Herbert Wigwe: A Legacy of Leadership, and Philanthropy

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The founding group chief executive officer of Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Wigwe, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, according to a tragic turn of circumstances reported by the company’s board of directors. The former Access Bank Plc Group Managing Director, his wife Doreen Chizoba, their son Chizi, and the former group chairman of Nigeria’s stock exchange, Abimola Ogunbanjo were among the victims of a deadly helicopter crash that occurred close to the Nevada–California border. 


The Eurocopter EC 130, carrying Wigwe and five others, crashed on Friday night en route to Las Vegas. Access Holdings expressed deep sorrow in a statement, describing Dr. Wigwe as a key driving force and a larger-than-life personality who significantly contributed to the transformation of the Access franchise since 2002.


The tragic news has sent shockwaves through Nigeria and beyond. Abubakar Jimoh, Chairman of Access Holdings, mourned the loss of a great friend and fine gentleman, highlighting Wigwe’s prodigious intellect and vast business experience. Eminent personalities such as President Bola Tinubu, Tony Elumelu, Femi Otedola, and others paid heartfelt tributes, expressing their shock and describing the incident as an overwhelming tragedy. Access Bank is cooperating with U.S. authorities investigating the helicopter crash. Preliminary reports from the National Transportation Safety Board suggest wintry weather and rain may have contributed to the tragic incident.


Wigwe’s Impact Beyond Banking


Herbert Wigwe’s legacy extended beyond the corporate world. Established in 2016 as a non-profit organization, the HOW Foundation serves as the vehicle for Dr. Herbert Wigwe’s philanthropic activities, focusing on education, youth empowerment through leadership and mentorship, and health initiatives. The foundation has recently taken on the task of refurbishing and revitalizing 25 primary healthcare centers in Rivers State, at least one in each Local Government Area.


Under his leadership, Access Bank actively participated in sports initiatives, contributing to community development. The National Basketball Association (NBA) mourned the loss of NBA Africa investor Wigwe, a passionate basketball fan and investor in the NBA Africa League.


Access Bank’s sponsorship of events like the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon showcased Wigwe’s commitment to promoting healthy living and community engagement. His contributions to youth sports development programs and talent identification initiatives further demonstrated his dedication to uplifting the community.


Wigwe University – A Vision for Education:


In addition to his remarkable achievements in the banking sector, Herbert Wigwe embarked on a visionary project—Wigwe University. This initiative reflected his deep commitment to education as a driver of development. The university aimed to contribute to the advancement of knowledge and empower future generations.


Wigwe University, a $500 million project spearheaded by Herbert Wigwe, co-founder of Access Bank, Nigeria’s largest bank by assets is located in Wigwe’s hometown in Rivers State, Nigeria. The university was established to provide undergraduate courses in management, science and engineering, information technology, and creative arts. Plans include expanding into medical sciences, medicine, law, and post-graduate degrees. The university envisions linkage relationships with top foreign universities to facilitate student exchange programs.


Wigwe envisions leveraging technology to ensure the same quality of education as top-tier universities in the US and UK. The institution plans to utilize holograms and artificial intelligence to create a hybrid learning system. Despite being situated in one of the world’s economically challenged countries,

Herbert Wigwe, drawing on his extensive banking sector experience, planned to shape the future of the industry by training the next set of leaders.


Heading the leadership team at Wigwe University are distinguished individuals like Professor Miles Davis, former president of a private university in the United States, serving as the Vice-Chancellor. Professor Nelson Uzoechi-Uzoma Alino, former professor of accounting at Quinnipiac University, assumes the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Administration, and Professor Dal Didia, former professor of economics at Jackson State University, holds the position of deputy vice-chancellor of academics.


A Legacy Lives On:


As the nation mourns, the Access Holdings board assured the public that an Acting Group Chief Executive Officer would be announced soon, expressing confidence in the Access Group’s ability to build on Wigwe’s legacy of growth and operational excellence.


Herbert Wigwe’s passing is not only a significant loss to the business community but also a tragic moment for the nation. The outpouring of condolences and tributes from various sectors reflects the profound impact he had on the lives of many. The legacy of this visionary leader, philanthropist, and sports enthusiast will undoubtedly endure in the hearts of those who knew him. May his soul, along with those of his beloved wife and son, rest in eternal peace.


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