Olalekan Adetayo, Friday Olokor and Adelani Adepegba
The Federal Government has promised to investigate how the driver of the Sport Utility Vehicle, in which the Minister of State for Labour, Mr. James Ocholi (SAN); his wife, Blessing; and son, Joshua, died along the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway on Sunday, was employed.
The Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, stated this on Monday while responding to the call by the relatives of the deceased, including Ocholi’s uncle, Abdallah Aliu; another relative, Paul Audu; and the immediate younger sister to the late Blessing, who did not want her name mentioned, that the driver be investigated.
“The acting Permanent Secretary is here, she is the one in charge of human resources. We will find out and investigate it. We will do, but I can tell you that our personal drivers are known to us and we both keep our personal drivers. We will find out and investigate this,” Ngige said.
The Ocholi family is working on some theories concerning the accident.
The family members believed that the driver of a car that somersaulted several times would ordinarily be unconscious and would not take photographs of the deceased and upload them on social media.
They also contended that the driver and the orderly should have cordoned off the place and evacuated the corpses as this had been the tradition whenever a VIP was involved in an accident.
Aliu said, “Distinguished Senator Ngige, I know you very well. When James Ocholi was told to work with you, I knew he was in good hands because the last time I saw you was in Anambra State. We ate with you in your house as a governor.
“This man that just died is not a lone person. We leave this responsibility in your care. Whoever recruited the driver and posted (redeploy) him should be investigated. It can happen to anybody, it can happen to any minister. It can happen because it has happened.
“So, we want to know who recruited the driver, and at what speed (he was during the trip) to the extent that the corpse of the deceased cannot even be recognised. Can you imagine that? I am worried, it is worrisome.”
He also shed light on his allegations later during a telephone interview with The PUNCH.
Aliu added, “There was a kind of foul play in the whole exercise, which is very worrisome. Apparently, the driver who drove the car was the same person who took the photo of the dead man and sent it all over the Internet – whatsApp and others. So, the question is: how come that the driver of the vehicle in the same car was able to take the picture of the dead man?
“The side of the door, where the Honourable Minister sat, was not properly locked because after the car somersaulted, the thing flung him and so he had a terrible and fatal damage that his body was beyond recognition. There was a foul play in Ocholi’s death.
“While I was in his house, I already knew because those who conspired and plotted it (the death) became jittery because I have never been to that house and they don’t know me. But somehow, they became jittery, scared and worried.
“This thing they did is political, it is a political war and some people want to score some political points against the system somehow. The death of Ocholi is quite suspicious.
“So, I had to hurriedly leave because God has made me to know what happened and we know that they will get the people who are responsible. When you are innocent, God will always uncover how certain things happened. Ocholi’s death is a great loss to the common people of Nigeria. And the spirit of the common people of Nigeria is fighting back.
“The perpetrators want to derail the focus of this administration. They are looking for every way to put a wedge in the wheel of success. I can specifically pinpoint those who plotted these things. What they are trying to do now is to knock heads together and the earlier we get rid of them out of that place, the better.
“As we were there, they were trying to get the contacts of the ministers that came there for condolence, making phone calls and reporting back to whoever is their manipulator.
“They decided to get rid of Ocholi to derail the focus of the government. Ocholi was not smart enough to know that these things could happen. They have lost, failed and we will ask God to forgive them because they have taken a soul that they cannot create.”
The Federal Executive Council will on Wednesday hold a special session to pay tribute to the late Ocholi.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Monday.
Adesina said the deceased, being an active member of the council, would be given his due tribute at the special session.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari, shocked by Ocholi’s sudden death, had described the accident that claimed his life and those of two other members of his family as a tragedy of monumental proportion.
Adesina said, “You can feel the soberness in the atmosphere. Everybody believes that this is a terrible tragedy.
“Mr. President paid glowing tribute to the departed. Their relationship dated back to the CPC days to the role he played in the APC merger.
“The President just concluded that it is a tragedy of monumental proportion.
“The late Ocholi will be given his dues. He was an active member of the Federal Executive Council.
“I recall that we shared laughter after the last meeting on some things that are hilarious. When I heard about the tragedy yesterday, that our last meeting came to my mind.
“So you can be sure that on Wednesday, the council will pay him his due tribute.”
Meanwhile, the Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, has said the agency does not recruit drivers for governors, ministers or other senior government officials.
He explained that the officials were responsible for their convoy drivers.
Oyeyemi, who said this on Monday in Abuja while responding to questions on the auto crash in which Ocholi, his wife and son, were killed, stated that the FRSC had been training the drivers of top government officials.
He explained that investigation into the crash was ongoing, noting that the report would be ready in 72 hours.
Oyeyemi said, “We have been collaborating with governors and other government officials in the training of their drivers, but we don’t recruit drivers for them, but we train convoy drivers in the nitty-gritty of good driving skills.”
On speed limiters, the FRSC boss called on all stakeholders as well as Nigerians to support the implementation of the device, starting with commercial vehicles “as it will go a long way in reducing road crashes caused by speeding.”
The corps marshal stressed the need to control the speed of tanker drivers as well as train them in driving techniques.
Oyeyemi said the corps had always campaigned for the use of the front seat belts.
“Henceforth, we will start the campaign on the use of the rear seat belts to further enhance the safety of passengers in a vehicle,” he added.
He warned motorists to stop the purchase of expired tyres, which, he said, contributed to road crashes.