By Wilson Uwujaren
The conviction of two prominent members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye in quick succession by a Federal Capital Territory High Court has put a lie to the often repeated charge by critics and cynics that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is lukewarm in prosecuting chieftains of the ruling party for corruption.
Nyame and Dariye, both former two-term governors of Taraba and Plateau State respectively, were convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison on corruption charges.
Nyame, was convicted for criminal misappropriation, diversion of public funds, and breach of public trust; and Dariye, criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds.
In the course of Nyame’s 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. A total of N180 million was diverted to the bank account of Salman Global Ventures Limited, which provided no services for the state.
On his part, Dariye diverted about N1.16 billion Ecological Fund meant for the state, to his personal use, including transferring monies to Ebenezer Retnan Ventures (an unregistered company managed by him) and Pinnacle Communications Limited.
In proving its case against Dariye, EFCC called 10 witnesses, including Peter Clark, a detective constable with the UK Metropolitan Police in London, who investigated Dariye in the UK for money laundering offence.
Both trials had been ongoing for 11 years and towards the end of the proceedings, the two convicts changed their political camps, moving from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party to the ruling APC.
Dariye who won election into the senate on the platform of the PDP decamped to the ruling APC, at a critical phase of his trial, when the prosecution had called all its vital witnesses and conviction appeared imminent. Not surprisingly, this fuelled speculation that the gambit was a calculated move to stave off imminent conviction.
But rather than slow proceedings, his trial accelerated, forcing the defence to close its case, thus setting the stage for the judgment of June12.
Also, Mohammed Dakingari, former accountant general of Kebbi state and member of the APC was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 70 years in prison.
Former governor of Abia state, Orji Uzor Kalu is still being prosecuted in court by the EFCC despite crossing over to the APC. Indeed, the Commission has closed its case in that matter after calling several witnesses.
But rather than open his defence, Kalu elected to file a ‘no case submission’. It will be up to the court to determine whether the Commission has presented enough evidence to warrant him to enter his defence.
From these cases, Nigerians can now appreciate the fact that the EFCC is apolitical, blind to the political colours and affiliations of crime suspects. It will be foolhardy for any politically exposed person under prosecution to think that mere change of political affiliation will guarantee immunity from prosecution.
Rather than entertain idle gossips who thrive on haranguing the EFCC with charges of selectivity, these two recent convictions offer Nigerians the opportunity to better appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of the Commission, given the enormous resources in cash and man-hours that went into proving the cases against the two former governors, both of which went up to the Supreme Court on preliminary issues.
Particularly in the case of Dariye , one of the witnesses, Peter Clark , a former detective of the Metropolitan Police, came several times to give evidence only for proceedings to be frustrated with forced adjournments by Dariye’s Lawyers.
His transport cost from the UK to Nigeria and back was at the expense of Nigeria tax payers.
Uwujaren is the Spokesperson of the EFCC