Friday, June 8, 2018 1:40 pm
• Are you interested in how former Governor Jolly Nyame ended up in jail? Here are details of the money he stole, the projects involved, the major characters, the legal battle and his failure to secure a discharge
And the man wept! Jolly Nyame, a former governor of Taraba, who had his eyes on the
Senate, sat teary-eyed, startled and devastated, as he looked on helplessly in the courtroom. Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court, Gudu, had just drawn the curtain on his 11-year-old trial, and it was the last thing he had expected,
seven months to his 63rd birthday. He swaggered into the courtroom that Wednesday morning, May 30 at about 9am in the company of his wellwishers, with an air of confidence around him that the day will end with him smiling home a free man. But no!
After a proceeding that lasted about six hours, with the judge reading a 288- page judgement that lasted about five hours, Nyame had become a convict, destined to spend the next 14 years in Kuje Prison. His faintest hope of a “not guilty” verdict in a trial that began on May 19, 2010 began to fade away about three hours into the reading of the judgement, when
Justice Banjoko found him guilty “asregards the first set of circumstances under criminal breach of trust – stationeries in count one for the sum of N250 million”, after dismissing the
arguments of his counsel, Olalekan Ojo, who contended that Nyame was “neither a
Public Servant nor a Public Officer, but a Political Office Holder” and so could not be
charged with criminal breach of public trust, misappropriation of public funds, or
The EFCC had alleged in count one that between January and February 2005, Nyame being governor, was “entrusted with the sum of N250 million meant for the purchase of stationeries by the Taraba State government”, but diverted same to his use, thus committing an offence
punishable under Section 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of Federation of
Nigeria 1990. It was the first count out of 41, levelled against him in a charge filed
and dated July 13, 2007 – barely two months after Nyame finished his second
term as governor.
Specifically, the EFCC accused Nyame of criminal breach of trust in counts one,
two, six, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35,
36, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41. In addition to complicity in diverting N250 million purportedly allocated for purchase of stationeries, he was accused of diverting for personal gains, N180 million out of the N250 million; criminal breach of trust with respect to taking
possession of N165 million on February 14, 2005, N27 million on April 11, 2005,
N42 million on April 11, 2007, N15 million on January 18, 2007, N25 million on January 30, 2007, N20 million on February 19, 2007, N2 million on March 7, 2007, N10 million on
March 24, 2007, N20 million on March 30, 2007, N9.4 million on December 15,
2006, N25 million on January 8, 2007, N20 million on May 7, 2007, N25 million on November 12, 2006, N10 million on October 31, 2006, N5 million on March
16, 2006, N5 million on March 13, 2006, N25 million on May 4, 2007, N5
million on June 16, 2006, N5 million on October 10, 2006, N25 million on June
26, 2006, N30 million on August 8, 2006, N3 million on August 24, 2006, N10 million on May 6, 2006; and N32.3 million meant to make preparations for then president, Olusegun Obasanjo’s visit to Taraba on April 11, 2005.
Nyame was also accused of “criminal misappropriation of public funds” in counts three, seven, nine, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25 – N24.3 million (purportedly released for purchase of grains for the state) on July 8, 2005; N27 million on April 11, 2007, N32.3
million on April 11, 2005; N42 million on April 11, 2007; N15 million on January
18, 2007; N25 million on January 30, 2007; N20 million on February 19, 2007; N2 million on March 7, 2007; and N4 million on March 24, 2007. The EFCC accused him in counts four and five of receiving gratification of N80 million from Suleiman Abubakar of Alusab International (Nig) Limited through Salam Global Ventures (Nig) Limited, as reward for awarding contract to Alusab for execution of a water project at Ibi/Wukari.
The offences were committed between January 2005 and May 2007. Nyame’s Nemesis
Call it the serendipity of stumbling across a goldmine and you will not be far from the truth. Nyame was in fact, never in the purview of the EFCC, and no one at any time wrote a petition against him. There was no “witch-hunt”.
Nyame’s financial crime was unravelled by the EFCC while investigating a petitionwritten by a widow, Hauwa Kulu Usman, against Suleiman Abubakar, younger brother to her late husband, Usman Abubakar, Managing Director of Alusab International Limited. She had taken her cry to the EFCC to help recover money from Suleiman being payment to the
The Taraba State government had issued a cheque of N135,794,607 in favour of the
company, as contract payment for rehabilitation of the Ibi Wukari Water Project. But Suleiman collected the cheque and lodged it in a different account domiciled in Zenith Bank Plc, in Jalingo. Hauwa sought the help of the EFCC to recover the money, accusing Suleiman
who took over the company of “squandering” it.
He was subsequently invited by the EFCC for questioning; then and there, the bubble
burst. During interrogation, Suleiman admitted collecting the cheque, and though argued that he did not squander the money as alleged in the petition, confirmed that it was for the said project, which was ongoing before the death his brother. He revealed that through Abubakar Tutare, then Commissioner of Finance in the state, the company applied for additional works, which was granted by the state government. According to him, the estimation for the
additional works was N35 million, but
Tutare instructed him to add N100 million to the estimation. Subsequently, a cheque of N135 million was issued to Suleiman, but along with it, was a complimentary card, with an account
number written at the back. Tutare instructed him to pay the N100 million into the account. Suleiman had asked Tutare about VAT payment, to which Tutare told him to deduct 10 per cent as tax and to credit the account at the back of the card belonging to Nyame with
N80 million, and bring N10 million to him.
