Minister of State for Labour and Employment James Ocholi (SAN) started yesterday his journey to the final resting place as colleagues in the Bar and the Bench as well as labour leaders extolled his virtues at a valedictory court session.
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) leaders, at the event, called on the Federal Government to imortalise the minister.
The valedictory session, at the National Industrial Court in Abuja, was attended by many lawyers, including ex-presidents of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA).
Speaking at the special session, Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige said Ocholi’s legacies would be remembered by those who knew him.
Ngige said: ”I have known him before we started working together; we were in the party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He was our deputy legal adviser and a member of the merger committee, which I also belong. I have also known him as a lawyer and working together in the Ministry of Labour and Employment was a home coming to us.
“We were friends and we had to pilot the affairs of the ministry together. Our main goal in the ministry was to bring change that will benefit Nigerian workers and the society”.
Represented by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr. Taiwo Abidogun, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), described Ocholi as a community leader, philanthropist and icon of the legal profession.
Malami said: “Despite our individual and collective loss, we are consoled by his enduring legacies of hard work and excellence, which defined his life. He will be sorely missed at the Federal Executive Council”.
In his brief remarks, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, said: “Ocholi was such an icon. From a humble beginning, he grew and became a colossus in the legal profession and Nigeria.”
President of the National Industrial Court Justice Babatunde Adeniran Adejumo said Ocholi’s brilliance, hard work and contribution to the advancement of law and jurisprudence earned him the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in 2007.
NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba described Ocholi’s death as an unspeakable tragedy that numbs the senses, adding that the government should consider naming a worthy institution after him.
Speaking on behalf of the SANs, Asiwaju Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) said the late Ocholi was a man concerned with the spirit of law and not the technical application of maneouvering due process to achieve personal end.
Awomolo said: “I will like to say James Ocholi did not die, but slept. This is because his good deeds live after him and will remain so. He was fulfilled and I believe he accomplished the purpose of his creation and his time was due to return to his creator.
“His legal career exemplified outstanding and uncommon virtues of dignity, honour, integrity, humility, discipline, hard work and patience. He lived a simple life. He was a man of the word of God, who practised what he preached. He was selfless and we knew him as one who had trust in God.
“Perhaps, he understood his time was short, so he put uncommon zeal to the task of service, even as a Senior Advocate. We read in the newspapers that his last preaching to the church in Kaduna a few hours before he slept, was of the imminence of the end time, forewarned by the Bible. May be, we can console ourselves that he was taken away so that he would not be tainted and smeared by activities of the evil days.”
President of the Nigeria Bar Association Augustine Alegeh (SAN) said the late minister to conquered what he described as existential barriers that fate threw at him following the death of his father while at high school.
Alegeh, who lamented the sudden death of Ocholi, his wife and son, hailed the late minister for living a life worthy of emulation.
He said: ”Ocholi was a lawyer of high repute, who committed his life to the cause of justice for the downtrodden.
He showed immense integrity and hard work in every endeavour he participated. We will sorely miss him.”
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