2018/05/31

Fed. high Court Sentenced Former Taraba Gov. Jolly Nyame, To 14 years Imprisonment Without Option Of Fine

ABUJA——A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Gudu, yesterday, convicted and sentenced former governor of Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame, to 14 years imprisonment without the option of fine.

Trial Justice Adebukola Banjoko found the defendant guilty on 27 of the 41-count charge of money laundering the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
Specifically, the court sentenced Nyame to 14 years for criminal breach of trust, two years for misappropriation, seven years for gratification and five years for obtaining valuable public property without consideration.
The court held that the sentence would run concurrently, even as it discharged the defendant on 14 counts of the charge.
Justice Banjoko, who gave the verdict after she turned down Nyame’s plea for leniency, said she was “morally outweighed by facts of the case.”
She said: “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 people of Taraba State his actions and inactions? How can he justify causing such a colossal loss to the state?”
Catalogue of crimes
The judge, who maintained that the defendant committed “catalogue of crimes” a month before he vacated office, “while under intense searchlight from security agencies,” said the court would be failing in its responsibility if it failed to impose the full sanction.
According to the judge, 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.”
The court stressed that one of such crimes included N100 million the defendant withdrew from the state’s treasury to host former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who paid a one-day visit to Taraba State in 2007.
The judge said after she carefully examined all the evidence EFCC tendered before the court, she concluded that it was “either the defendant entered into office without a corrupt mind and became corrupted, or he was corrupted ab-initio.
“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,” Justice Banjoko added.
She held that Nyame “behaved like a common thief with unbridled greed,” saying his sentence would serve as a deterrent to other public office holders.
The court directed 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 11 years after Nyame, who held sway as governor of Taraba State from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2007, was docked by the anti-graft agency over allegation that he looted public funds to the tune of N1.64 billion.
The prosecution, in the charge dated May 13, 2007, told the court that the former governor perpetuated the fraud between January 2005 and May 2007, through various bogus contracts.
Nyame had pleaded not guilty to the charge, which he insisted was not only incompetent but also brought against him in bad faith.
N250m contract for bulk purchase of stationery
Meanwhile, in the over 300-paged judgment that lasted over six hours, trial Justice Banjoko said there was a nexus between Nyame and the fictitious N250 million contract awarded for the bulk purchase of stationery and office equipment.
Justice Banjoko noted that Nyame had through his then Commissioner of 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.
“The defendant gave that memo life by giving his approval,” the court held, noting that N180 million was, subsequently, diverted from the contract sum and handed to the ex-governor.
Though the court held that the evidence EFCC tendered against the ex-governor in respect of the transaction was “circumstantial” as no other document had his signature, apart from the memo, it, however, stressed that the manner funds were approved and released from Taraba State 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.”