As Nigerians continue to unravel the mystery surrounding the fatal accident that led to the death of the Minister of State for Labour, James Ocholi (SAN), his wife, Blessing, and son, Joshua, a survivor of the accident told THISDAY Monday in Abuja that contrary to speculations making the rounds, the accident was as a result of a burst back tyre of the Sport Unity Vehicle (SUV) in which the family was travelling.
The source, who pleaded anonymity, informed THISDAY that “we were coming from Kaduna; we left Kaduna around some minutes to 3p.m. The minister attended a church programme in Banawa area of Kaduna and we were on our way back to Abuja.
“People have been saying it might be political, it might be speed or it might be spiritual, what I know is that the driver was not speeding, the tyre just burst and the car started to somersault.”
Asked if there was any collision between the advancing car and the security car acting as rear guard behind the minister’s SUV, the source debunked the claims, stating that there was no form of collision anywhere.
“What happened was that immediately the back tyre (which was at the driver’s side) burst, the other car at the back veered away from the road into the bush, that was what happened. Forget those rumours, it was that burst tyre that led to the accident,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Assistant Director, Information and Protocol, National Hospital, Abuja, Dr. Tayo Haastrup told THISDAY that the hospital has carried out postmortem on the remains of Ocholi, his wife and son.
Haastrup said: “We have done postmortem, as we remained proactive in attending to the survivals. One of those who survived is stable and we are still keeping him around. Some of the survivals are in Kaduna and we are waiting today if they will come,” he said.
In another development, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, declared yesterday a day of mourning in the ministry and its parastals as a mark of respect and for the late minister.
Ngige described the death of Ocholi as sad, adding: “We have lost a legal luminary and community mobiliser with exceptional and visionary leadership skills, who has brought his wealth of experience to bear in discharge of his responsibilities as the 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 maintained that 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 would remain difficult to fill.
He said a condolence register had been opened in honour of the late minister in the ministry.
Ngige prayed to God to grant Ocholi, his wife and son eternal rest and extended his condolences to the Ocholi family, the government and people of Kogi State.
Also, in a condolence letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) tasked the president to fix the dilapidated roads across the country and ensure that speed limits are enforced.
The letter signed by NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, said: “On behalf of the NLC, I wish to condole you on the tragic death of the 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 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. Although the full details are yet to emerge, the death of Ocholi brings to the fore two issues I consider critical. These are state of our roads and executive speed.
“The economic challenges at the moment notwithstanding, your intervention will help save more lives. Time has come no doubt for the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to work hand in hand with executive drivers and possibly, their principals on speed control.
“While I pray for the repose of the souls of the departed faithful, please accept the assurances of my highest esteem.”