone is the publication of the final aviation accident report, which serves to conclude the investigation. This report may take up to two years to complete and usually contains analysis and a statement of the probable cause of the accident, if determined.”

NSIB reaffirmed its commitment to collaborate fully with NTSB to achieve a thorough and conclusive investigation that will enhance transport safety in both Nigeria and the United States.

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The agency stated, “The Airbus Helicopter EC130B4 crash has brought a colossal loss to our dear nation Nigeria. Our hearts go out to the Wigwe and Ogunbanjo families and loved ones affected by this tragedy. We extend our deepest sympathies to them during this difficult time.”

Wigwe’s Death Shocking, Unbelievable, Says Bayelsa Governor

Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, said he was still grappling with the reality of the sudden death of Herbert Wigwe.

In a condolence statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, Diri described Wigwe as a dear friend and brother, who understood what friendship and brotherhood meant. He said Wigwe’s death was a personal loss, as their friendship was mutual, cordial and brotherly.

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Diri stated that the consummate banker and businessman carved a niche for touching lives and bringing dreams to reality. He recalled how Wigwe, through Access Bank, positively impacted youths in Bayelsa by partnering with the government to organise the maiden edition of the state’s sports festival in 2023, stating that his life of philanthropy was exemplary.

Diri also said the throbbing effect of Wigwe’s demise was how it would affect those whose dreams and aspirations were connected to him.

While commiserating with the Wigwe family, the family of his late wife, as well as the management and staff of Access Bank Plc, the Bayelsa State governor said his state, Rivers, the South-south, and, indeed, Nigeria lost an illustrious son.

Oborevwori Says Deaths Shocking, Devastating

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Delta State Governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, expressed shock and sadness over the tragic helicopter crash.

In a statement yesterday by his Chief Press Secretary, Festus Ahon, Oborevwori described the death of Wigwe, his family members, and Ogunbanjo in the crash as awful, heart-breaking, and devastating.

Oborovweri, described Wigwe as a visionary leader and a thoroughbred professional who had a huge impact on the banking and business atmosphere, stating that the corporate world in Nigeria would miss him a great deal.

The governor commiserated with the deceased family, Access Holdings, friends and loved ones, and prayed God to grant them the fortitude to bear the irreparable losses.

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Oborevwori said, “I am deeply saddened by the unfortunate news of the death of Mr. Herbert Wigwe, the Group CEO of Access Bank, alongside his wife and son as well as Abimbola Ogunbanjo, a former Group Chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group, and others in a helicopter crash in the United States of America.

“Wigwe was a visionary leader who had a big influence on Nigeria’s banking industry. His passing is undoubtedly a devastating loss for the finance sector.

“My sincere condolences to his family, colleagues at Access Holdings, friends, and loved ones in this difficult time. May God grant them the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss and may the souls of the departed find eternal rest in the bosom of our Lord.”

Wigwe University Pledges to Run with Founder’s Vision

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In a statement signed by Chairman, Board of Trustees of Wigwe University, Professor Fabian Ajogwu (SAN), the institution pledged to continue to run with the vision of its founder whose commitment to education was unwavering.

The statement said, “It is with heavy hearts that the Board of Trustees of Wigwe University announces the tragic passing of our Founder, Dr Herbert Wigwe, CFR, who died alongside his wife, Mrs Doreen Wigwe, and son, Mr. Chizi Wigwe, and others on February 9, 2024, in a helicopter accident in the United States of America.

“We extend our deepest condolences to his children, parents, family and loved ones at this difficult time. Dr. Wigwe was a visionary, whose commitment to education, as a catalyst for Africa’s future advancement, was inspiring and unwavering.”

The statement added that Wigwe believed fervently that education was the cornerstone of progress and transformation, and his vision for Wigwe University was rooted in the profound belief that it could change the course of history for the African continent.

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“He envisioned Wigwe University as a crucible for nurturing future fearless leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs who would contribute significantly to Africa’s global standing,” the institution stressed.

While it grieved the loss of Wigwe, his wife, and his son, the university assured its stakeholders, including prospective students, faculty, and staff, that Wigwe University remained committed to ensuring that the founder’s dreams and aspirations for the university were fulfilled.

The university said the foundation Wigwe laid for the institution remained strong, it was resolute in its determination to honour the founder’s memory by continuing to build a world-class educational institution.

The Board of Trustees promised to work tirelessly to uphold the standards of academic excellence, innovation, and societal impact that Wigwe envisioned.

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It stated, “The torch he lit will guide us as we forge ahead, nurturing the next generation of fearless leaders and entrepreneurs who will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on Africa and the world.

“May Dr. Herbert Wigwe’s visionary spirit inspire us all as we carry forward his dream for the betterment of Africa and humanity.”

CIBN Mourns Wigwe

CIBN expressed grief and sorrow over the sudden demise of Wigwe, a fellow of the institute, a visionary leader, and former Chairman of the body of bank CEOs.

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The statement, signed by President/Chairman of the Council of CIBN, Ken Opara, conveyed the institute’s deep shock upon receiving the devastating news.

Opara described Wigwe as a trailblazer, corporate titan, and a man with the Midas touch, highlighting his exceptional contributions to the growth and development of the institute, the banking sector, and the Nigerian economy at large.

It stated, “Dr. Wigwe was a visionary leader, a trail blazer, a corporate titan, a man with the Midas Touch and one of the greatest minds from Africa whose legacies and footprints spans the entire globe. His legendary contributions to the growth and development of the Institute, the banking industry and the Nigerian economy at large is unparalleled and will ever remain indelible in our hearts. He will be sorely missed.”

