• Reduces sentences to 10, 12 years respectively •Slams N495m fine on Nyame
By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on Friday, reviewed downwards the jail sentences of two former governors, Senator Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and his Taraba counterpart, Reverend Jolly Nyame.
The two former governors were earlier handed down 14 years imprisonment each after an Abuja High Court found them guilty of criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds.
The trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, had in her judgment handed down the maximum 14 years imprisonment to the duo after finding them guilty of criminal breach of trust. The court in addition handed them the maximum sentence of two years each for criminal misappropriation of funds.
However, the appellate court while delivering judgments yesterday on the two separate appeals filed by Dariye and Nyame against the order of the High Court, reduced the sentence of Dariye to 10 years while that of Nyame was brought to 12 years. The Court in addition awarded a fine of N495m on Reverend Nyame.
The three- man panel of the Court of Appeal in the judgment, which upheld the decision of the trial court however, held that the trial court erred in applying the maximum punishment on the governors on the grounds that they were first offenders.
The appellate court in Dariye’s appeal, held that the initial 14 years jail term was “excessive and therefore cannot be sustained” because the defendant was found to be a first offender.
According to Justice Stephen Adah, who delivered the lead judgment, while the issue of sentencing is discretionary, such discretion must be governed by law and must not be fanciful, arbitrary or excessive.
Also Justice Adah held that the trial judge ran contrary to section 416 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, when it sentenced Dariye to two years imprisonment under count 12, without conviction. He consequently quashed the sentence and set it aside.
The court further noted that there was no basis for the conviction of Dariye in count 23, because the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant diverted over N1billion ecological fund meant for Plateau State into buying a house in London.
Therefore, the court held that conviction of Dariye based on count 23 was “wrong and therefore liable to be quashed.
However, Justice Adah agreed with Justice Banjoko on counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 17, 21 and 22. He consequently reduced the jail terms from 14 to 10 years.
Delivering judgment in Reverend Nyame’s appeal also yesterday, Justice Emmanuel Agim, who read the judgment of the appellate court, said Nyame’s appeal against the verdict of Justice Banjoko failed in its entirety.
However, while the court reduced the jail term from 14 to 12 being that Nyame was a first offender, the Court of Appeal held that taking into consideration section 315 of the Criminal Code Act, the trial court failed to impose a fine as stipulated by law in view of the gravity of the offence leveled against Nyame to serve as deterrence.
Justice Agim berated Nyame for abusing his office as governor by converting public funds into private usage, adding that the former Taraba governor exhibited a “callous criminal mind and the impact of his criminal act was devastating to the entire people of Taraba state”.
Agim noted that “public office corruption” is in the class of crime against humanity, terrorism etc and that the offender must face the full wrath of the law.
sHe insisted that the trial court was right to have convicted the former governor, adding that “security vote is a public fund and its usage must be properly accounted for.”
Consequently, having reduced the custodian sentence from 14 to the 12 years, the appellate court ordered Nyame to pay the total fine of N495 million. The breakdown is: counts 1, 2 and 6, N100 million each; in counts 8, N50 million; counts 10, 12, and 14, N20 million each and counts 16, 18, 20, 29, 30, 31 and 32, N10 million each, while count 36 is N5 million.