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N1.64bn Fraud: Ex-Taraba Gov, Nyame, Jailed for 14 Years

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  • N1.64bn Fraud: Ex-Taraba Gov, Nyame, Jailed for 14 Years

Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Gudu, Abuja, on Wednesday sentenced a former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame, to 14 years’ imprisonment for his acts of criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of the sum of N1.64bn belonging to the state.

The judgment marked the end of about 11 years’ trial which would be the first full-blown criminal proceedings to be conducted in a Nigerian court and ended in a guilty verdict sending a former governor to jail for a period as long as 14 years for corruption.

Nyame, whose name goes with the appellation of a church title of “Reverend.” was convicted on a total of 27 out of the 41 counts preferred against him.

He 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 valuable thing without consideration and receiving gratification as a public officer.

The judge 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.”

The sentences were the maximum provided by the law under which the convict was charged in May 2007.

There was no option of fine on any of the counts.

But the sentences, according to the judge, are to run concurrently.

The court also ordered that all the funds previously recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from aides to the ex-governor and other government officials involved in the scam be forfeited to the Taraba State Government.

Justice Banjoko read the main judgment for a period of about four hours spanning from 9.51am to about 2.05pm on Wednesday.

Her facial expression slid from mere smiles to even subdued laughter throughout the period she read the judgment.

She even sometimes took a break from reading the prepared judgment from her laptop to lay some comic emphasis on some points.

Perhaps infected by the calm atmosphere entrenched in the courtroom by the judge’s tone, Nyame maintained a relaxed countenance as he was seated in the dock with his head slightly thrown back resting against the wall throughout the five-hour proceedings.

Intermittently, his glances oscillated back and forth from the direction of the bench to that of the audience.

Light complexioned, tall and well-built; the convict was dressed in a dark brown kaftan with a cap to match.

He was asked by the judge to stand up when the sentences were being read.

His face did not give off any sign of anxiety throughout the proceedings even after the sentences were passed on him.

In her judgment, the judge faulted the convict’s attempt to distance himself from the company, Salman Global Ventures Limited, and its Managing Director, Ibrahim Abubakar, who on the instructions of the ex-governor, received a total sum N250m for stationery in January 2005, N25m for the same purpose in February 2005, and 20m for the same purpose in October 2005.

The items were never supplied to the state, the judge said.

She said, “The totality of the evidence adduced” in the case showed that Nyame had a close relationship with the company’s MD and could only have been “the enabler of these transactions.”

The judge, who noted that there was no contractual agreement between Salman Global Venture Limited and the state government, yet the company repeatedly received payments for the supplies which it never carried out.

She added that the procedure preceding the release of the funds to the company was fraught with sidelining key officials that should be involved as well as breaches of the state’s financial regulations and the mode of award of the contracts stipulated in the memo which the ex-governor signed for their approval.

The sum of N250m was approved by the convict, according to the judge on December 30, 2004.

“By this, the defendant gave his blessing to that memo barely a day to the end of the year precisely on December 30, 2004,” noting that the item the money was meant for had been part of the budget of the state for year 2004.”

She said Nyame could not feign ignorance that the items were not supplied yet went on to sanction successive approvals for the same company to supply the items.

“Had this not stopped, only God knows what would have happened to Taraba State now,” she said.

She held, “There was no way the defendant having a sense of responsibility would have granted another approval after the N250m was approved and the stationery and office equipment it was meant for were not delivered.”

She noted that the ex-governor neither raised any question, issued any query, raised any commission of inquiry, filed any suit against the company nor attempt to file charges against the company.

The judge also noted the fact that Salman Global Ventures Limited did not bid to participate in the contract and was not even qualified to participate in the direct labour mode for the supply of the items which was the mode stipulated on the memo signed by the governor, and the relationship which the Managing Director of the company had with the ex-governor, showed that the convict was a beneficiary of the scam.

Nyame was also convicted for was also receiving about N80m as gratification from Salman Global Ventures Limited.

He was also convicted of authorising the payment of over N100m for the hosting of the then President in the state in April 2005.

He was also found guilty of payment of N24m meant for the “purchase of grains for the Taraba State Local Government Areas and some interest groups.”

Although Nyame had claimed that rice was purchased from a rice seller in Lagos, delivered to the state’s liaison office in Abuja and later delivered to the state in Jalingo, the state capital, the judge said there was no evidence to back the claim.

She added that the convict authorised the payment of about N345m within five months to Salmon Global Ventures Limited without delivering the items the money was meant for.

Between 2.05am and 2.32pm, the judge listened to the plea for mercy made on behalf of the ex-governor by his counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, and the objection to the plea by the EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Oluwaleke Atolagbe.

Ojo, noting that his client “selflessly served the good people of Taraba State from 1999 to 2007,” urged the court to be lenient in imposing the sentences on the grounds that his client was a first offender and a family man.

But Atolagbe said the suggestion that a man found guilty of breach of trust and misappropriating huge sums of money served his people selflessly was far from the truth.

He urged the court to impose the sentences that would “meet the aggravating factors” such as the “detrimental effect” of the offences on the people of Taraba State, the effects on the economy of the state and the prevalence of such corrupt conduct among public officials in the society.

