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11 Feb, 2024 08:31

CEO of major Nigerian bank killed in helicopter crash

The head of Access Bank Group, Herbert Wigwe, was aboard a helicopter that went down in California in the US on Friday
CEO of major Nigerian bank killed in helicopter crash

The CEO of Access Bank Group, one of Nigeria’s top financial institutions, Herbert Wigwe, perished in a helicopter crash near Nipton in southern California on Friday. Five more people who were also aboard the aircraft have been confirmed dead.

According to a statement released by the US Federal Aviation Administration, the Eurocopter EC 130 helicopter went down at around 10pm local time. It added that it would launch an investigation into the incident in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department reported that the crash occurred near the border between Nevada and California. “It has been confirmed all six people on board the aircraft are deceased,” the authorities wrote without revealing their identities.

Prominent Nigerian-American economist and World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala claimed on Sunday in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that along with Wigwe, his wife and son were also killed in the crash. She added that the former president of the Nigerian stock exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, also lost his life in the crash.

At a press conference on Saturday night, Michael Graham, a representative of the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters that the charter flight operated by Orbic Air LLC was on the way to Boulder City, Nevada.

According to the official, several eyewitnesses reported adverse weather conditions at the time of the crash. They also mentioned seeing fire aboard the helicopter as well as downed power lines, Graham added.

“This is the beginning of a long process. We will not jump to any conclusions,” the NTSB representative said, adding that the helicopter was not required to have a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder.

Wigwe, who was 57, was widely seen as a leading figure in Nigeria’s banking sector. Established in 1989, his Access Bank became the largest in the country in 2018. Apart from acquiring other lenders at home, the financial institution has also been working to expand across other African nations in recent years, with plans to also launch a new banking service in Asia this year.

On top of that, Wigwe had served as executive director at another leading Nigerian bank, Guaranty Trust Bank. He was also working on opening his own university in Nigeria later this year.