The Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, James Ocholi (SAN); his wife, Blessing; and son, Joshua, on Sunday died in a road crash along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, 57 kilometres to their Kaduna destination.
It was learnt that the Sport Utility Vehicle in which the family travelled in, had a burst tyre on the highway, leading to the crash.
Ocholi and his third child were said to have died on the spot after the Lexus-Jeep had a burst tyre in the rear and somersaulted several times.
The impact was so bad that the minister’s SUV ran into other vehicles in his convoy.
His critically injured wife died at the Doka Government Hospital, Kaduna, around 4pm on Sunday.
The driver and aide de camp, who were also rushed to the clinic, were later brought to the National Hospital, Abuja at 7.45pm for treatment.
The Kaduna State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Mr. Francis Udoma, said the accident occurred about 57 kilometres away from Kaduna.
Udoma confirmed that the minister and the son died on the spot, adding that some aides to the late minister also sustained injuries.
The news of the minister’s death was first broken by his counterpart for Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
He said on his twitter handle, “It is too heavy for me to bear the loss of my dear friend, Minister of State, James Ocholi, SAN. We departed on Friday to meet no more.”
Tears flowed uncontrollably among friends, lawyers, chieftains of the APC and relatives as the corpses of Mr Ocholi, his wife Blessing and son Joshua were brought to the National Hospital, Abuja, by FRSC.
That of his wife was brought in about one hour, thirty minutes later.
Senior government officials, who were on the ground at the Hospital when the vehicles arrived, were seen in groups discussing the incident in hushed tones.
President Muhammadu Buhari expressed shock and sadness at the death of Ocholi, his wife and son.
In a statement on Sunday, Buhari described the death of the minister’s as untimely, regretting that Nigeria had 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,” Buhari said.
He said in the few months he had been in office, the late minister of state had already begun to distinguish himself through his commitment and dedication to his portfolio.
The late Ocholi had a long record of political association with Buhari.
Buhari also condoled with the government and people of Kogi State, which he described as having lost a distinguished and irreplaceable son.
He prayed that God would comfort them and grant them the grace to bear the loss.
Buhari also sent the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. David Babachir, to formally convey the news to members of the deceased family as well as parishioners in his place of worship.
Speaking with journalists at the National Hospital premises, Babachir stated that the three family members were killed in the crash at about 3pm.
He said, “I will like to confirm that at about 3pm today (Sunday), the Minister of State for Labour, James Ocholi (SAN), was involved in a motor accident along the Kaduna-Abuja road. In this accident, the minister lost his life, his son also lost his life, and the wife also lost her life.
“It is a very sad day indeed for Nigeria as this has never happened and President Buhari is in shock; all members of the Federal Executive Council are in shock and indeed all Nigerians are in shock.
“Personally, I have known Ocholi for more than 20 years; we have been friends, both in politics and in Christian service. I am indeed personally saddened by this and cannot begin to express the grief that we all face.
“Now the bodies have been recovered and deposited in the mortuary and we are waiting for the immediate family and the government for the next line of action. May God comfort all of us Nigerians.”