President Muhammadu Buhari has joined Nigerians in mourning the shocking death of the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, James Ocholi, SAN, who died on Sunday in an auto-crash along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway.
The minister died alongside his wife, Blessing Fatima Ocholi and eldest son, Joshua Ocholi.
The late Ocholi’s driver, orderly and personal assistant are reportedly receiving treatment in a hospital for injuries sustained in the accident, which occurred after the rear tyre of the vehicle they were travelling in burst and somersaulted several times.
While Mr. Ocholi and his son reportedly died on the spot, his wife passed on later in a hospital, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, said.
In a statement by his spokesperson Garba Shehu, the president expressed shock and sadness at the deaths.
Mr. Buhari described the minister’s death as untimely, regretting that Nigeria has lost a key component of the change agenda.
“Barrister Ocholi was an accomplished and patriotic Nigerian, who was keen to accept the call to service at a time his country needed him”, President Buhari said, adding that in the few months he had been in office, the late minister had already begun to distinguish himself through his commitment and dedication to work.
The statement said the late Mr. Ocholi had a long record of political association with Mr. Buhari.
Buhari also extended his condolences to the government and people of Kogi State, whom he described as having lost a distinguished and irreplaceable son.
“The entire country mourns the loss of this great man, who has sadly left us when we need him most”, he said.
The statement added that Mr. Buhari has sent the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir, to formally convey the news to members of the deceased family as well as parishioners in his place of worship.
In the same vein, Governor of Kogi State, where the late Mr. Ocholi hails from, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has expressed shock at the death.
The governor in a statement issued in Lokoja, the state capital on Sunday, described the death of Ocholi as a monumental loss for the state and the country at large.
The late minister hailed from Ogbabede/Abocho in Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi.
“Late Ocholi was a pragmatic, dynamic, humane and brilliant law officer who was known around the world for his dexterous approach to legal and political issues and one of the most unswerving constitutional lawyers Nigeria has ever produced”, Gov. Bello said of the deceased.
The statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Kingsley Fanwo, recalled how the late minister joined other progressive minded individuals around the country to drive the intellectual pillars of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
While condoling members of his immediately family, political associates, friends, colleagues and the APC over his death, Mr. Bello said that the vacuum left behind by the late minister would be difficult to fill.
He prayed for the peaceful repose of Mr. Ocholi’s soul and urged all those he left behind to see his death as an act of God.
Also reacting, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State described the death of Mr. Ocholi, his wife and his son as shocking and sad.
In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Peter Okhiria, the Edo governor said: “His death is indeed a colossal loss to the nation, which he served devotedly to the end.
“I had several interactions with the late Minister and I found him to be a remarkably frank and patriotic Nigerian with a deep sense of commitment to the nation’s growth. He had a fervent passion to implement the Change agenda of Mr. President and worked assiduously to leave a lasting legacy in the Labour Ministry where he was Minister of State”.
On its part, the National Secretariat of the APC also said it received news of the death of Mr. Ocholi, his wife and his son with great shock and sadness.
The APC National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni in a condolence message on Sunday, described the deaths as a monumental loss.
The APC scribe said the late Mr. Ocholi, who was the party’s former Deputy National Legal Adviser until his appointment as minister, will be remembered for his selfless service to Nigeria and Kogi State.
While extending its condolences to the people and government of Kogi State, the governing party prayed God to grant Mr. Ocholi’s immediate family the fortitude to bear the loss.