A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Gudu, Abuja sentenced former Taraba State Governor Jolly Nyame to 28 years in prison. He was not given an option of fine.
Justice Adebukola Banjoko convicted the ex-governor on 27 out of the 41 counts .
Nyame was governor from 1991 to 1993 and 1999 to 2007.
The breakdown of the sentence is as follows: 14 years upon conviction for criminal breach of trust; seven years for receiving gratification; five years for obtaining valuable public properties without consideration, and two years for criminal misappropriation.
The judge said the sentences would run concurrently, implying that the ex-governor is to spend 14 years in prison.
Justice Banjoko, who said the defendant betrayed his claim to be a clergyman and Reverend, wondered why it was only the ex-governor that was prosecuted in view of the level of impunity displayed while Nyame was in office.
The judge, in the over 300-page judgment, which she read for over six hours, said after carefully examining all the evidence tendered by the prosecution, she had no option but to conclude that it was “either Nyame entered into office without a corrupt mind, but later became corrupt or he was corrupt ab-initio”.
The judge said: “There was such a crazy level of corruption in the air in Taraba State Ministry of Finance. It is, however, amazing that none of the officials was arraigned.”
She said the evidence before the court showed that while officials that served under the defendant were returning their loot to the EFCC after they were questioned, Nyame “was still busy committing more crime”.
Justice Banjoko said there was a nexus between Nyame and the fictitious N250 million contract that was awarded for the bulk purchase of stationery and office equipment.
The judge noted that Nyame had through his then Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Abubakar Tutare, approved a memo for that contract, which was awarded to a firm, Saman Global Ventures, on January 1, 2005, sidelining key officials of the Ministry of Finance in the process.
She said “the defendant gave that memo life by giving his approval”, noting that N180 million was subsequently diverted from the contract sum and handed to the ex-governor.
The judge noted that the evidence against the ex-governor in respect of the transaction was “circumstantial” because no other document had his signature, except the memo, she said the manner funds were approved and released from the state’s treasury, showed that the defendant acted in breach of his oath of office.
“It is disheartening to note that between 2004 and 2005, the Ministry of Finance in Taraba State was specially an enclave; it was a den of criminal activities, best illustrated with Ali Baba and the 40 thieves.
“The court finds the defendant guilty as charged. The clear purpose of the money was diversion. There was no evidence of purchase of the stationery”, Justice Banjoko held.
Besides, the Judge held that Nyame repeatedly approved release of funds to the firm despite being aware that it neither purchased the stationery nor executed any contract.
She said there was no evidence that Nyame, who had within five weeks, moved over N345m from the Taraba State coffers for purchase of stationery, made any attempt to prosecute the firm or to set up a panel of inquiry when the fraud was brought to his attention.
The judge said the defendant “dishonestly” diverted public funds through the Taraba State liaison office, on the guise that it was used for the purchase of rice that was shared to his supporters.
“The progenitor of this impunity was no one else than the defendant himself. The defendant cannot feign ignorance of this colossal fraud.
“He who approves must be accountable to what he approved. The defendant had the dominion over the state’s fund and only him could say open-sesame to the vault of Taraba State.
“The defendant cannot escape responsibility or cling to the thin plank of mere approval,” the jude said.
Justice Banjoko added that the defendant committed “criminal breach of trust beyond reasonable doubt” by approving N111m to host guests when the Mambilla Power Project was inaugurated.
The judge, finding Nyame guilty of receiving N80m gratification, said she was amazed that the defendant, in an effort to defend the charge, “provided the entire arsenal for the prosecution”.
She noted that Nyame was also very inconsistent, particularly on issues surrounding the presidential visit and security votes.
The judge rejected the prayer by the defence for an option of fine.
Justice Banjoko said she rejected Nyame’s plea for leniency because of the overwhelming evidence and facts of the case.
The judge added: “The citizens of Taraba had elected the defendant, a clergyman, on three separate occasions, to govern them, which shows constant level of trust.
“The expectation must have been so high. As a Reverend, he must have been seen as an epitome of morality, piety and everything good.
“How will Reverend Nyame begin to explain to the people of Taraba State his actions and inactions? How can he justify causing such a colossal loss to the state?”
Justice Banjoko said Nyame committed a “catalogue of crimes” a month before he vacated office, “while under intense searchlight from security agencies’’.
She said the court would be failing in its responsibility “if it fails to impose the full sanction”.
The judge, who noted that the defendant “behaved like a common thief with unbridled greed”, said the sentence passed on him would serve as a deterrent to other public office holders.
The court directed the EFCC to return all the funds it recovered in the process of its investigation into the case to the coffers of Taraba State.
The judgment came about 11 years after Nyame, who was governor between May 29, 1999 and May 29, 2007, was first arraigned on the 41-count charge in which he was accused of looting the state’s funds to the tune of N1.64billion.
Before the court sat, indication that a major development was in the offing was evident in the massive security within and around the hitherto quiet court premises.
After being searched at the court’s main entrance, visitors were again frisked before being allowed into the courtroom.
Dressed in a dark brown kaftan with a cap to match, Nyame entered the courtroom at about 9.02am.
Justice Banjoko came into the courtroom around 9.40am. She first attended a case before directing that the case involving Nyame be called. It was around 9.46am.
When the case was called, Nyame, who sat on the second-to-the-last row on the right side of the courtroom, walked to the dock located on the left hand side of the courtroom, not far from where the judge sat.
The judge began reading the judgment at about 9.51am. Nyame sat calmly in the dock.
At a point when the judge announced the conviction of the defendant, Nyame, who had all along lowered his head, raised it and looked towards the judge.
There was sudden murmuring in the court, which was filled up mainly by the defendant’s associates, supporters and friends.