Atedo Peterside, Mustapha Chike-Obi Pay Tributes

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The founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr. Atedo Peterside, and Chairman of Fidelity Bank Nigeria, Mustafa Chike- Obi, yesterday, extolled the virtues of the late top banker and entrepreneur, Herbert Wigwe, describing him as one who was mentally tough, disciplined and had the ability to manage risk in the banking sector.

The duo, who were guests on The Morning Show on ARISE News Channel, relived the life and times of Wigwe.

Chike- Obi explained that when Wigwe and his business partner wanted to acquire Intercontinental Bank and also during the transaction to merge Access Bank with Diamond Bank, he called Wigwe and asked him if he was aware the bank had a negative equity, but the deceased responded saying I shouldn’t worry that he knew what he was doing and that he was going to make a success of it. I was sceptical, but and he did it.

He stated that the things Wigwe thought about were beyond what he could conceive and what he did could not easily be replicated.

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Chike-Obi, a former Chief Executive Officer of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), also described Wigwe as a typical humble and simple man, saying the late Wigwe and his partner, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, had the best work ethics as bankers, even when compared with bankers on Wall Street

According to Chike-Obi, “These attributes are the reasons why Access Bank will continue to succeed. They have impacted that on the employees and we hope to see great things from the cooperation.”

He expressed optimism that the gap left behind by Wigwe would be covered by Aig-Imoukhuede and that the succession plan would be smooth.

On his part, Mr. Atedo Peterside stated that Wigwe’s legacy could not die.

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“He was a good listener and was man enough to admit errors,” Peterside added.

He also described Wigwe as a humble man.

On the succession plan at Access Holdings, Peterside said succession planning worked when there were building blocks that stood on firm foundations. He added that it worked best in a meritocracy, when people were naturally assessed on the basis of their contributions and abilities.

Bank Directors Mourn Wigwe, Wife, Son, Ogunbanjo

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BDAN yesterday expressed its condolences over the loss of Herbert Wigwe, his wife Chizoba, and son Chizi, as well as Ogunbanjo.

In a statement signed by its Chairman, Chike-Obi, and Chief Executive, Adebukola O. Orenuga, BDAN noted that the banking sector in Nigeria and Africa collectively was saddened by the untimely demise of the influential figures.

They stated that Wigwe was revered as an icon and respected leader in the banking industry, leaving behind a legacy marked by integrity, professionalism, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. His absence will be keenly felt, and BDAN acknowledged his significant contribution to the sector, the statement said.

The association extended its condolences to the Ogunbanjo family.

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It stated, “On behalf of the banking sector in Nigeria and Africa at large, the Bank Directors Association of Nigeria is deeply saddened to hear about the untimely passing unto glory of the Co-Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings, Dr. Herbert O. Wigwe; along with his wife, Chizoba and son, Chizi.”

Wigwe: Huge Irreparable Loss, Says NICA

The Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the National Institute of Credit Administration (NICA), Professor Chris Onalo, expressed deep sorrow and condolences over the passing of Wigwe.

In a statement, Onalo described Wigwe as a visionary leader and philanthropist, who was a cherished member of the institute.

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The statement said, “We express our profound sadness upon hearing the passing away of the founding Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, his wife and son.

“On behalf of the entire governing council of the National Institute of Credit Administration, we offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and entire staff of Access Holdings at this difficult time.”

‘Herbert Wigwe Not Yet Dead’

An entrepreneur, My-ACE China, stated that Wigwe was not dead yet, saying his vision and projects should not be allowed to die.

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Speaking on the shocking incident, China, also known as the Mayor of Housing, said the best approach to the tragedy was to turn it into positives by ensuring that Wigwe’s visions and legacies were preserved.

In a statement he signed and made available to journalists in Port Harcourt, China, who is Chief Executive Officer of the Housing and Construction Mayor Limited, urged Wigwe’s partners and those associated with his dreams to galvanise them into making the dreams of the legend to live on.

He stated, “Dr Wigwe will die the day Wigwe University is dead; the day Access Bank stops being a leading financial institution in the world; the day all the wonderful partnerships he had brokered between Access Holdings and other companies globally and in Africa die; or the day all the acquisitions by Access Holdings he had helped to acquire die.

“All I say is Herbert Wigwe is not dead, but if we want him to die, we let his dreams die. If we make his dreams live, he lives, but if we allow his dreams die, he then dies. If we make his dreams live beyond his wildest imaginations, then we would have made him live and live. So, let’s make Herbert Wigwe live.”

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Wigwe, Fearless, Accomplished Accountant, Says Abiru, Senate Banking Chair

Senator Tokunbo Abiru described Herbert Wigwe as a fearless and accomplished accountant.

Abiru, in a statement yesterday, said he was devastated by the sad news of the helicopter crash in California. He said Wigwe’s visionary leadership and commitment to excellence left an indelible mark in the business world, particularly banking and financial services industry.

The senator said, “His (Wigwe’s) passion, dedication, and innovative spirit have inspired many, and his legacy will be remembered far beyond his years.

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“A fearless and accomplished accountant and businessman, Herbert exemplified commitment to causes of public good and national development, evident in initiatives like the Wigwe University project and numerous philanthropic gestures across Nigeria and beyond. This is a national tragedy of monumental proportion.

“Having maintained a personal relationship with Herbert since our days at Guaranty Trust Bank in 1991, I witnessed his extraordinary goal-driven professionalism. He reached the pinnacle of his career in the banking industry and business, leaving an indelible mark on the generation of accomplished bankers who cut their teeth at Guaranty Trust Bank.

“As we come to terms with this devastating loss, we share in the grief of Access Holdings Plc, the families, friends, and colleagues of those who lost their lives in this unfortunate incident.”

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