The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, yesterday reduced the jail terms of former Governors Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye of Taraba and Plateau States.
Dariye’s 14-year imprisonment was reduced to 10 years, while Nyame’s sentence was cut down from 14 years to 12 years.
Dariye was on June 12, 2018 sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Gudu, for frittering away N1.2 billion Ecological funds he received from the federal government on behalf of his state.
Similarly, the same Justice Banjoko had also sentenced the former governor of Taraba State, Nyame, to 14 years imprisonment on May 30, 2018.
But ruling in an appeal filed by Dariye at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, Justice Stephen Adah, in a lead judgment, said the initial 14-year jail term was “excessive and therefore cannot be sustained” because the defendant was a first offender.
Justice Adah noted that, while the issue of sentencing is discretionary, such discretion must be governed by law and must not be fanciful, arbitrary or excessive.
The appellate court stated that in accordance with section 416 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the trial court erred in law when it sentenced Dariye to two years imprisonment under count 12 without conviction.
Consequently, the Court of Appeal quashed the sentence and set it aside.
In addition, Justice Adah said there was no basis for the conviction of Dariye in Count 23, because the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant diverted over N1billion ecological funds of Plateau State into buying a house in London.
The court, therefore, held that his conviction based on Count 23 was “wrong and therefore liable to be quashed.”
However, Justice Adah upheld the judgment of the trial court which had convicted Dariye on counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 17, 21 and 22.
The counts upon which Dariye was sentenced to a maximum term of 14 years were however reduced to 10 years.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that Dariye was governor of Plateau State from 1999 to 2007 and is the current Senator representing Plateau Central in the National Assembly.
He was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds.
Meanwhile, in the second judgment in an appeal filed by former Taraba State governor, Jolly Nyame, the appellate court, apart from reducing the defendant’s jail term to 12 years, also ordered him to pay a fine of N495million for criminally embezzling funds meant for the state while in office.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the appellate court said Nyame’s appeal against the verdict of Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT High Court sitting in Gudu, failed as a whole. The jail term was without the option of fine.
It would be recalled that Nyame was prosecuted by the federal government on a 41-count charge, but he was found guilty on 27.
He was, among other things, accused of diverting N180million out of the N250million meant for the purchase of stationeries by Taraba State government between January and February 2005, as a reward for the award of the contract to USAB International (Nig.) Ltd and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 115, 309 and 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 laws of Federation of Nigeria 1990.
Justice Banjoko, who delivered the judgement, held that Nyame committed grievous offences that swayed the pendulum of Justice against him.
“The defendant committed a catalogue of crimes a month before he vacated office while under intense searchlight from security agencies. Therefore, the court would fail in its constitutional duty if it fails to impose the full sanction against a defendant found guilty as charged,” the judge said.
But yesterday, the appellate court, in its judgment, reviewed Nyame’s jail term from 14 years to 12 years, citing his status as a first-time offender, in line with section 416 (2) (d) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
However, considering section 315 of the Criminal Code Act, the Court of Appeal, in a unanimous decision, said the trial court failed to impose a fine as stipulated by law in view of the gravity of the offence levelled against Nyame to serve as a deterrent.
Justice Emmanuel Agim, who read the lead judgement, berated Nyame for abusing his office as governor by converting public funds to private usage.
The court observed that Nyame exhibited a “callous criminal mind” and that the impact of his criminal act was devastating to the entire people of Taraba State.
Agim noted that “public office corruption” is in the class of crimes against humanity like terrorism, and that offenders must face the full wrath of the law.
He insisted that the trial court was right to have convicted the former governor, adding that “security vote is a public fund and its usage must be properly accounted for.”
Consequently, the appellate court reduced the custodial sentence from 14 to 12 years, but ordered Nyame to pay the sum of N495million as fine.
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