A high court of the Federal Capital Territory yesterday sentenced former Taraba State governor, Jolly Nyame, to 28 years in prison. According to the court headed by Justice Adebukola Banjoko, the former governor is to serve 14 years for criminal breach of trust, two years for criminal misappropriation, seven years for gratification and five years for obtaining by dishonesty. Nyame, whose trial began on July 13, 2007 was charged to the court located in Gudu with 41-count by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for criminal misappropriation, diversion of public funds and breach of public trust. In a ruling which lasted more than 4 hours, Justice Banjoko found Nyame guilty of counts 1, 2, 6, 8,10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33 and 36 charges bordering on criminal breach of public trust, counts 3, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21 23 and 25 charges bordering on misappropriation of public funds, counts 4 and 5 charges bordering on gratification.
He was however discharged of counts 22, 24, 26, 28, 32, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41. In her ruling, Justice Banjoko noted that Nyame, a clergyman as governor of Taraba, breached the trust reposed in him by the indigenes of the state when he misappropriated N250 million which he approved purportedly for the purchase of stationery for the state. “From the totality of facts before the court, Nyame approved N250 million for purchase of stationery, but is found to have no intention to fulfill the purpose,” the trial judge held. In the course of the trial, the prosecution called 14 witnesses and presented documentary evidence, which among other things revealed that the N250 million was shared and never utilised for the purpose for which it was approved.
It was also revealed that a total of N180 million was diverted to the bank account of Salman Global Ventures Limited, which provided no services for the state. However, Nyame had during the trial denied knowledge of Salman Global Ventures Limited.
But in her judgement, Justice Banjoko noted: “Immediately the fund was released, his verbal instruction was given, that N180 million be paid to Salman Global Ventures. “The audacity of the defendant to divert N180 million from the N250m to the company, shows that he had more than a casual interest and so can’t hide behind a screen. There was no evidence to show that Salman Global Ventures bidded for any contract”.
The trial judge said within five weeks, Salman Global Ventures received over N300 million from the state coffers.
Nyame was also found guilty of “misappropriation and misapplication of N165 million with dishonest intention”, as well as the misappropriation of N24,300,000 purportedly approved for “purchase of grains”.
Justice Banjoko held that Nyame is “guilty of criminal breach of trust beyond reasonable doubt”, even as he also found him guilty of the offence of gratification as stated in count 4 of the charge. The EFCC had accused him of accepting a gratification of N80 million from Abubakar Suleiman of Alusab International (Nig) Ltd through Salman Global Ventures “as a reward for the award of contract by the Taraba State government to USAB International Limited”, an offence punishable under Section 115 of the Penal Code Act 1990. In his allocution, the defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo, urged the court to consider that Nyame was a first-time offender, and a family man who had dependents to cater for. “He served the people of Taraba State for eight years, and through him the lot of the people in the state were bettered,” he argued.
Ojo prayed the court to “take into consideration the selfless service of the convict, who has no criminal record of any sort and is still less than 60”.
In his counter-argument, prosecution counsel, O.A. Atolagbe, urged the court to take into cognizance the aggravating effect the action and inaction of Nyame had on the people of the state. Citing Section 416 2 (a) (d) (e) and (f) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, he urged the court to put into consideration the aggravating factors on the state. He also drew the attention of the court to the FCT Courts Practice Direction 2016, stressing that Nyame, played a leadership role in the commission of the offence. “He abused his position of trust and caused severe harm to the society and economy of the state, and so the effect of the offence must be put into consideration,” he argued, adding that, “claim of selfless service is far from the truth”. After listening to the arguments of both counsel, Justice Banjoko gave her sentence, saying despite the claim of being a first-time offender, a family man, and his service, “I am morally outraged with the facts of this case. “There’s no moral justification for the level of outright theft, and the Court must therefore, impose a statement, hopefully as a deterrent to other public officers who may be similarly inclined”, she added.
Name Bribe-taking Lawmakers, NASS Dares Jega Meanwhile, members of the National Assembly yesterday took a swipe on former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, for accusing the lawmakers of bribe taking. The lawmakers accused the former INEC boss of denigrating the image of the National Assembly, even as they dared him to name the bribe taking lawmakers. Both chambers of the National Assembly responded to Jega’s allegation that lawmakers are notorious for bribe taking.
The Senate specifically said if Jega cannot name the lawmakers collecting bribe, there is need to call him to order and ensure he faces the consequences of his actions. Jega had said chairmen of committees in the National Assembly were more notorious for bribe-taking antics.
He made the allegation in Abuja recently while delivering a lecture titled, ‘Peace Building and Good Governance for Sustainable Development in Nigeria,” as part of activities organised to mark the 2018 Democracy Day.
But moving a motion on Order 43 yesterday, Senator Isah Misau (Bauchi Central) said the comments by Jega were weighty and very embarrassing to the lawmakers. Senate President Bukola Saraki while ruling on the matter said, “We were all embarrassed by the comment and it is slight on integrity of lawmakers. If Jega cannot name any of those members he feels are notorious in collecting bribe during oversight, then, the matter should be put to rest.” nPDP Didn’t Request For Stoppage Of Saraki’s Trial – Baraje The chairman of the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), Alh Abubakar Kawu Baraje, yesterday debunked reports suggesting that the group requested for the stoppage of Senate President Bukola Saraki’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal(CCT) during their meeting with Vice President Yemi Osibajo.
Baraje, in a statement issued in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, described as ‘blasphemy’ the said meida report that part of the requests of his group was the stoppage of the ongoing trial of Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Describing the reports as a flagrant lie, total blasphemy and far from the truth, Baraje disclosed that “nothing of that nature was part of the issues raised or discussed at the meeting the group held on Monday with the Vice President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja”.
He stated: “There was no mention of anybody’s case talk less of the Senate President, Dr Saraki at the said meeting. I want to warn that if this is the way we want to handle the issue by creating bad blood against our group, through the media, it will not augur well for them and we are therefore warning that blasphemy and arrant lies cannot resolve the matter at hand. “I want to also disclose that at the last meeting, the Vice President requested and appealed to us that we should all keep our mouth shut until we reach the final stuck, that’s why we are not talking to the press. “If the media houses concerned do not stop this blasphemy, particularly, The Nation Newspaper, this issue will be very difficult to solve and the group or myself as a person is ready to take any news media to court for blasphemy”.
Baraje also described as untrue an online publication, which claimed that he was occupying a juicy position at a parastatal. Declaring that he had never occupied any position in any board under the present administration, he said, “I have been existing and living in accordance with my own legal means for the past three years and I’m not complaining. “The complaint we are raising is that all the issues we raised when we left PDP are now resurfacing, particularly lack of respect for the rule of law and that there is total anarchy; that the government does things as it likes against anybody which was happening in PDP when we left.” My CCT Trial Never Part Of Discussions At nPDP Meeting With Osinbajo – Saraki Also the, Senate President Bukola Saraki said yesterday that his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was never discussed at the new PDP meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Saraki, in a statement signed by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yusuf Olaniyonu, described the publications as false.
Olaniyonu said, “Ordinarily, Dr Saraki would have ignored the story as he has done in the cases of other speculative ones concerning the on-going discussions between the new People’s Democratic Party (nPDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government published by the newspaper. “But since this story specifically mentioned an issue concerning him and the newspaper is associated both in ownership and viewpoint with a section of the APC leadership, it may be perceived to have some level of authenticity”.
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