WHEEL OF JUSTICE GRINDS, at times, slowly, but steadily and surely, and catches up with offenders of the law. Jolly Nyame was a former Governor of Taraba State and a clergy. His trial before Justice Adebukola Banjoko of Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, for 41 counts charges for criminal misappropriation, diversion of public funds and breach of public trust, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, began July 13, 2007.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018, after about 11 years on the trial, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, sentenced Jolly Nyame to a total of 28 years in prison. Fourteen years out of it was for criminal breach of trust. Delivering the four hours judgment, Justice Banjoko said: “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”
Nyame was found guilty of 16 counts criminal breach of public trust, 11 counts misappropriation of public funds and two counts for gratifications. Justice Banjoko said “from the totality of facts before the court” Nyame, as Governor of Taraba State, “approved N250 million for purchase of Stationery, but is found to have no intention to fulfill the purpose”; which amounted to misappropriation of N250 million he approved purportedly for the purchase of stationery for the State, and breached public trust repose in him by indigenes of the State.
Prosecution called 14 witnesses and presented documentary evidence, which revealed, among other things, that N250 million was shared and was not used for the purpose for which it was approved. Total of N180 million was diverted to the bank account of Salman Global Ventures Limited, which did not provide any services to the State, according to Justice Banjoko.
Nyame denied knowing Salman Global Ventures Limited, during the trial. Justice Banjoko, however, noted that “immediately the fund was released, verbal instruction was given by Nyame that N180 million should be paid to Salman Global Ventures”. The judge added: “the audacity of the defendant to divert N180 million from the N250 to the company, shows that he had more than a casual interest and so can’t hide behind a screen”.
Justice Banjoko said “there was no evidence to show that Salman Global Ventures bid for any contracts”, but 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”, and misappropriation of N24,300,000, purportedly approved for “purchase of grains”.
The judgment held that Nyame was “guilty of criminal breach of trust beyond reasonable doubt”. He was also found him guilty of the offence of gratification stated in count four of the charge.
Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, has accused Nyame of accepting gratification to the tune of N80 million from Abubakar Sulaiman of Alusab International Nigeria Limited, through Salman Global Ventures “as a reward for the award of contract by the Taraba State Government to USAB International Nigeria Limited”, an offence punishable under section 115 of the Penal Code Act 1990.
Defence plea, by Olalekan Ojo, urged the court to consider Nyame as “first-time offender” and family man who has 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 was bettered”. Ojo urged 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”.
Prosecution counsel, O.A. Atolagbe, countered Ojo’s argument and urged the court to take into cognisance the “aggravating effect the action and inaction of Nyame had on the people of the state”, and citied section 416 2 (a) (d) (e) and (f) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015. He drew attention of the court to FCT Courts Practice Direction 2016, and stressed that Nyame, played leadership role in the commission of the offence.
Atolagbe’s words: “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,” and added that “claim of selfless service is far from the truth”.
Justice Banjoko listened to arguments by both counsel. She said despite the claim of being a first-time offender, family man and his service, “I am morally outraged with the facts of this case”. And added: “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”.