Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, sitting in Gudu district of Abuja, has dismissed a bail application brought by the convicted former Governor of Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame, who is serving a 14-year jail term.
Nyame was on May 30 convicted and sent to Kuje Prison, Abuja, on corruption charges bordering on the diversion of over N1.6 billion belonging to Taraba State.
Justice Adebukola Banjoko, after listening to the bail application, ruled that it was “unmeritorious,” adding that bail was never granted to a convict as a matter of right but only under “exceptional circumstances,” which could include ill health.
The former Taraba State chief executive had predicated his bail application on the ground that, at the prison in Kuje, where he is currently serving his term, he was denied access to traditional herbal medicine with which he was treating hypertension and diabetes before his conviction on May 30.
Regardless, Justice Banjoko ruled that the application did not provide credible materials to warrant granting him bail.
Nyame was convicted and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment with the highest being 14 years for offences bordering on criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation and taking valuables without consideration and receiving gratification as a public officer.
Justice Banjoko sentenced him to the maximum punishment of 14 years for criminal breach of trust without an option of fine, two years for criminal misappropriation, seven years for receiving gratification and five years for “obtaining valuable thing without consideration.”
Earlier dismissing the convict’s plea for mercy, Justice Banjoko said she was “morally outraged” by the facts of the case, describing the conduct of the defendant, a reverend and a Christian, as audacious.
She noted that Nyame being “a first offender” and “a family man,” as noted by his lawyer, should ordinarily be part of considerations in sentencing.
“But I must say I was morally outraged by the facts of this case,” she said. Justice Banjoko noted that the people of Taraba State invested high level of trust in the convict when they first voted him as governor in 1991, again in 1999 and 2007.
“The level of trust must have been so high,” she said.
“The convict is a Reverend, which means he is a Christian. He is expected to show high level of honesty, piety and integrity.
“How will Reverend Jolly Nyame begin to tell the people of Taraba State and the whole world to justify his action and inaction? How will he justify this colossal loss of the state under his watch?”
She also noted that, while the EFCC was investigating the convict’s aides who were also returning part of the looted funds in the process “to his knowledge,” the convict as “an unrepentant sinner” still continued committing the crimes.
Justice Banjoko said on a particular day in April 2007, barely one month to the end of his tenure as govenor, Nyame spent over N100 million to host the then President.
The judge said, “He will perhaps be the most audacious chief executive Nigeria ever had. He was still continuing to commit the offences while under an intense searchlight of the law enforcement agency.
“Over N100 million was spent in a day for the visit of one man, who was the President, who is not God, in April 2007, when he was expected to vacate office in May 2007.
“This is just one in the catalogue of the crimes he committed.”
She stated that there was “crazy level of corruption in the air in the state” in Nyame’s administration.
Justice Banjoko expressed concern that none of the other state officials, including the then commissioner for finance, Alhaji Abubakar Tature, who was a major participant in the scam and was later elected as senator, were charged in any court.
“Rev. Jolly Nyame encouraged other officers to engage in reckless misappropriation,” she said, adding, “There is no legal or moral justification for that level of outright stealing. The defendant behaved like a common thief.”
She also said, being “the first case of its kind,” the court must impose heavy sanction “that will hopefully serve as a deterrent to other public officers.”
The EFCC had in May 2007 charged Nyame with 41 counts of criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation, taking gratification and obtaining valuables without consideration.
The trial began to have some speed when the Supreme Court laid the defendant’s appeal against the validity of the charges to rest by dismissing it in 2016.