1st Afrika
HALL OF FAME

Dr.Herbet Wigwe: Celebrating Professional Excellence…15th August – 9th February 2024

Dr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe was born at Island Matern Hospital, Lagos, to Pastor Shyngle and Pastor (Mrs) Stella Wigwe on August 15, 1966. The nation was in the midst of a severe political crisis which eventually led to the outbreak of the civil war the following year. Herbert’s father had enlisted as a captain in the Nigerian Army in 1963 and was based in Kaduna; but he relocated to Lagos just before the military coup of January 15, 1966. Herbert was their third child, coming from Osita and Chilo; and was followed by Emeka, Peggy, and Stella. During the civil war, his family served in various Southeastern including Calabar. It was at this me that Herbert learned the Efik language which he spoke fluently, in addition to his nave Ikwerre.

After the war, Pastor Shyngle Wigwe commenced his famed career as a broadcast professional in the state and federal service, working in Port Harcourt, Ibadan, and Benin, and rising to become the Director General of the Nigerian Television Author. Herbert’s mother, who studied nursing in the United Kingdom, managed the growing family with clinical science.

Herbert, therefore, grew up in a typical post-independence civil service household, imbibing traditional values of integrity, meritocracy, respect, and accountability which purified the character of Nigeria’s public servants in the 1960s. Herbert commenced his formal education at Port Harcourt Primary School; he was admitted into Federal Government College, Sokoto in 1977, but as his first form, he transferred to Federal Government College, Warri, where he completed his secondary education in 1982. His detribalized, patriotic worldview was formed very early in life. Herbert related with and treated everybody with kindness and respect irrespective of class, social status, ethnicity, and religion. He made friends from across the country and the world and was always embraced, at work and home, by Nigerians from different parts of the country.

As a young man, Herbert was also mentored by his father’s younger brother, Chief Henry Ikechukwu Wigwe, a successful entrepreneur. Herbert continuously sought the approval of his father, a strict disciplinarian who prioritized education and ensured that his children went to the best schools an honest public servant could afford. Herbert’s love for mathematics and his numeracy skills were apparent even at an early age, prompting Emeka, his younger brother, to nickname him ACG, short for ‘Accountant-General’, predicting that Herbert would one day become Nigeria’s Accountant-General.

In 1983, Herbert was admitted into the University of Nigeria to study accountancy. He graduated with a Second-Class upper-division degree in 1987, maintaining his strong academic track record. His outstanding academic capabilities did not come at the expense of other aspects of his life. His love for music, particularly Herbie Hancock, and his zest for the finer things were apparent to those who knew him.

Upon graduation in 1987, Herbert joined the renowned accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand, working in Lagos as a graduate assistant, whilst also studying to qualify as a chartered accountant. Following qualification, he led the firm in September 1989 to pursue a career in banking, joining Kapital Merchant Bank as a credit analyst, his first step towards fulfilling his brother Emeka’s prediction of one day becoming a major player in the Nation’s financial affairs. Herbert worked at Kapital for just a year before yielding to the call for further education – a call that reoccurred continuously

Herbert was widely recognized and celebrated for his service to banking and humans. In 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari honored him with the national award of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). The same year, the Rivers State Government also honored him with the Rivers Gold Star Service Award, an honor reserved for an indigene of the state who has excelled in his or her field of endeavors. Earlier, in 2018, Herbert was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration by his alma mater, the University of Nigeria, for his outstanding contributions to Nigeria.

Herbert has also been bestowed with Fellow, Chartered Inste of Bankers (CIBN); Fellow, Inste of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and Fellow, Inste of Credit Administration.

On the morning of Saturday, February 9, 2024 (WAT) Herbert along with his wife, Chizoba, first son, Chizi, and three others were involved in a helicopter accident in California, USA. Herbert and his wife are survived by four children, Tochi, David, Hannah and Okachi, in addition to his aged parents and siblings.

even up to time of his untimely passage. As a recipient of the prestigious British Chevening scholarship, Herbert left for the United Kingdom to study banking and finance at the University College of North Wales (now known as Bangor Univers). Upon his return, he joined Guaran Trust Bank in November 1991 as a Deputy Manager – Corporate Banking.

Herbert’s potential stood out immediately and he was soon noticed by GTB’s founders, Fola Adeola and Tayo Aderinokun, earning the respect of both seniors and peers. Herbert rose quickly through the ranks, forging a reputation for excellence, hard work, and a highly competitive spirit. As he rose rapidly, Herbert built numerous relationships with colleagues and customers, acquiring a formidable ‘Rolodex’ of contacts that would prove invaluable when he heeded the call to be an owner-manager. By December 1999, Herbert was appointed one of Nigeria’s youngest Executive Directors, an integral part of the leadership team that ran Guaran Trust Bank, then deemed the best bank in the country.

Whilst at GTB, Herbert never stopped building his skills and abilities. He embarked on a journey to learn French, in the belief that it would be of advantage as he pursued relationships with multinational clients. It was therefore not a surprise when as an Assistant General Manager, he was able to sign on the coveted Totalfina-Elf account for GTB. This was just one of the several major corporate relationships that he managed in his career. He also led many landmark loan syndication transactions involving local and international financial institutions, including development finance institutions like the FMO and IFC. He established enduring relationships with successive leaders of multilateral institutions such as AFREXIM Bank and AfDB and became their key partner for realizing their continental

ambons. His prodigious appetite for learning also led him to acquire a bachelor’s degree in law and a Master’s degree in Financial Economics from the Univers of London.

