The Court of Appeal in Abuja has ordered the former Taraba State Governor, Jolly Nyame, to pay a fine of N495 million for alleged misappropriation of funds while he was governor of Taraba State from 1999 to 2007.
The court on Thursday, however, reduced the 14-year jail term, earlier given to Mr Nyame by a High Court in Abuja to 12 years.
The appeal court, however, said the law compels the court to add a fine for each of the various convictions.
During an initial judgement of the lower court in April, the court jailed Mr Nyame 14 years for various crimes whose penalties were to run concurrently.
But the appellate court in a fresh ruling on Friday said Mr Nyame ought to have been given a capital punishment, but for the constitutional constraint on the court to stick to the provisions of the law.
In May, when Justice Adebukola Banjoko first sentenced Mr Nyame to jail, she summarised how she came about the judgement.
In her address, the judge identified various confessions of fraudulent transactions and said the evidences against the defendant were overwhelming. According to the judge, even the defence witnesses alluded to the crimes contained in the charge against the defendant. She likened the conduct of the prescribed offences to the story of Alibaba and the forty thieves.
Citing a memo which formed the basis of the fraudulent transactions, Mrs. Banjoko questioned the motive behind Mr Nyame’s ‘ratification’ of the said memo, despite the former governor’s claim that he knew nothing about the fraudulent transaction.
“From the evidence alluded in court, transactions by the treasury of the Taraba State government begin with a memo. Now a memo has a root course that is traceable to a decision,” said the judge who added that where the said memo becomes a proven source of questionable transactions, it would only be natural to trace the said memo to its source.
The judge also questioned the failure of Mr Nyame to investigate the illicit flow of funds under his watch adding that Mr Nyame confirmed in court that he never conducted any such investigation.
“It is only under cross examination that the defendant said he did not carry out the investigation, because the EFCC was already carrying out a similar investigation.”
The judge further noted confessions by witnesses, including the managing director of Saman Global that the company was not involved in the delivery of stationaries.
“If Saman Global has no history of supplying stationaries into Taraba State, then their injection into the flow must have been questionable.
Mrs. Banjoko narrated the testimonies of Mr Nyame’s commissioner of finance, Abubakar Tutari who spearheaded the many cases of administrative breaches in the transfer of the funds to Saman global.
The judge said although the defendant denies knowledge of the transactions, it is either that he; (Nyame) or Mr Tutari has lied to the court.
“It is a question of Alhaji Tutari’s words against that of the defendant. So the golden question is who lying among the two of them. Because somebody is lying.” said the judge.
“It is imperative to bring to the fore, the background of Ababakar Tutari. According the defendant, he was serving a senator of the federal republic of Nigeria. Alhaji Tutari said he had known the defendant since 1992 when he was speaker of the Taraba state house of assembly.
“Their relationship sprang from that time till when he was governor, in 1999. During this period, he served as commissioner in four ministries, namely; finance rural development water resources sport and youth development. So they were close,” Mrs. Bankole said.
Mrs Banjoko found the defendant guilty of 27 of the counts, bothering on allegations of criminal breach of trust, receiving of gratification, obtaining without due consideration and misappropriation of public funds.
Before reading the verdict, the defence counsel prayed the court to consider the fact that the convict had never being convicted of such offences and that he was a family man who had served his state four at least eight years.
The prosecution counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe however urged the court to consider the effects of the charges on the people of Taraba and the need to set a precedence that would prevent future occurrences.
Mrs. Banjoko while stating her ruling expressed disappointment at the conduct of the accused.
“But I must say that I am morally outraged by the facts of this case. The people of Traba State had elected the defendant, a clergy man, on three different occasions.
“There expectations must have been very high. How would he begin to explain to the people of Taraba State his actions? How would he explain such a colossal loss to the people?” she queried.
The judge said Mr Nyama continued the commission of the allegations, even after finding out that the commission was investigating his offences.
She therefore sentenced the defendants to various terms based on the four category of offences, to a maximum of 14 years in jail, without an option of fine.
The judge ordered the immediate return of forfeited funds from the treasury of the EFCC to that of Taraba State.