The Swinging Axe Claims Some Victims

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Segun James and Shola Oyeyipo write that the recent conviction of two former governors who are members of the ruling APC may cause anxiety to their counterparts on trial for similar allegations.

The significance of the day would continue to reverberate across Nigeria for different reasons; especially with the recent reparation pronounced by President Muhammadu Buhari on the historic epoch, June 12. For Senator Joshua Dariye, a former governor of Plateau State, June 12 now represents the day his world fell apart.

Looking intently at Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal High Court, Abuja as she pronounced him guilty and committed him to prison for 14 years, Dariye could not contain his emotions. He wept bitterly.

Two weeks earlier, Justice Banjoko delivered a similar judgment in a related matter in which a former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame was jailed for 14 years for misappropriating state funds.

Dariye, a serving senator representing Plateau Central Senatorial District, was accused of embezzling N1.162 billion ecological funds belonging to his state. After the judgment, Dariye cried and pleaded for clemency but his time was up. He was charged to court by the anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in 2010.

The truism that the rich also cry may have succinctly described the situation in the court as Dariye was driven to the prison to serve time.

The trial and subsequent conviction of Dariye and his former counterpart from Taraba State is a great political coup for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari whose major campaign promise was the fight against corruption. He is driven by his famous statement that, “if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us.”

By appointing Justice Banjoko as Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) barely 24 hours after convicting the two ex-governors, the federal government appears to have sent a signal to the judiciary that it is willing to reward exemplary professionalism, while many former governors who are on trial for corruption have, understandably, become jittery as the reality of a possible prison sentence stares them in the face.

The judgment by Banjoko is the first conviction of high profile politicians in the current political dispensation in the country. Many Nigerians see her as bold and daring.

However, the speed with which she was appointed the chairman of the CCT by the government has cast blight on the conviction. There are many implications of the conviction of the former governors and Banjoko’s appointment.

The vociferous clamour for conviction of high profile politicians on trial has been loud and strong. Many of the cases have been dragging on for as long as 10 years; leading to a growing believe in the populace that it was a deliberate ploy to buy time and later let the accused persons off the hook. On the other hand, there exists a school of thought that cast aspersion on the effort of the anti-graft agency to bring indicted politicians to book as a calculated witch-hunt against politicians from the opposition parties.

The accusation of witch-hunt of opposition politicians by the EFCC seems to have been watered down with the conviction of Nyame and Dariye who are of the APC; and incidentally from the north. Their Christian background may also be a weighty consideration in a country that is often sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines.

A senior lawyer who pleaded anonymity on the evolving political scenario said that another conviction is not likely to be made before the 2019 general elections.

He said that the speed with which Banjoko was transferred to the CCT, where the President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki is being tried suggests that she is being positioned for the kill in the case of the senate president.

A media aide of the Senate President, however, dismissed the insinuation arising from Banjoko’s appointment. He affirmed that the appointment of the chairman of the CCT has a constitutional guarantee and is a tenured position. He disclosed that appointing a new chairman required, at least, two-third majority of the Senate.

The trial of Dariye began eight years ago under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. But the case was stalled by litigations which went all the way to the Supreme Court which later ordered that the case be returned to the High Court for trial.

The Verdict

“In the absence of concrete evidence justifying these payments, it can safely be described as misappropriation,” said Justice Banjoko, who found Dariye guilty of 15 out of the 23-count charge against him.

Dariye was convicted for two main categories of offences, namely criminal breach of trust which attracts a two-year sentence for each affected count and criminal misappropriation which has a penalty of 14 years.

The sentences are to run concurrently which means he will spend a maximum 14 years in jail.

Shortly before the verdict was read, Dariye’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro, SAN, described his client’s actions as the product of ignorance. Erokoro blamed the system and the banks for the actions of his client.

According to Erokoro, Mr. Dariye, who is a chartered accountant, was misguided when he approached the banks for financial assistance.

Responding, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, drew the attention of the court to the many years of legal battle embarked upon by the defendant. As he was speaking, Dariye suddenly stood up and asked the prosecution lawyer to be merciful.

“Be merciful. You are a Christian. Your name is Jacob,” he said

The judge noted the efforts of Erokoro, but added that “there should not be compromise in corruption. Corruption is corruption.”

After the judgment, Dariye was led into a police van from where he was transported to Kuje Prison-his new residence for the next 14 years unless an appeal court rules otherwise.

Dariye came to international attention when he skipped bail in the UK in September, 2004 following his arrest on money-laundering charges.

Twice he was sacked as governor and twice he returned to reclaim his position, earning him the nickname “the cat with nine lives.”

But it appears Mr. Dariye may have finally run out of luck, as a Nigerian court has sent him to jail following charges of corruption and money laundering.

 

Former Governors on Trial for Corruption

Senator Jonah Jang (PDP)

The EFCC preferred a 12-count charge of fraud against Senator Jonah Jang, a former governor of Plateau State. He is the Senator representing Plateau North in the National Assembly.

Case Commenced on

Monday, May 7, 2017

Allegation

Misappropriation of over N6.3 billion two months to the end of his tenure as governor in 2015

Present Status

Case in progress

 

Orju Uzor Kalu (APC)

Former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu was accused of diverting N3.2 billion. He is facing an amended 39-count charge bordering on fraud along with his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, who is the second accused.

Case Commenced on

October 31, 2016

Allegation

Among other issues brought against him, the EFCC alleged that he had in different bank accounts about N2.5 billion belonging to Abia State and diverted about N3.2 billion from the coffers of the government thereby contravening sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005 and the Money Laundering Act of 1995 (as amended by Act No.9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 1990.