Suleiman duly paid the cheque into Alusab’s account and acted on the N80 million as instructed, as per the complimentary card. He also gave N10 million to Tutare at his residence
through his house aide, Husseini Ali. The confession of Suleiman sparked an extensive investigation, which saw the EFCC spreading its dragnet across the State Government House, the Ministry of Finance, and several companies. Tutare, himself was invited for questioning and he confirmed the testimony of Suleiman, but stressed that he acted on the instruction of Nyame, and that the N80 million was paid into the account of Salmon Global Ventures
The EFCC afterwards unravelled a slew of fraudulent financial activities perpetrated in the ministry of finance, with Nyame being the chief actor, including ordering Dennis Nev, then
Permanent Secretary, Government House, to raise N101 million for a one-day Presidential Visit in 2005. Nyame’s Volte-Face Nyame, who also took to the dock to defend himself,
made a blanket denial of the charges of receiving money in any form, arguing that he
had no business dealings with Salmon Global Ventures, and did not direct Tutare to facilitate payment of any monies into any company’s account. He also denied the physical receipt
of any cash with respect to the presidential visit, and argued that there was a dire
need for grains by “Tarabans” that prompted his government to pursue the release of funds for
purchase of grains through the Liaison Office.
According to him, the only sums of money he received were for allowances, dispensation,
entitlements and security funds. Nyame was one of four witnesses that testified in his defence.
Justice Banjoko, however, saw through what was apparently a volte-face on his part, despite the testimonies of 14 witnesses presented by the EFCC through its team of prosecutors that
included Rotimi Jacobs, SAN; O.A. Atolagbe and Henry Ejiga.
In fact, Nyame’s counsel, which included Lateef Fagbemi, SAN; Charles Edonsanwan, SAN; H.T. Fajimite; Olalekan Ojo, and A. Yusuf, used all legal gimmicks to frustrate the trial through the 11 years that it lasted. After his arraignment in 2007, he filed an application before the Court to quash the charges brought against him by the EFCC, which was refused by Justice Banjoko. To stall the commencement of his trial, he proceeded to the Court of Appeal, and lost again, before taking his quest to quash the charges, to the Supreme Court, where again he lost.
Even after his trial commenced on May 19, 2010 he again through his counsel, Ojo, challenged the admissibility of the statements he wrote during his interrogation by EFCC operatives, dated June 6 and 7, 2007 and July 11, 2007. He again failed on April 25, 2016 as
Justice Banjoko admitted them in evidence and overruled the objection of his counsel. The next joker by his counsel, Edonsanwan, was to file a “no case” submission on January 18, 2017, which was dismissed by the Court, on March 8, 2017.
Nyame Bites the Dust
The judge in convicting Nyame, noted that the fraud perpetrated under his watch was “best illustrated in the tale, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. Describing his misappropriation of state funds as “a catalogue of errors and shame”, the trial judge held that, “it is either Reverend Jolly Nyame entered the Office without a corrupt mind or he was corrupted ab
The trial judge found Nyame guilty of counts one, two, six, eight, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33, and 36 – charges bordering on criminal breach of trust; counts three, seven, nine, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25 – charges bordering on criminal misappropriation; counts four and five – charges bordering on gratification and accepting a valuable thing without consideration. He was not given an option of fine, and was discharged of counts 22, 24, 26, 28, 32, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41.
In the allocutus, Ojo urged the Court to consider that Nyame was a first-time offender, and a family man who had dependants to cater for. “He served the people of Taraba State for eight years, and through him the lives of a lot of the people in the state were bettered,” he argued,
and urged the court to “take into consideration the selfless service of the convict, who
has no criminal record of any sort and is still less than 60 years old”.
In its counter-argument, Atolagbe, urged the court to take into cognizance the aggravating effect the action and inaction of Nyame had on the people of the state. Citing Section 401 (2) (a) (d) (e) and (f), and Section 416 2 (a) (d) (e) and (f) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, and Section 4 (2) (a) (i) and (iii) of the FCT Courts Practice Direction, he
urged the court to put into consideration the aggravating factors on the state. “He abused his position of trust and caused severe harm to the society and economy of the state, and so the effect of the offence must be put into consideration,” he argued, adding that, “claim of selfless service is far from the truth”.
After listening to the arguments of both counsel, Justice Banjoko, gave her sentencing and noted that despite claim of being a first-time offender, a family man, and his service, “I am morally outraged with the facts of this case”. “There’s no moral justification for the
level of outright theft, and the Court must therefore, impose a sentence that would, hopefully serve as a deterrent to such other public officers, who may be similarly inclined to deep their hands into public till,” Justice Banjoko held.
Nyame will now have to celebrate his 63rd birthday in prison, as he began his jail term on May 30 – 14 years for criminal breach of trust, two for criminal misappropriation, seven for gratification, and five for obtaining by dishonesty – all
to run concurrently.
• EFCC Alert!