After convicting the defendant, Justice Banjoko stood down the case for some time, but returned later to pronounce the sentence.
Immediately the judge rose after pronouncing the sentence, Nyame, who was still sitting in the dock, was surrounded by armed security personnel.
By 4pm, the security personnel and prison officials were still awaiting the completion of documents before taking the ex-governor, who looked troubled, to prison.
The EFCC charged Nyame with 41 counts of criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation, taking gratification and obtaining valuable things without consideration.
The prosecution’s case against the ex-governor was mainly on the allegation of his diversion of N1.64bn of Taraba State’s funds under his watch.
In the course of trial, the prosecution, led by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), called 14 witnesses and closed its case on November 22, 2016.
Nyame called four witnesses in his defence, including himself.
The judge is expected to deliver judgment on June 12 this year, in the trial of former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye (now a Senator).
Dariye is facing a 21-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of Ecological Fund to the tune of N1.162 billion.
A Former Governor of Kaduna State, Ramalan Yero, has also been detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Yero was on Wednesday detained alongside a former Kaduna Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman, Haruna Gaiya; a former Minister of State for Power, Nuhu Way; and former Secretary to Kaduna State government, Hamza Ishaq at the EFCC zonal office in Kaduna State capital.
The former Governor and the three others have been under investigation by EFCC since 2016, for the role they played in the disbursement of the N750 million PDP campaign fund before the 2015 general election.
On March 6, 2017, a Yola High Court in Adamawa State sentenced former Adamawa State Governor Bala Ngilari to five years imprisonment. He was convicted for abuse of office during the seven months he was in the saddle.
Justice Nathan Musa found Ngilari guilty of violation of the state’s Public Procurement Act, in the award of contract for the purchase of 25 vehicles valued at N167 million for commissioners. A total of 17 criminal charges were levelled against him.
But, the Yola Division of the Court of Appeal last July 10 overturned Ngilari’s conviction. Justice Olayomi Folashade quashed all charges against Ngilari for lack of merit and sufficient proof of allegations against him.
Former Delta State Governor James Ibori was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment on April 17, 2012, by by Southwark Crown Court for corruption. Among possessions confiscated from him were a house in Hampstead, north London, for £2.2m; a property in Shaftesbury, Dorset, for £311,000; a £3.2m mansion in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa; a fleet of armoured Range Rovers valued at £600,000, £120,000 Bentley Continental GT, and a Mercedes-Benz Maybach 62 bought for €407,000 cash that was shipped direct to his mansion in South Africa Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service central fraud group, said Ibori had acquired his riches “at the expense of some of the poorest people in the world”.
Before then, Justice Marcel Awokulehin of the Federal High Court in Asaba, Delta State capital, acquitted him on December 17, 2009, of all 170 charges of corruption.
In 2008, former Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion was accused of plundering the treasury during his eight years tenure as governor. Following a controversial plea bargain reached with the then Farida Waziri-led EFCC, the former governor was sentenced to six months in jail with the option of a N3.5 million fine by the Federal High Court in Enugu. He was also directed to return N500 million and three of the houses he acquired with stolen public funds to the Federal Government.
On July 26, 2007, former Bayelsa State Governor, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha pleaded guilty to six charges of corruption and was sentenced to two years in prison on each charge. However, because the sentences were set to run concurrently and the time was counted from the point of his arrest nearly two years before the sentences, his actual sentence was relatively short. On July 27, just hours after being taken to prison, he was released due to time already served.
On 12 March 2013, Alamieyeseigha was pardoned by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Governors currently on trial
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) re-arraigned ex-Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, Udeh Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited at the Federal High Court in Lagos on 34 counts of laundering N3.2billion, to which they pleaded not guilty. The defendants allegedly diverted about N3.2billion from the Abia’s treasury while Kalu was the governor.
EFCC re-arraigned former Oyo State Governor Rashidi Ladoja at the Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly converting N4.7billion from the state treasury to his personal use eight years after he was first arraigned. He was charged along with Waheed Akanbi on eight counts of money laundering and unlawful conversion of public funds.
Former Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako, his son, Senator Abdul-Aziz Nyako, Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba are on trial before Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court, Abuja. They are facing a 37-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N29 billion.
Former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamiddo is being prosecuted on a 27-count charge alongside his two sons, Aminu and Mustapha, and two others by the EFCC. Lamido allegedly abused his position as governor between 2007 and 2015, by awarding contracts to companies where he had interest, using his two sons as front.
The EFCC charged former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye at the FCT High Court, Gudu, with N1.162 billion fraud.
Dariye is facing a 21-count charge bordering on breach of trust and diversion of N1.162 billion Plateau ecological fund.
Dariye’s case is before the same judge who jailed Nyame yesterday and judgment has been fixed for June 12.
Former Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam and the Commissioner of Finance in his administration, Mr. Omodachi Okolobia, are on trial before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
EFCC is prosecuting them on money laundering charges involving the alleged diversion of N3,111,008,018.51 allegedly stolen from the proceeds of the sale of shares owned by Benue State government.
Former Adamawa State acting Governor Ahmadu Fintiri is on trial before Justice A. R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja. Fintiri, who was Speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly, is facing a five-count charge of money laundering. He was arraigned on June 30, 2016 alongside Mayim Construction and Properties Limited, for allegedly laundering monies to the tune of N2.9 billion through his naira and dollar accounts, as well as making a large cash payment for the purchase of a property at Plot 7, Gana Street, Maitama, Abuja, when he held sway as acting governor of the state.
A former Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema, is standing trial for allegedly laundering N11 billion.
Shema alongside the former Commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs Hamisu Makana, former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government Lawal Rufai, and the then Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) chairman Lawal Dankaba were arraigned before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 24-count charge. The case was yesterday adjourned till June 12