By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting in Gudu, yesterday, sentenced the former Taraba State Governor, Jolly Nyame, to 14 years in prison.
The 11 years old trial decided yesterday, held that the defendant is guilty of 27 out of the 41-count money laundering charge and breach of trust amongst others brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission EFCC.
Delivering the judgement, the judge held that the judgment is meant to serve as deterrent to other public office holders who have plans to dip their hands in the public treasury.
Specifically, the court sentenced Nyame to 14 years for criminal breach of trust, representing 2 years for misappropriation, 7 years for gratification and 5 years for obtaining valuable public properties without consideration.
“The court would be failing in its responsibility if it does others wise. As regards to criminal breach of trust, maximum of 14yrs without option of fine.
“Misappropriation, 2yrs without option of fine, gratification, 7 years without option of fine, obtaining valuable things without consideration, 5 years without option of fine.
“The sentences, however, are to run concurrently,” the court held The judge giving her judgement said that 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 who maintained that the defendant committed “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.”
Going further in her verdict, the judge said that 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”.
She added 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.
After the judgement was handed down to him, Nyame, through his counsel, begged the court to temper Justice with mercy.
He maintained that he had no previous criminal record, adding that he has dependants that rely on him for their subsistence.
The counsel further told the court to punish his client by imposing fine against him rather than imprisonment.
In objection, the prosecution counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, urged the court to impose the maximum sanction to serve as a deterrent to other public office holders.
It will be recalled that Nyame as the former Governor of Taraba State from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2007, was arraigned by the anti-graft agency over allegation that he looted public funds to the tune of N1.64billion.
The prosecution, in the charge dated May 13, 2007, told the court that the former governor perpetuated the fraud between January 2005 and May 2007, through various contracts.
Nyame had pleaded not guilty to the charge which he insisted was not only incompetent, but brought against him in bad faith and asked the correct to dismiss his case.