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Access Holdings Reveals How Wigwe’s Successor Will Emerge

Following the death of group managing director and chief executive of Access Holdings, the former Nigerian minister of Finance and current director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi; and the group MD/CEO of NGX Group, Temi Popoola, among others, have expressed their condolences over the death of group managing director, Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Wigwe in a helicopter crash in the United States of America at the weekend.

This is even as the board of Access Holdings Plc may soon begin to hunt for a helmsman after the tragic demise of its group managing director, Herbert Wigwe, in a helicopter crash in the United States of America.

The group had, in an earlier statement, yesterday, noted that it will soon name a successor to Herbert Wigwe in acting capacity.

It is expected that the board of the financial conglomerate will officially notify the regulators on the first day of business and would convene a board meeting to begin to consider the options for a replacement for the late GMD.

The board of directors is expected to convene a meeting to discuss the situation and decide on the next course of action. Whilst they may appoint an interim replacement pending the appointment of the substantive GMD, there is also the option of appointing a permanent replacement.

In many cases, there may be a designated deputy or an interim successor in the bank’s leadership structure. If the managing director had a clear succession plan in place, this individual may step in temporarily to ensure continuity and stability.

Presently, the board of the bank is constituted by the chairman, the group managing director, four non-executive directors, one independent non-executive directors and two executive directors. The most senior after the chairman is the current managing director of the banking subsidiary, Roosevelt Ogbonna.

Ogbonna, before his current role, was Access Bank’s deputy managing director since 2017 prior to which he had been appointed executive director, Commercial Banking Division, in October 2013.

He was appointed the managing director of the bank with effect from May 2, 2022. He is a through-bred professional with over two decades of banking experience having joined Access Bank in 2002 from Guaranty Trust Bank.

With the guideline on tenure as released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last year, which fixed the tenure of deputy managing directors and executive directors (ED) of a bank at a maximum period of 12 years, Ogbonna currently has two years on the board.

Banking sources reveled  that to ensure stability and continuity, Ogbonna may be favoured by the board as an interim GMD to stabilise the corporation before it shops for the substantive one later.

Also to be put into consideration are the two camps that hold sway on the board. Recall that Access Bank was bought by Herbert Wigwe and his business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. It is, however, not sacrosanct that the replacement would be from within the Corporation itself.

Commenting on the demise of Dr. Wigwe, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh, chairman of Access Holdings said: “The Access Family has suffered a major loss with the passing of Dr. Wigwe who was a great friend and fine gentleman. He had a prodigious intellect, admirable personal qualities, and vast business experience which he brought to bear on the Access Family and for which we owe him a debt of gratitude.

“In line with the Company’s policy, the Board will soon announce the appointment of an acting group chief executive officer even as we remain confident that the Access Group will build further on Dr. Wigwe’s legacy of growth and operational excellence.”

Meanwhile, the former Nigerian minister of Finance and current director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in a post on X, said she is “terribly saddened by the news of the terrible loss of Herbert Wigwe , Group CEO Access Bank @HerbertOWigwe , his wife and son as well as Bimbo Ogunbanjo in a helicopter crash.

“My deepest sympathies and condolences to the Wigwe family, the Ogunbanjo family, Access Bank Group employees and Management @myaccessbank and my younger Brother Herbert’s partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace.”

Similarly, the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in his condolence message, said: “I am deeply saddened by the tragic news of the passing of my dear friend, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Holdings, along with his wife and son, and another close friend, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, former group chairman of NGX Group.

“This loss is profoundly felt across the nation. I first met Herbert during his early days, on the brink of starting his marital journey. I vividly remember assisting him in preparing for his traditional wedding and being there for the ceremony with his wife, Chizoba, from Achina, Anambra State. Since then, I’ve maintained a connection to his endeavours in my own modest ways. Herbert, a determined and forward-thinking individual, led Access Bank to new heights following his brother Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

“His noteworthy contributions extended beyond the professional realm, with commendable philanthropic efforts in health and education, exemplified by the establishment of Wigwe University, showcasing his deep commitment to education as a driver of development.

“The loss of such an exceptional individual reminds us of life’s fleeting nature, encouraging us to live with a purpose that contributes to the betterment of humanity. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Herbert, his beloved wife, his son and all those who lost their lives in the tragic plane crash. May God grant them eternal rest and provide strength to Herbert’s family, Access Holdings, and all of us mourning this irreplaceable loss.”

Expressing his heartfelt condolences, the group chairman of NGX Group, Alhaji Umaru Kwairanga, said “Ogunbanjo’s leadership has left an indelible mark on our organisation and the broader Nigerian financial community, and his legacy will continue to inspire us.

“Wigwe also leaves an unblemished footprint in our private sector. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time. May their souls rest in peace and may the Almighty comfort their families.”

Moreover, the group MD/CEO of NGX Group, Mr. Temi Popoola, added that “the passing of Ogunbanjo is a profound loss for NGX Group and the entire Nigerian private sector. He played a crucial role in shaping NGX Group, and while he will be sorely missed, his visionary leadership and impact will never be forgotten.

“It is heartbreaking to learn that Wigwe, his wife and son also lost their lives in the accident. The contributions of these two respected leaders to the financial markets and the overall private sector will be remembered, and we are committed to preserving their legacy by upholding the principles of leadership, innovation, and dedication that they exemplified,” he pointed out.

Speaking on behalf of the Holdings’ shareholders, the Group executive chairman of Lancelot Group, Mr. Adebayo Adeleke said:  “they have left their footprints in the sand of times. Its rather tragic that it appears to be a season of death around the business community in general and Access Bank in particular.

“The entire shareholder community and the capital market are still in shock. We are deeply saddened by this development.”

Adeleke added that Herbert Wigwe was so much loved by shareholders for raising the bars of Access Bank higher after the exit of his soul-mate, Aig-Imoukhuede.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Access Holdings Plc, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh has described the demise of its GMD, Herbert Wigwe as a huge loss to the financial conglomerate as well as the banking industry, promising to build on his legacies to further grow the group and its subsidiaries.

In a statement issued by the bank yesterday, Jimoh said in part: “He took over as Access Bank Group CEO in 2014, focusing on the Bank’s expansion in Nigeria and Africa before taking the helm at Access Holdings in 2022. Under his leadership, Access Bank drove its African strategy to become Sub Saharan Africa’s largest retail bank by customer base.”

“Dr. Wigwe was a member of the Access Bank UK board as well as the board of the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA).

“He has long been an advocate for the eradication of malaria in Africa, working with the Corporate Alliance on Malaria to support this objective.

“He also sat on the board of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company and Friends Africa and was an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Institute of Credit Administration,” the statement pointed out.

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