Herbert’s friendship with Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede commenced at Guaranty Trust. They became kindred spirits even as their careers followed similar trajectories. They shared a deep and close friendship built on mutual trust which blossomed into a lifelong business partnership. In 2001, Herbert and Aigboje teamed up in an audacious move to buy their bank, a story that has become a reference point for young people across Africa seeking to make their way in life. Following their successful acquisition of Access Bank, Herbert was appointed Deputy Managing Director of Access Bank in March 2002. Over the next 11 years, the duo worked seamlessly together, transforming the nondescript bank, a fourth division player, into one of Nigeria’s Top 5 banks. Upon Aigboje’s retirement in December 2013, Herbert mounted the saddle as the GMD/CEO with a mandate to deliver their vision of positioning the bank as the world’s most respected African bank. Under his leadership, Access Bank became Nigeria’s biggest bank by balance sheet size and one of Africa’s 15 largest financial institutions. In addition, Access also expanded its international footprint to France, Dubai, and China, including a recent regulatory approval for a Hong Kong subsidiary, whilst executing a bold inorganic growth strategy to solidify its pan-African expansion.

Herbert bestrode the banking sector like a tan, so much so that he was named African Banker of the Year consecutively in 2020 and 2021. As Access Bank CEO, he took on key responsibilities for the development of

the financial services sector and the overall economic well-being of Nigeria. As Chairman of, the Body of Bank CEOs, Herbert was responsible for coordinating the industry’s response to many national challenges. He embraced Access Bank’s sustainability agenda with gusto, ensuring that the bank elevated its sustainable business practices to a level that attracted international acclaim. Access Bank received the prestigious Outstanding Business Sustainable Finance Award at Karlsruhe, Germany, for eight consecutive months between 2016 and 2023.

Herbert also shepherded Access Bank’s award-winning merger with Diamond Bank, successfully expanding the Bank’s retail client portfolio. He capitalized on the merger to position Access Bank as one of Africa’s most inclusive banks, using the resources of the combined franchise to bring financial services to the unbanked and underbanked. By 2023, Access Bank’s customer portfolio had exceeded 50 million customers, the highest of any bank in Africa.

Despite its massive growth, Access Bank has maintained its unique relationships with its employees, totaling 28,000 across the continent. It remains a hotbed of talent, continuing to attract Africa’s best and brightest, who contribute in various ways, every day to realizing the bank’s vision of being the world’s most respected African Bank. Herbert leveraged the Central Bank of Nigeria’s holding company regulatory framework to drive the bank’s entry into the non-banking business. In 2022, he was appointed the pioneer CEO of the holding company, Access Holding Plc which commenced with an initial focus on the pensions sector; and within just two years, Access Pensions has become Nigeria’s second-largest pension company.

Herbert was a true philanthropist. He maintained the bank’s corporate citizenship focus on Art, Health, and education; and with passion and commitment, he made a national impact through programs and interventions. These include the Access Bank Lagos C Marathon, the biggest prize-money marathon in Africa; Art X Lagos, the largest art fair in West Africa and the UNICEF-Access Bank Char Shield Polo Tournament which mobilizes resources to improve access to quality education for thousands of poor and vulnerable children in Kaduna State. He also co-led the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), a private sector task force in partnership with the federal government, NCDC, and WHO with the sole aim of combating the pandemic in Nigeria.

In 2016, in furtherance of his commitment to philanthropic pursuits, he set up his foundation, the Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe Foundation (The HOW Foundation) with a focus on education, health, and youth empowerment. The foundation has adopted 23 primary health centers in each LGA of Rivers State in partnership with the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria. As Herbert prepared for life beyond profits, he began to work to establish a private university. Licensed in 2023 by the National University Commission (NUC), Wigwe University was established to build fearless generations of world-class university graduates who would excel as entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators. The location of the universe in his Isiokpo commun in Rivers State is part of his grand vision to impact the lives of not only the students but members of the host community.

Herbert got married to his heartthrob, Chizoba Doreen Nwuba, in Lagos in November 1995. He called her ”most beautiful”, and together they

became the quintessential global power couple, establishing close relationships with friends and associates across the world. They were blessed with wonderful children. Their first child, Chizi, is a spring image of Herbert, while Tochi, his second child, is Doreen’s carbon copy. Chizi, a graduate of Georgetown University, was following his father’s footsteps with a career in finance as an employee of AFC. Tochi, with degrees from NYU and Imperial College, London, has also commenced a career in banking.

But Herbert and Chizoba were not done with child-rearing. After a 10-year break, they added David, Hannah, and their last child, Okachi to the Wigwe clan. Herbert demonstrated extraordinary dedication to his family; never failing to prioritize their needs and desires. From the earliest stages of each child’s life, he was there to witness each milestone, offering guidance, support, and encouragement along the way. Despite the demands of his ever-expanding commitments, he never hesitated to set aside precious time for his children and wife. His commitment to young people extended beyond his children. He was a constant pillar of support for other people’s children, offering guidance and financial assistance when they needed it most.

Herbert was widely recognized and celebrated for his service to banking and humans. In 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari honored him with the national award of Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). The same year, the Rivers State Government also honored him with the Rivers Gold Star Service Award, an honor reserved for an indigene of the state who has excelled in his or her field of endeavors. Earlier, in 2018, Herbert was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration by his alma mater, the University of Nigeria, for his outstanding contributions to Nigeria.

Herbert has also been bestowed with Fellow, Chartered Inste of Bankers (CIBN); Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), and Fellow, Institute of Credit Administration.

On the morning of Saturday, February 9, 2024 (WAT) Herbert along with his wife, Chizoba, first son, Chizi, and three others were involved in a helicopter accident in California, USA. Herbert and his wife are survived by four children, Tochi, David, Hannah, and Okachi, in addition to his aged parents and siblings.

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