The judge thereafter took a short break and receded to her chambers at about 2.32pm.

She returned to the courtroom at about 3.03pm to impose the sentences for all the 27 counts on which she had found the ex-governor guilty.

The convict was driven away in a convoy of prison vehicles at about 3.47pm on Wednesday.

Earlier dismissing the convict’s plea for mercy, Justice Banjoko, said she was “morally outraged by the facts of this 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 in a particular day in April 2007, barely one month to the end of his tenure as govenor, Nyame spent over N100m 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 N100m 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 said 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, was 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,” the judge said.

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 valuable thing 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.

Sign of good things to come, says Sagay

Reacting to the judgment, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), described the judgment as a sign of good things to come.

Sagay said since the Administration of Criminal Justice Act was signed into law in 2015, it had become difficult for senior advocates defending influential Nigerians to exploit the justice system.

The PACAC chairman noted that the case against the former Taraba State governor began over eight years ago but his lawyers continued to frustrate the case.

The senior advocate said, “What has happened is that we are beginning to feel the effect of the ACJA. Jolly Nyame’s trial started around 2007 and his lawyers did the usual by trying to sabotage and subvert the process of trial by filing several applications and that was why it took so long.

“Soon, you will begin to hear about more convictions. This marks an end of an era where senior advocates deliberately subvert justice in this country because of the huge pay they receive from the proceeds of crime.”

Sagay said the convict would not be released from prison except on strict health grounds.

“He cannot be free. He will be in prison. The only thing he can do is to apply for bail and that is almost impossible because you must be able to establish that the state of your health is extremely bad that your life may be endangered if you remain in prison,” he said.

Falana hails EFCC, judge, ACJA

A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), also hailed the judgment, noting that the case was concluded on a good note.

He commended the judge for her courage and integrity and the EFCC for its perseverance.

Falana said, “At long last, the case was concluded on a good note. For almost a decade the case was suspended through stay of proceedings.

“But for the abolition of stay of proceedings by Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the case would have been suspended again and again.

“I congratulate the trial judge for her courage and integrity.

“I commend the EFCC for its perseverance.

“I am sure that with the conviction of more VIPs, the prisons will no longer be peopled by the hoi polloi alone.”

Prosecutors have done well – Ubani

Also, the Second Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Monday Ubani, said it “means there is hope if we do things right in this country.”

He hailed the investigating teams, the prosecutors for doing “a thorough job” and the judiciary for doing justice.

Ubani added, “This is what we have been saying that if the investigators do thorough investigations and the prosecutors do the right thing, the judiciary does not have the choice but to send the corrupt persons to jail.

“But don’t let us forget that the defendant has the right to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court. It is after the case has passed through the crucible of the appellate courts and the judgment remains intact that we can begin to boast that we are doing the right thing.”

We’ll react soon, says PDP

When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Kola Ologbodinyan said, “We will make a public statement soon.”

Attempts to get a reaction from the spokesman for the All Progressives Congress, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, were unsuccessful. Calls to his mobile telephone were neither picked nor returned.

A response to a text message sent to him was still being expected as of the time of filing this report at 8.02pm.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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FG Declares June 12 Public Holiday for Democracy Day Celebration

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The Federal Government has declared Wednesday, June 12, a public holiday in commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day celebration.

The announcement was made in a statement signed by Aishetu Ndayako, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Interior, on behalf of Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the Minister of Interior.

The statement urged Nigerians to reflect on the struggles and sacrifices of the nation’s founding fathers and to ensure that Nigeria remains a united, secure, peaceful, and indivisible entity.

“As we mark another Democracy Day in the history of our dear country, let us all reflect on the efforts of our founding fathers and ensure that Nigeria remains a united, secured, peaceful, and indivisible entity,” the statement read.

A Historic Shift

The designation of June 12 as Democracy Day dates back to June 7, 2018, when former President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the day would henceforth be celebrated as Democracy Day.

Prior to this declaration, Democracy Day was observed on May 29, the date marking the inauguration of the Fourth Republic in 1999.

President Buhari’s decision was rooted in the historical significance of June 12, 1993, the day of what is widely regarded as Nigeria’s freest and fairest presidential election.

Despite the election’s annulment by the then-military government, Buhari emphasized that the democratic credentials of the process should be honored.

Honoring a Legacy

To further commemorate the significance of June 12, Buhari posthumously awarded Chief Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the annulled 1993 election, with the nation’s highest honor, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).

The statement from the Ministry of Interior also highlighted President Bola Tinubu’s commitment to implementing positive reforms aimed at reviving Nigeria’s economy and enhancing national security.

A Call for Unity

The Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, called on all citizens and friends of Nigeria to appreciate the progress that has been made in the country’s democratic journey and to look forward to a brighter future.

“As we celebrate Democracy Day, we must appreciate the progress that has been made and remain hopeful for a better future for Nigeria’s democracy,” the minister said.

This year’s Democracy Day comes at a crucial time as Nigeria continues to navigate economic challenges and security concerns. The public holiday on June 12 provides an opportunity for Nigerians to reflect on the importance of democracy and the ongoing efforts to strengthen the nation’s democratic institutions.

