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Published On: Tue, Oct 23rd, 2018

Learn from Nyame’s fate

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The May 30 conviction and sentencing of former governor of Taraba state, Reverend Jolly Nyame for financial fraud ended a trial that lasted 11 years. He received a concurrent prison sentence of 14 years on 27 of the 41 counts of a corruption charge brought against him by Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2007. Nyame was governor between 1999 and 2007; the “catalogue of crimes” of which he was indicted occurred between January 2005 and May 2007.
While the trial lasted, Nyame had insisted on his innocence, saying the charge brought against him was “incompetent and in bad faith”. Therefore, it should be dismissed. However, on the day Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT, Abuja High Court delivered a judgement in the trial, Nyame, through his counsel, reportedly begged for mercy. He claimed that he had no previous criminal record, and he had people who depended on him for subsistence. The counsel asked for an option of fine, a request that was denied.
Justice Bankjoko said the court would be failing in its responsibility if it did not impose the maximum penalty under the law. “As regards criminal breach of trust”, she said, “the penalty is 14 years without an option of fine. Misappropriation, 2 years, gratification 7 years, obtaining things criminally 5 without an option of fine. The sentences will, however, run concurrently. She said that she was “morally outweighed by the facts of the case.”
The judge offerred what many may consider an unnecesary moral opinion. “Citizens of Taraba had elected the defendant, a clergyman, on three seperate occasions to govern them, which showed a constant level of trust,” she observed. “The expectation must have been so high. As revetrnd, he must have bern sern 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 such a colossal loss to the state?” She said she had “carefully examined” the evidence of the EFCC and concluded that it was “ the defendant entered into office without a corrupt mind or he was corrupted ab initio.”
The conviction of Nyame, if not challenged and overturned in a higher court, would go down as the first high profile corruption case the EFCC had successfully prosecuted in recent time. We recall its failed prosecution of a former Delta State governor, James Ibori in 2000. He managed to flee the country only to be snapped up by the British government. He was trial on a money laundering charge, conicted and jailed in April 2012 in London.
We also recall the conviction and jailing of a former Adamawa governor, Mr. Bala Ngilari, for corruption by court in Yola, the Adamawa State capital only for the Court of Appeal to free him. On March 6 2017, a high court sentenced him to a 5 year prison term for fraud. He was accused of failing to “follow due process” in the award of a contract to buy 25 vehicles worth N169 million. However, Ngilari’s appeal to the Appeal Court was upheld and he was “discharged and acquitted”. Jusrice Olayomi Folashade, who decided the appeal July 19 2017, said the charge against Ngilari, who was governor for only 7 months, lacked merit because there was no “sufficient proof”.
As it is, the EFCC is in court, attempting to obtain convictions against the following former state governors: Orji Uzor Kalu(Abia State), Rashidi Ladoja(Oyo), Murtala Nyako(Adamawa), Sule Lamido(Jigawa). Others are: Joshua Dariye(Plateau), Gabriel Suswam (Benue) and Ibrahim Shema (Katsina). The agency certainly has its hands full. With a full basket like this, and given that it is handicapped by dearth of manpower and funds, many are not surprised that convictions that can stand the test of time have been few and far between.

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