Government approves state burial for Ocholi
• How over-speeding killed Ocholi, by FRSC
• Minister, wife, son never used seat belts
• Why unlicensed driver, orderly survived
Over-speeding coupled with a lack of professional qualification of his driver may have caused the auto accident in which the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, James Ocholi, lost his life. It was revealed that the driver of the vehicle, Taiwo Elegbede, had no record in the data of driver’s licences.
These revelations formed part of the interim report on the cause of the March 6 road crash that claimed the lives of Ocholi, his wife, Blessing, and one of his sons, Joshua on the Kaduna- Abuja Expressway. The revelations came from the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) at a special Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in honour of Ocholi.
At the solemn event, President Muhammadu Buhari, directed that the late minister should be given a state burial. And promptly, the Federal Government yesterday rolled out the burial programme for the minister.
According to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, the burial programme for Ocholi will commence on March 16, with a service of songs to be held at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja.
To ensure a hitch-free event, a 13-man burial committee has been raised, with the SGF as the chairman. Other members of the committee include the Ministers of Labour and Employment; Water Resources, Health; and Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment.
The government of Kogi State has also asked to be included in the burial arrangement because Ocholi was an illustrious son of the state. As a result, two slots were allocated to the state government, the reason for which the deputy governor and one other person were drafted in as members. Similarly, the Salem Church of which the late minister was a prominent member was allocated two slots on the burial committee.
On March 17, there will be a special wake for the late Ocholi in his native village in Dekina Local Government of Kogi State before the final internment at noon on March 18. This is to enable the dignitaries who must have attended the burial from Abuja and other parts of the country to return to their respective places.
Presenting the report on the accident in which Ocholi died before the special sitting of the FEC, the Corps Marshal and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps, (FRSC), Boboye Oyeyemi before sober cabinet members at the Council Chambers, noted that if the driver had limited himself to the speed limit allowed by law, the effect of the cash would have been minimal.
Yesterday’s tribute session was led by President Buhari, who admitted his long relations with the deceased, which blossomed during their days at the now defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) and the role the lawyer played in the processes leading to the emergence of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014.
A common thread that ran through all the tributes to Ocholi was the fact that the late minister was a symbol of humility, even at the expense of his personal advantages. Thus, his decision to serve as the deputy National Legal Adviser to Mr. Muiz Banire, his junior as a lawyer, in the interim executive of the APC was a reference point in all the tributes. While Ocholi was enrolled into the prestigious circle of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2007, Banire was only enrolled into the circle last year. This virtue, all the speakers said, was an indication of the person of Ocholi, whose loyalty to the party and his desire to put the interest of the nation over and above his personal interest was not in question.
Buhari said: “I began to respect his hard work and humility when he attempted to be governor of his state, I campaigned for him almost throughout all the local governments. But the system we are running, one will always keep on trying.
“He didn’t make it. And then the series of committees we are having, I recalled one particular, ACN/CPC/ANPP, with a part of APGA and DPP in which he represented the CPC and what impressed me about him is that he agreed to serve under a junior lawyer to him, and that showed a lot of humility.
“Because I know of two professions, in legal and military, they are very jealous about seniority, but he agreed to serve under a junior ACN lawyer, him being a SAN shows his kind of person. Even his contributions here, whether there are memos from his ministry or not, he made substantial contributions. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”
Information gathered revealed that the driver of the crashed vehicle was actually moving in excess of the stipulated speed when he had a burst tyre. The report also confirmed that none of the three victims, the minister, his wife and son fastened their seat belts at the back even though, there was provision for that.
The FRSC noted that the driver and the orderly were able to escape with minor injuries because they were wearing seat belts while at the front of the ill-fated car.
“The crashed vehicle driver was driving too fast and he slammed on his brake so hard. These two factors materially contributed to the inability of the driver to maintain control when the left rear tyre burst.
“Skid marks and grooves found on the westbound shoulder made by the Lexus LX570 for about 15m and 9.3m respectively before it began somersaulting severely and the ejection of the minister and his son showed clearly that the travelling speed of the Lexus LX570 presented unsafe consequences in the event of certain road risk that may have occurred.
“The driver must have entered into a panic situation which resulted in his hard application of brakes and subsequent loss of control that took him into the bush part.
“The DOT number of the tyres were inward which cannot easily be read from outside. This indicates that the orientations of the tyres were not properly fixed which could adversely affect the performance of the tyres.
“The Federal Road Safety Corps Investigation Team (FIT) determines that the probable cause of the March 6, 2016 fatal crash at KM34 Kaduna -Abuja expressway near Rijana village Kaduna State was the driver’s failure to maintain directional control of his vehicle when the rear left tyre burst occurred.
“Severity of the fatality was increased due to the ejection of the minister and his son as a result of non-use of rear seat belt.”
The corps marshal, therefore, recommended, among other things, “the certification and re-certification of convoy drivers at intervals of 2years of issuance of convoy driver’s licence,”
President Buhari to lead the campaign on compliance with speed limits, starting with installation of speed limiting devices in commercial vehicles.
“There was no record on the driver’s licence national data base of the driver of the minister with the name Taiwo James Elegbede.
“The ejection of the minister and his son who occupied the rear seat confirmed the fact that their rear seat belts were not in use and on the contrary, the driver and the orderly survived because the front seats belt were in use,” the report said.
At least six ministers, each representing a geo- political zones of the country took turns to pay tributes to the late Ocholi at the meeting. First was his colleague in the ministry, Chris Ngige, who represented the South East.
Ngige, who spoke for almost 15 minutes described the death of Ocholi as a colossal tragedy of unimaginable proportions, recalling that he interacted with the deceased last on Friday when Ocholi chaired the in-house committee mediating in trade dispute with health sector workers.
Fighting to hold back tears, Ngige described the late Ocholi as a skillful negotiator and a serious arbitrator, saying that his path first crossed with Ocholi way back in 1996.
But he said they became closer when the APC merger talks commenced. “His contribution usually stirred up intellectual discourse.
He helped fashion our party ‘s constitution. He had the capacity for hard work. He was a good negotiator. Indeed, death has created a huge void in the Ministry of Labour and Employment hard to fill.”
Also in their contributions, the Ministers of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Water Resources, Suleiman, Ministers of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of State in Niger Delta Affairs, Prof. Daramola and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Khadijat Bukar Ibrahim all took turns to pay tributes.
The SGF quoted the President as directing that the Federal Government should give the two children of the late Ocholi who are university graduates jobs in the federal civil service, and to provide Federal Government scholarships to the two remaining children up to university level, and later offer them jobs in the federal agencies of their choice.