Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which sentenced a former Governor of Taraba State, Reverend Jolly Nyame, to 12 years imprisonment for corruption.
A five man panel of the apex court presided over by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, however set aside all fines slammed on him by the appellate court.
In the lead judgment read by Justice Aminu Augie, the apex court while noting that the lower court was in order in reducing the initial prison terms from 14 years to 12 years, however set aside all the fines imposed amounting to hundreds of millions of naira.
The Court of Appeal had on November 16, 2018, affirmed the conviction of the former governor by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of an Abuja High Court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged the former governor with criminal breach of trust, abuse of public office and converting the sum of N1.6 billion belonging to the people and government of Taraba State into private usage.
Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Banjoko had in 2018 imposed the maximum sentence of 14 years on Nyame, after convicting him in 27 out of the 41 charges levied against him by the federal government.
However the Court of Appeal in its judgment on Nyame’s appeal reduced the sentence on the grounds that the trial court was wrong by imposing the maximum sentence on Nyame who was a first time offender and accordingly reduced the sentence to 12 years.
The appellate court however without prompting imposed fines on the former governor after upholding his conviction in some of the counts.
According to the Court of Appeal, the trial court by virtue of section 315 of the Criminal Code Act, ought to have imposed a fine on the former governor in view of the gravity of the offence leveled against him so as to serve as deterrence.
Accordingly, the appellate court fined Nyame N100 million each on counts 1, 2 and 6. 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, N5 million.
This prompted the former governor to approach the Supreme Court for intervention.
Delivering judgment in the appeal filed by Nyame’s lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji SAN, the apex court affirmed the conviction handed down to Nyame.
According to Justice Augie, the lower court was also in order by reducing the prison terms from 14 to 12 years because Nyame was a first time offender.
However the apex court disagreed with the lower court on the issue of fines noting that the court was not prompted but went on its own to fine the appellant.
Justice Augie further noted that Nyame was also not given fair hearing by the court before the fines were imposed.
The Supreme Court consequently set aside all the fines imposed by the appellate court on the former governor.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had in 2007 arraigned Nyame on a 41-count criminal charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of N1. 64 billion belonging to the state.
He was accused of committing the offences between 1999 and 2007, when he served as governor of Taraba State.
In prosecuting the case the EFCC, presented various witnesses who alluded to the fact that Mr Nyame approved the diversion of various funds amounting to over N345 million to a company, Saman global within five weeks in 2005, among other allegations.
Though Nyame denied having any link with the said company, the court however, found him guilty of breach of public trust.
According to the judge, the defendant confirmed approving the memo wherein the order for the transfer of the funds were made, adding that the actions of the perpetrators under the watch of the Governor can be likened to the story of Alibaba and the 40 thieves.
The court had in March this year dismissed a no-case submission filed by Nyame and ordered him to enter his defense.