CEO of major Nigerian bank killed in California helicopter crash

| | california
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CEO of major Nigerian bank killed in California helicopter crash

Monday, 12 February 2024 | AP | california

The CEO of one of Nigeria’s largest banks was killed on Friday along with his wife and son when a helicopter they were riding in crashed near Interstate 15 in southern California’s Mojave Desert.

Herbert Wigwe, chief executive of Access Bank, was among the six people on board when the helicopter crashed shortly after 10 pm. Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chair of NGX Group, the Nigerian stock exchange, was also killed. Their deaths were confirmed by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister who is now the director general of the World Trade Organization.

“Terribly saddened by the news of the terrible loss of Herbert Wigwe ... his wife and son as well as Bimbo Ogunbanjo in a helicopter crash,” Okonjo-Iweala wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace.”

The death of Wigwe (57) shocked many in Nigeria and in the banking sector where he was widely seen as an industry leader having been involved in two of the country’s biggest banks, including Guaranty Trust Bank where he was previously executive director.

Under Wigwe’s leadership, Access Bank’s assets and presence grew beyond borders in several African countries. His death is “a terrible blow” for Nigeria and Africa’s banking industry, Nigerian presidential spokesman Bayo Onanuga wrote on X. “Wigwe had a big vision to make Access Holdings (the parent company) Africa’s biggest, with all the unquenchable thirst for acquisitions,” Onanuga added. Wigwe’s interests also spanned the education sector. His private university, founded in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region where he was from, is scheduled to open in September. Last year he said the university was “an opportunity for me to give back to society”.

“This is surreal and I am lost for words,” Festus Keyamo, Nigeria’s minister of aviation and aerospace development, wrote in a post on X. “May Almighty God comfort his aged parents and sibling ... his immediate family members, his staff, friends across Nigeria and dependents.” The crash happened east of Interstate 15 near Halloran Springs Road and not far from the California-Nevada border. Halloran Springs Road crosses the highway in an area known to travellers for an abandoned gas station with a sign declaring “Lo Gas” and “Eat”.

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