The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Gudu, Abuja has sentenced former Taraba State Governor, Reverend Jolly Nyame to a jail term of 14 years without an option of fine in one of Nigeria’s longest corruption trials involving a former state governor.
Nyame’s sentence is a big win for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which has several similar cases in court that has slowed for years due to delays from the attorneys representing the powerful and influential politicians.
In a judgment on Wednesday, Justice Adebukola Banjoko convicted the ex-governor on 27 out of the 41 counts contained in the charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in July 2007.
The judge sentenced him after finding him guilty of criminal breach of trust, receiving gratification; obtaining under false pretence and criminal misappropriation.
He was sentenced to 14 years for criminal breach of trust, 2 years for misappropriation, 7 years for gratification and 5 years for obtaining valuable public properties without consideration. He will serve the terms concurrently.
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”.
“Citizens of Taraba had elected the defendant, a clergyman, in 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?” the Judge said.
The judge who maintained that the defendant committed a “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 fails to impose the full sanction”.
According 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, he said Nyame “was still busy committing more crime”.
The court stressed that one of such crimes included N100million the defendant withdrew from the state 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 were 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 eleven 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 N1.64billion.