Tears were still flowing yesterday for Minister of State (Labour and Employment) James Ocholi, who died on Sunday along with his wife and son in an accident on the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
The National Hospital in Abuja has conducted an autopsy on the bodies. One of the survivors of the crash has been declared stable in hospital.
The driver, the orderly, the chief detail and the minister’s personal assistant were injured in the crash.
Ocholi’s son, Joshua, a Youth Corps member who graduated from Salem University in Abuja, also died in the crash. This is contrary to the information that it was Aaron who died. Aaron was, in fact, one of those receiving visitors at the Ocholis’ home yesterday.
Among the visitors were the President’s wife Mrs Aisha Buhari and the Vice President’s wife, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo.
Governors, ministers, top lawyers, government officials and friends of the late minister were at the residence.
National Hospital spokesman Dr. Tayo Haaastrup said: ”We have done postmortem on the bodies. We have remained proactive in attending to the survivors. One of those who survived is stable and we are still keeping him around. Some of the survivors are in Kaduna and we are expecting them here today.”
Tomorrow, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) will hold a valedictory session for the late minister, Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said yesterday.
All roads around the Dagash M. Street residence were taken over by heavy vehicular traffic as dignitaries trooped to the place.
Reporters were barred from the living room of the Ocholis as Mrs Buhari visited. She was received by a member of the family, Paul Audu and Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
Hajia Buhari simply wrote in the condolence register: “It is a terrible shock to us, we pray for the soul of the departed to rest in peace. May the Almighty God condole the family.” Mrs Osinbajo wrote: “May their souls rest in perfect peace.”
A course mate of the late minister at the Nigeria Law School, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), recalled with nostalgia, their relationship. ”I have known James Ocholi since 1985. We were called to the Bar the same day. I took the seat before him, but James was very consistent.
“He was a man of principle and a Christian to the core who practised what he preached and he was a gentleman. I knew James to be very consistent, hardworking, diligent on the job and a man of integrity.
“I was in Ibadan when the news came yesterday. The news was so devastating that I could not believe it because he was a pillar of our class. He belonged to that famous Class ‘86 of the Nigeria Law School and those of us who are colleagues know the Class ‘86. They call us all sorts of names but that is the class to be.
“When James believed in a cause, he will fight it to the last. He was a man of principle and we are going to miss him. My last discussion with him was on Wednesday.
“There is a matter we are handling for members of the House of Representatives over defection and I was leading him and some other SANs and he suggested that since we have now come to power, we should withdraw the matter. He sent somebody to me and the matter is to come up on Thursday and I promised him that I was going to send somebody to the Court of Appeal here in Abuja”.
Minister of Youth and Sport Solomon Dalung wrote: “My brother, you left me without a word. What a surprise. Death, you are a great thief. You will always leave sorrows. Rest in peace.”
Dalung recalled that the last Federal Executive Council meeting held about two weeks ago, was when they last met.
Others, who were at the late Minister’s residence include Inspector General of Police Solomon Arase, FCT Minister Muhammad Bello, a delegation of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, former Deputy Governor of Plateau state, Pauline Tallen, Deputy National Chairman, (North) of the APC, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, among others.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment declared yesterday a day of mourning.
The. Minister said: “We have lost a legal luminary and community mobilizer with exceptional and visionary leadership skills, who has brought his wealth of experience to bear in discharge of his responsibilities as the Honourable Minister of State in the ministry as evident in the complementary role he played in the on-going efforts at resolving industrial crisis in the Oil and Gas including the Health Sectors.
Ngige said Ocholi left the labour sector at a time when the nation greatly needed his deep experience as an arbitrator and international negotiator, while the vacuum created by his demise will remain difficult to fill
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has sent a message of condolence to President Muhammadu Buhari, the governor of a Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and the family of the late Ocholi over the death of the Minister.
President of the Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said in separate condolence letters that the death of the Minister is a great loss to all Nigerians.
The letter to the President reads: “On behalf of the Nigeria Labour Congress, I wish to condole you on the tragic death of the Honourable Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. James Ocholi (SAN) and members of his family.
“In the brief moment we have worked together, I found Mr Ocholi earthy, humble, lively and knowledgeable. I had no doubt in my mind he was an asset in government-labour relations and certainly, he was going to play a more critical role in the future. His death is therefore a big loss to all of us.
“Mr. Ocholi was a civil, decent and humble man; a legal luminary; and an illustrious son of Kogi State, who brought to bear on his job, clinical efficiency and humanity. He was a trusted ally of Labour
“It is a shame, death has robbed us of this irreplaceable and priceless gem.”
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