As the nation prepares to observe the public holiday, there is a sense of anticipation and hope that the values of democracy will continue to guide Nigeria towards a prosperous and harmonious future.

The government’s declaration serves as a reminder of the enduring legacy of June 12 and the importance of upholding democratic principles.

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Guilty on All 34 Counts: Trump Convicted in Hush Money Case

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In a historic and unprecedented legal decision, former President Donald Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts in his “hush money” trial, making him the first former U.S. president to be convicted of a crime.

The verdict was delivered by a jury of 12 New Yorkers on Wednesday, concluding a six-week trial in Manhattan.

The charges against Trump centered around falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election.

The jury found Trump guilty on all counts, concluding that he authorized a scheme to falsify checks and related documents to keep the alleged affair from becoming public knowledge.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office presented evidence showing that the conspiracy to cover up the payment began during Trump’s 2016 campaign and continued into his first year in the White House.

They argued that Trump, along with his associates, created false records to mislead voters and conceal the payment.

Trump, who has consistently denied having any sexual encounter with Daniels, responded angrily to the verdict. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, he called the trial “a disgrace” and accused the judge of bias.

“This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt,” Trump stated.

He vowed to continue fighting the verdict, saying, “The real verdict is going to be Nov. 5 by the people, and they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here. We’ll fight to the end.”

The conviction comes at a critical time for Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president in the 2024 election. Despite the conviction, there is no constitutional barrier preventing him from running for office again.

Legal experts note that the Constitution’s requirements for presidential candidates—being at least 35 years old, a natural-born citizen, and a U.S. resident for 14 years—do not include any disqualification for being a convicted felon.

Judge Juan Merchan has scheduled Trump’s sentencing for July 11. The defense has until June 13 to submit any motions, with the prosecution required to respond by June 27.

Trump’s legal team indicated they would prefer a sentencing date in mid to late July.

Trump’s conviction adds to the already intense political climate as the nation prepares for the 2024 elections. The trial has drawn significant media attention and public scrutiny, reflecting deep divisions within American society.

The trial highlighted broader issues regarding campaign finance and the use of hush money in politics. It also raises questions about the integrity of presidential candidates and the lengths to which they might go to protect their public image.

As the legal and political ramifications of this verdict unfold, Trump’s conviction on all 34 counts marks a significant chapter in U.S. history.

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President Tinubu to Inaugurate Newly Paved Roads to Apapa, Tin Can Ports

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President Bola Tinubu is set to inaugurate the newly constructed paved roads leading to the Apapa and Tin Can Island ports in Lagos on Saturday.

This development is anticipated to bring significant relief to port users and operators who have endured years of hardship due to the previously dilapidated roads and severe traffic congestion in the area.

The commissioning of these roads marks a major milestone in the government’s efforts to improve infrastructure and boost economic activities around the nation’s busiest ports.

The newly paved roads are expected to enhance the flow of goods and services, reduce operational costs for businesses, and alleviate the chronic traffic bottlenecks that have plagued the Apapa and Tin Can Island areas.

President Tinubu, who is scheduled to arrive in Lagos on Saturday morning, will perform the inauguration as his first assignment of the day.

The ceremony signifies a commitment to addressing the infrastructural challenges that have long hindered the efficiency of Nigeria’s maritime sector.

Mohammed Koko, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), highlighted the importance of this project earlier this year.

He emphasized the NPA’s “zero tolerance for all forms of impediments to the free flow of traffic” and reiterated the agency’s dedication to improving port operations.

“Our zero tolerance for all forms of impediments to free flow of traffic is no fluke,” Koko said, noting that the rehabilitation efforts are aimed at consolidating gains achieved first in Apapa and now extending to Tin Can.

In January 2024, President Tinubu directed the Federal Ministry of Works to urgently and comprehensively repair the access roads to the Lagos Port Complex and Tin-Can Island Port Complex.

The Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, echoed the urgency of this directive, pointing out that the poor condition of the port access roads had significantly increased internal logistics costs for importers and exporters.

“The dilapidated port access roads increase the cost of internal logistics for importers and exporters,” Oyetola noted.

The improved road infrastructure is expected to curb the exodus of businesses from the Apapa and Tin Can Island areas, which had been driven away by the severe logistical challenges.

The restoration of these critical routes is also anticipated to enhance Nigeria’s competitiveness in international trade by facilitating smoother and more efficient port operations.

Following the inauguration of the port access roads, President Tinubu is also scheduled to flag off the Lagos to Calabar coastal road project at Victoria Island in Lagos.

Also, he will virtually inaugurate the newly rehabilitated 3rd Mainland Bridge, further underscoring his administration’s commitment to revitalizing Nigeria’s infrastructure.

The series of inaugurations and project launches underscore a broader strategy to enhance connectivity, reduce operational bottlenecks, and stimulate economic growth through improved infrastructure.

The completion of the Apapa and Tin Can Island port roads is a pivotal step in this direction, promising a new era of efficiency and productivity for Nigeria’s maritime sector.

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