Lawyers bid farewell to Ocholi in a special valedictory session

Helen Shok Jok, Abuja

Nigerian Lawyers have held a valedictory court session for the late Minister of State Labour and Employment, Mr James Ocholi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who they described as an astute legal luminary who rendered services with maturity.

This was the position of speakers on Wednesday in Abuja at the special valedictory court session at the National Industrial Court in honour of the Late Minister.

It was another day of tribute to the late Mr James Ocholi, who died just over a week ago along with his wife and son in a fatal auto crash along the Kaduna-Abuja express way.

At the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari last Wednesday, the meeting dedicated time to eulogise the contributions of the late Minister to national development in his short time as Minister.

On Wednesday was the turn of his colleagues in the legal profession who organised a special valedictory court session in his honour.

It was a roll call of dignitaries, from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, to serving and past Ministers, stream of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) and family members of the late Minister among others.

Within his short time in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, he ensured that his impact was felt in the labour cycle as he threw the whole weight of his experience in the management of the near fragile labour crisis in the oil and gas and health sectors.

Hundreds of lawyers especially his colleagues Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who converged on the National Industrial Court to bid him farewell, did not mince words in eulogizing the great man and Advocate he was.

President of the National Industrial Court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo in his tribute said Mr Ocholi was a man of impeccable integrity.

He said “…as legal practitioner, he traversed all the courts in Nigeria. Enojo James Ocholi, SAN, was a thorough –bred professional and advocate. He was a known face in all the courts of record across the Nigerian landscape. Enojo James Ocholi, SAN, was a quintessential minister in the temple of justice as he personified the best of traditions of the legal profession. He serves the NBA in different capacities. He was a highly successful lawyer, devout Christian and family man”, Justice Babatunde Adejumo said.

In a message, Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim, Chairman, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, said that the rank of the SAN remains the ultimate dream of any legal practitioner, saying that the late Minister did not bring the rank to shame, public ridicule and odium.

According to him, one of the ways to ensure that Mr Ocholi’s labour was not in vain is to “ensure that the rights of the weak, the oppressed and the denied are not trampled upon….”

Also speaking, Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights lawyer, told Voice of Nigeria that the late Minister will be greatly missed by his colleagues.

Industrial Relations

President Nigeria Labour Congress NLC Ayuba Wabba, who attended the session, told Voice of Nigeria in an interview that “…within the few months he stayed in the Ministry of Labour, he was able to bring to bear his expertise. In fact he has added tremendous value to industrial relations. You are aware that it was through his intervention that the National strike by health workers was actually addressed and also the issue of oil workers…so you can see passion and the fact also that he was highly knowledgeable in the areas of industrial relations, labour laws and also his instance for the rule of law, that, I think has been able to a large extent settle a lot of industrial disputes issues…”, Wabba said.

The NLC President said that the late Minister of labour’s knowledge of labour laws, industrial relations practice and his eagerness to work with the social partners “in the labour circuit raised our expectations.”

Wabba added solemnly in his tribute “What a shame death has robbed us of this priceless and irreplaceable gem. How can we come to terms with this? It is ever so difficult.”

Mr James Ocholi died two Sundays ago in a motor accident along with wife and son.

The bodies of the late Minister, his wife and son will leave Abuja for his home town Dikina in Kogi State on Thursday. They will be interned on Friday.