Sunday, 11 February 2024 04:58

Access Bank CEO Wigwe, wife, son’s death in helicopter crash: Here’s what we know so far

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A helicopter carrying six people, including the co-founder of Nigeria’s biggest bank by assets, crashed in a Southern California desert near the Mojave National Preserve, authorities said.

Herbert Wigwe, 57, co-founder of Access Bank, was among the victims, family members from his home village of Isiokpo said.

Abimbola Ogunbanjo, 61, who was president of the National Council of the Nigeria Stock Exchange from 2017 to 2021, and served as the group chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc from 2021 to 2022, was confirmed dead by a family member in Lagos.

The Federal Aviation Administration said a Eurocopter EC helicopter crashed at about 10 p.m. on Friday with six people on board.

The crash site was near the border with Nevada. The craft was headed to Boulder City, Nevada, south of Las Vegas, local ABC affiliate KABC reported without saying where it got the information.

“The scene of the crash was determined to be east of the 15-Freeway, near Halloran Springs Road,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department said in an emailed statement on Saturday. “No survivors have been located.”

Wigwe started his professional career with Coopers & Lybrand Associates, an international firm of chartered accountants, before spending a decade at Guaranty Trust Bank. In 2004 he co-engineered the acquisition of local lender Access Bank where he assumed the post of deputy managing director and eventually became chief executive officer in January 2014.

He was building a new $500 million university outside the southern city of Port Harcourt to help students hone skills needed for the finance and technology industries in Africa’s most-populous nation, he told Bloomberg in an interview in November. Wigwe planned to teach and mentor students and also engage some of the country’s biggest entrepreneurs including billionaire Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, to teach at the university.

“To get the next set of leaders in banking, you need to create the right education for them,” Wigwe told Bloomberg from his office in the 14-story Access Bank headquarters overlooking a part of the Lagos lagoon.

Ogunbanjo started his professional career as a banker with Chase Manhattan Bank Nigeria in 1985 before he re-qualified as a legal practitioner and joined the law firm of Chris Ogunbanjo & Co in 1990, where he held the position of managing partner until his death, according to a biography from his firm.

He joined the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2011 and served in various capacities, including vice-president, according to his LinkedIn biography.

Ogunbanjo was the former vice chairman of the Commercial Law and Taxation Committee of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and acted as special Nigerian counsel to the London and Paris clubs in connection with the refinancing and rescheduling agreements made between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and International Creditors Banks.

The United States federal aviation administration (FAA) says it will be a part of the investigations into the crash of the chopper that had Herbert Wigwe, group chief executive officer (GCEO) of Access Holdings Plc, on board.

Wigwe, his wife and son were onboard the helicopter when it crashed in California near the Nevada border.

FAA said the Eurocopter EC130 helicopter crashed around 10 p.m. California time (Saturday, 7 a.m. Nigerian time).

According to KTLA 5 News, a US local media, the chopper took off from Palm Springs but it was not clear where it was headed.

Eurocopter EC 130, the ill-fated helicopter that Herbert Wigwe, the CEO of Access Bank, and five others boarded on Friday in the United States took off from Palm Springs Airport, California.

The flight took off at about 8:45 p.m. (local time).

According to a local news outlet, it was expected to land at 9:49 p.m (local time) at Boulder City, Nevada.

There was a reported rain and a snowstorm in the area at the time of the crash with gusty winds raging as high as 45 mph.

Two helicopters were flying towards the same direction at the time of the incident.

While one had Wigwe and his family on board, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Wigwe’s business partner and former Access bank CEO, and Tunde Folawiyo, business mogul, were reportedly aboard the second chopper.

KTLA 5 News added that a medical examiner was on the way to the scene to remove the bodies of the victims.

No survivors have been found so far.

FAA said the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be in charge of the investigation and will provide any updates.



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