A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on Wednesday ordered the refund of monies diverted by former Taraba State governor, Jolly Nyame, after sentencing him to 14 years in prison, Premium Times NG reports.
The former governor was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly diverting N1.64 billion in May 2007.
In a 41-count charge of fraud, the commission accused Mr Nyame of spearheading the fraudulent transfer of funds from the Taraba state’s treasury to a company, Saman Global for the purchase of office equipment and stationeries that were never delivered.
He was also accused of fraudulently enriching himself and abusing public trust.
In a lengthy judgment which lasted over five hours, the judge Adebukola Banjoko gave a holistic overview of the testimonies given in court which resulted in the judgement.
As the ruling was read, Mr Nyame who had been asked by the judge to stand, seemed unfazed. After the session, he spent more than 20 minutes before leaving the court.
In her address, the judge identified various confessions of fraudulent transactions and said the evidences against the defendant were overwhelming. According to the judge, even the defence witnesses alluded to the crimes contained in the charge against the defendant. She likened the conduct of the prescribed offences to the story of Alibaba and the forty thieves.
Citing a memo which formed the basis of the fraudulent transactions, Mrs. Banjoko questioned the motive behind Mr Nyame’s ‘ratification’ of the said memo, despite the former governor’s claim that he knew nothing about the fraudulent transaction.
“From the evidence alluded in court, transactions by the treasury of the Taraba State government begin with a memo. Now a memo has a root course that is traceable to a decision,” said the judge who added that where the said memo becomes a proven source of questionable transactions, it would only be natural to trace the said memo to its source.
The judge also questioned the failure of Mr Nyame to investigate the illicit flow of funds under his watch adding that Mr Nyame confirmed in court that he never conducted any such investigation.
“It is only under cross examination that the defendant said he did not carry out the investigation, because the EFCC was already carrying out a similar investigation.”
The judge further noted confessions by witnesses, including the managing director of Saman Global that the company was not involved in the delivery of stationaries.
“If Saman Global has no history of supplying stationaries into Taraba State, then their injection into the flow must have been questionable.
Mrs. Banjoko narrated the testimonies of Mr Nyame’s commissioner of finance, Abubakar Tutari who spearheaded the many cases of administrative breaches in the transfer of the funds to Saman global.
The judge said although the defendant denies knowledge of the transactions, it is either that he; (Nyame) or Mr Tutari has lied to the court.
“It is a question of Alhaji Tutari’s words against that of the defendant. So the golden question is who lying among the two of them. Because somebody is lying.” said the judge.
“It is imperative to bring to the fore, the background of Ababakar Tutari. According the defendant, he was serving a senator of the federal republic of Nigeria. Alhaji Tutari said he had known the defendant since 1992 when he was speaker of the Taraba state house of assembly.
Their relationship sprang from that time till when he was governor, in 1999. During this period, he served as commissioner in four ministries, namely; finance rural development water resources sport and youth development. So they were close,” Mrs. Bankole said.
The judge further noted that Mr Tutari who had told the court that the defendant was his benefactor had also indicated his willingness to not bite the finger that fed him.
Yet following the testimonies of witnesses in court, the judge noted that Mr Tutari bypassed the permanent secretary and instructed the accountant to pay N250 million.
By this act, Alhaji Abubakar Tutari certainly had cloud to have pulled the rug from under the feet of the ministry of finance. One thing alone is certain, he was not appointed by the people of Taraba state, but by the defendant who was elected by the people,” said the judge.