Present Status

Case in progress

Ibrahim Shema (PDP)

Ibrahim Shema

Former Katsina State governor, Ibrahim Shema, is standing trial before the Federal High Court sitting in Katsina on a 26-count charge for money laundering.

Case Commenced on

February 7, 2017

Allegation

Misappropriating the sum of N11 billion belonging to the State/Local Government Joint Account during his tenure between 2007 and 2015. He is standing trial before the Federal High Court sitting in Katsina on a 26-count charge of money laundering.

Present Status

The Katsina State High Court has fixed July 9 and 10 for ruling

Rashidi Ladoja (PDP)

Former Oyo State governor, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja is facing money laundering charge to the tune of N4.7 billion in a Federal High Court in Lagos alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Waheed Akanbi.

Case Commenced

Court resumed trial on October 9, 2017

Allegation

Conspiracy to steal from the treasury of the state government while he was governor. He was accused of converting the state’s funds for personal use through fraudulent methods, in contravention of sections 17(a) and 18(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and is liable to be punished under sections 14(1), 16(a) (b) and 18(2) of the same Act.

Present Status

Case in progress

Mukhtar Ramalan Yero (PDP)

The former governor of Kaduna State, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, was dragged before a Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna for corruption on a 4-count charge bordering on money laundering, criminal conspiracy, misappropriation of public fund, and breach of trust.

Case Commenced on

May 31, 2018

Allegation

He is in court over his involvement in the disbursement of N750 million used by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2015 election campaign and making financial transaction involving the sum of N700 million without passing through a financial institution thereby committing an offence contrary to sections 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act, 2012 (as amended) and punishable under section 15 (30 of the same Act.

Present Status

Case in progress

Adebayo Alao-Akala (APC)

Former Oyo State Governor, Adebayo Alao-Akala, is also facing trial over N11.5 billion fraud case filed against him by the EFCC along side his co-defendants, Hosea Ayoola Agboola and Femi Babalola, who are both members of the PDP in Oyo State

Case Commenced on

October 11, 2011

Allegation

Alao-Akala allegedly awarded a road contract worth N8.5bn between 2007 and 2009 to Pentagon Engineering Services without budgetary provision, ordered the supply of drilling machines on behalf of the 33 local governments in the state to the tune of N3.5bn, conspired to withdraw N2.9bn from Oyo State Local Government Joint Account, illegally acquired some property on Old Bodija Road, off Rotimi Williams Road, when he was the governor thereby contravening Section 22 (4) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and Section 1 (18) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act.

Present Status

Before the Supreme Court

Mahmud Shinkafi (APC)

Former governor of Zamfara State, Mahmud Shinkafi, alongside former Minister of State, Finance, Bashir Yuguda, Aminu Nahuche, and Ibrahim Malaha, are standing trial before Justice Fatima Murtala of the Federal High Court sitting in Zamfara on a five-count charge of conspiracy and money laundering in a case brought against them by EFCC.

Case Commenced on

May 28, 2018

Allegation

That they conspired to receive a cash payment of N450 million, part of the $115 million that was allegedly distributed by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the 2015 general election among other things.

Present Status

The suspects were granted bail in the sum of N5 million each and two sureties in like sum. The case has been adjourned to June 27 and 28 for the commencement of trial

Ahmed Rufai Sani (PDP)

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) appealed against the judgment of Justice Bello Mohammed Tukur of Zamfara State High Court sitting in Gusau, who gave a no-case ruling in the case against former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Rufai Sani, in an on-going case of alleged diversion of public funds.

He was charged alongside Hashim Dikko, Development Management Limited and Had Nigeria Limited

Case Commenced on

Jan 21, 2016

Allegation

Diversion of public funds

Present Status

ICPC appeal the on-going case against Justice Tukur’s ruling that did not favour the anti-graft body in a no-case submission entered by the former governor

Saidu Dakingari (APC)

Saidu Dakingari

Though he has been elusive, ICPC has been making frantic effort to arraign former Governor of Kebbi, Alhaji Saidu Dakingari for misappropriation of N664.3 million belonging to the state.

ICPC spokesperson, Mrs. Rasheedat Okoduwa said Dakingari would be arraigned at the Kebbi State High Court in Birnin Kebbi but was silent on the date and time of arraignment

Case not yet commenced

Allegation

Misappropriation of N664.3 million belonging to the state

Murtala Nyako (PDP)

Former Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako is standing trial before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, sitting in Maitama, Abuja for a N29 billion fraud.

Allegation

Nyako is being prosecuted alongside his son, Senator Abdul-Aziz Nyako, Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba on a 37-count charge of criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Present Status

Case in Progress

on February 26, 2018, court admitted in evidence, documents tendered by the prosecution. Five companies that allegedly served as conduit for the illegal diversion of the funds – Blue Opal Limited, Sebore Farms and Extension Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Crust Energy Limited, were equally charged before the court as the 5th to 9th defendants.

Sule Lamido (PDP)

Sule-Lamido

Former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, his two sons – Aminu Sule Lamido and Mustapha Sule Lamido as well as Aminu Wada Abubakar and Batholomew Darlington Agoha are standing trial before Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a 27-count amended charge bordering on corruption and money laundering.

Case Commenced on

July 9, 2015

Allegation

Misappropriating of funds belonging to Jigawa State

Present Status

Case in progress

Gabriel Suswam

Gabriel Suswam

Following a petition to the EFCC by the Benue State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Micheal Gusah against former Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam, he is presently facing an alleged N3.1billion fraud before a Federal High Court in Abuja

Case Commenced

March 2016

Allegation

Suswam and many of his appointees including civil servants that held key positions in his administration allegedly engaged in dubious expenditures running into billions of naira. He is being asked to refund of over N44billion

Present Status

Case in progress