Court of Appeal in Abuja yesterday upheld the conviction of ex-Governors of Taraba and Plateau states, Messers Jolly Nyame and Joshua Daiye.
The court, in two unanimous judgments by two panels, held that Mrs Adebukola Banjoko of the High Court of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Gudu, Abuja was right to have convicted both men in view of the overwhelming evidence presented by the prosecution led by Mr Rotimi Jacobs.
The judgements were on the appeals filed by Nyame, against the judgment of the High Court of FCT given on May 30 this year, and the appeal by Dariye, which challenged his conviction in the judgement given on June 12 this year.
In the May 30 judgment, given on the charge marked: FCT/ABJ/CR/82/07, the trial court convicted Nyame on 27 out of the 41 counts contained in the charge filed against him by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in July 2007.
He was convicted on 16 counts of criminal breach of trust, 9 counts of criminal misappropriation, 1 count of gratification and 1 count of accepting a valuable thing without consideration. He was found to have converted Taraba State’s funds estimated at N1.64billion.
The trial court sentenced him to a cumulative 28 years imprisonment, without an option of fine.
The breakdown of the sentence is as follows: 14 years upon conviction for criminal breach of trust; seven years for receiving gratification; five years for obtaining valuable public properties without consideration, and two years for criminal misappropriation.
But, the Court of Appeal, in its judgment yesterday only faulted the trial court’s judgment in its decision to impose maximum sentences. It said since Dariye and Nyame were found to be first time offenders, the trial court should not have imposed the maximum sentences.
Mr Emmanuel Agim, who read his panel’s judgment on the appeal by Nyame, upheld his (Nyame’s) conviction and the order for the forfeiture of his identified asset.
He said since Nyame was found to be a first time offender, the trial judge ought not to have imposed the maximum sentences for the offences for which he was convicted.
The appellate court reduced the 14 years sentence to 12 years; the seven year was cut to five years; the five years was reduced to three years, while the sentence of two years was reduced to 1 year and nine months.
The Appeal Court went further to impose various fines on Nyame, the highest of which is N100m. He will pay the highest of the fines.
In upholding Dariye’s conviction, Mr Steven Adah, who read his panel’s judgment on the ex-Plateau Governor’s appeal, noted that the prosecution effectively proved its charges of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation against the ex-governor.
Dariye, a Senator before conviction, was sentenced by Banjoko in a judgment given on June 12 this year.
He was convicted on 15 counts, on the offences of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation, contained in 23 counts on which he was tried. He was freed on the other eight counts.
Dariye was found to have diverted Plateau State’s funds estimated at N1.162billion.
In its judgment yesterday, the Appeal Court only faulted the trial court for convicting Dariye in counts 12 and 23, which it said the prosecution did not prove.
It also faulted the trial court for imposing the maximum sentences on both offences of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation.
The Appeal Court proceeded to reduce the 14 years sentence for the offence of criminal breach of trust to 10 years, and reduced to one year, the two years sentence for criminal misappropriation.
Justice Agim, in the judgment he delivered some minutes after the judgment in Nyame’s appeal, expressed displeasure about the conduct of public officers, who he noted, see public funds as their own, which they can deploy at will, without being called to account.
He said the law requires that the expenditure of all public funds, no matter how classified, including security vote, must be accounted for by the public officer whose responsibility it is to dispense those funds.
Justice Agim faulted the argument that a Governor was not a public officer. He said the description of a Governor as a public officer was an issue of law, not of fact.
“In view of the dangerous impact of the crime of public office corruption on the state security and the generality of the people, it comes within the class of crimes against humanity like genocide, terrorism and large scale violation of human rights.
“There is no justification for imposing capital punishment for serious crimes like murder, armed robbery with less wide spread impact and punishing a more serious crime like public office corruption with more widespread impact in the terms of imprisonment prescribed in sections 115, 119, 309 and 315 of the Penal Code Act.
“These cannot be sufficient deterrence. But the courts are bound by law not to exceed those terms of imprisonment.
“The sentences imposed by the trial court complied with the provisions of Ss 115, 119, 309 and 315 of the Penal Code Act.
“It appears that the trial court did not direct itself to the fact that the appellant is a first offender on record and the provision of S.416(2)(d) that provides that “a trial court shall not pass a maximum sentence on a first offender”.
“If it had done so, it would not have imposed those maximum sentences. In the light of the foregoing, this court hereby reviews the sentences imposed by the trial court to bring them into conformity with 5.315 Penal Code Act and S.416(2)(d) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
“The trial court did not impose the additional punishment of fine it was bound by 5.315 Penal Code Act to impose for criminal breach of trust.
“Accordingly, this court orders that in addition to the term of imprisonment imposed for each count of criminal breach of trust, the appellant shall pay fine of N100m for each of the offences in counts 1, 2, 6; fine of N50m for the offence in count 8; fine of N20m for each of the offences in counts 10, 12, 14; fine of N10m for each of the offences in counts 16, 18, 20, 27, 29, 30, 31 and 33; and the fine of N5 for the offence in count 36.
“On the whole this appeal fails, except as regards the sentences imposed by the trial court.
“Therefore the judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Criminal Case No. FCT/ABJ/CR/82/2007 delivered on 30-5-2018 by A.A.I. Banjoko J is affirmed and upheld except with regards to the sentences imposed therein,” Justice Agim said.