Nigeria mourns as authorities investigate helicopter crash that killed a major bank CEO

This undated photograph shows Herbert Wigwe, chief executive of Access Bank, Nigeria in his Lagos office. Wigwe was killed Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 along with his wife and son when a helicopter they were riding in crashed near in Southern California's Mojave Desert. (AP Photo/Ayodeji Owolabi)

Nigerian leaders Sunday mourned the death of the CEO of one of the country’s largest banks after he and five others were killed Friday in a helicopter crash in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.

Herbert Wigwe, chief executive of Access Bank, and his wife and son were among the six people on board when the aircraft went down shortly after 10 p.m. near Interstate 15. All six people were killed, including two pilots and Bamofin Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former chair of NGX Group, the Nigerian stock exchange.


Nigeria’s president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, grieved the deaths in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Their passing is an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension,” he wrote. “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.”

The death of Wigwe, 57; his wife, Chizoba; and son, Chizi, shocked many in Nigeria and in the banking sector. 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.

“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,” Sunday Ekwochi, group company secretary of parent company Access Holdings, said Sunday in a statement.

The bank, in a post on X, wrote that Wigwe’s “passion and unwavering commitment to excellence transformed Access into a global powerhouse.”

“His legacy of excellence and compassion will continue to inspire us all,” the statement said.

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