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N1.64bn fraud: 11 years after, court sends Nyame to prison

…Judge sentences Taraba ex- Gov to 14-year jail term without option of fine
…Berates Nyame for reckless, shameful spending of N350m
…EFCC secures conviction of another former governor
Eleven years after he committed the offences, an Abuja High Court in Gudu on Wednesday, demonstrated that no matter the delay, law will caught up with offenders as Justice Adebukola Banjoko sentenced former Taraba State Governor Jolly Nyame to 14 years imprisonment without an option of fine.

Justice Banjoko gave the verdict on Nyame after convicting him on 27 count charges out of the 41 count charges filed against him on May 13, 2007 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

It is instructive to state that Nyame on Wednesday became the second governor to be jailed for corruption since the advent of the fourth Republic in 1999.

Former Adamawa State Governor James Ngilari was the first former state governor to be convicted. But the Court of Appeal later set aside his conviction while the EFCC had appealed against the verdict at the Supreme Court.

After a thorough review of evidences and submissions of both the prosecuting EFCC and defence lawyers on Wedneday, Justice Banjoko held that the prosecution had proved the offences of criminal breach of trust, misappropriation, gratifications and obtaining property without appropriation against Nyame beyond doubt. She, accordingly, convicted the ex-governor.

In passing the sentences, Justice Banjoko held that Nyame breached the trust reposed on him by the people of Taraba State who had on three separate occasions elected him as the governor of Taraba State.

Accordingly, she imposed a maximum 14 years imprisonment for criminal breach of trust, two years jail term for misappropriation, seven years jail term for gratifications and five years for obtaining property without appropriation, totaling 28 years.

She ordered that all the money seized from Nyame and others who refunded various sums should be forfeited to the Taraba State government.

The judge said she had imposed the maximum sentence to serve as deterrent to other public officers and officials in order to check the increasing tendency of corrupt practices.

The judge said the sentences are to run concurrently, which implied that Nyame will serve only 14 years in imprisonment. She said that Nyame, who the citizens of Taraba State placed implicit trust on, shamelessly and recklessly wasted the huge sum of N350m state fund.

The judge said that Nyame could not explain or justify the loss of the huge sum.

The judge said, “Even when he knew that his officials were returning part of the money to EFCC, he was still committing the offence”.

Evidences before the the court shows that there was massive corruption in the Taraba State Ministry of Finance but ex- governor did nothing to stop it, rather he encouraged it.

Though, the judge admitted that the offences were proved based on circumstantial evidence and that there was no direct evidence linking Nyame to the crime, he Nyame admitted approving the memo on which the fraud was committed.

Nyame, the judge also stated, gave verbal directives on the payments which did not pass due process, adding that even a storekeepers whose duty was to receive the bulk purchases of stationary queried the deal, nothing was done.

She also said that it was in evidence that no material whatsoever was supplied to the store. It was also not in doubt that Nyame had prevailed on the officers to subdue the fraud because of the relationship he had with the company that collected N250m in two payments within one week without passing through the normal financial processes.

While pleading for less sentence under allocutus (plea for leniency), Nyame’s lawyer, Mr Olalekan Ojo, had urged the court to consider his client as a first offender without any previous crime record and that Nyame had served the Taraba State as governor for eight years.

He added that the convict is a family man with several dependants.

But the prosecuting lawyer, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, urged the court to convict Nyame as a deterrent to others because for any act, there must be consequences.

He said the convict has harmed Taraba State finance, saying that the effect is unquantifiable.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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