Unusual calm as Supreme Court affirms Nyame’s conviction, sentence
• Sets Aside Fine Earlier Imposed On Him
There was an unusual calm and disappointment among followers and remaining loyalists of former Taraba State governor, Rev. Jolly Nyame, following yesterday’s Supreme Court affirmation of his conviction and sentence.
Nyame’s friends and wells-wishers had arrived the court premises in two buses, hoping that the apex court would discharge and acquit the former governor. Their hopes were, however, dashed when the court affirmed the conviction and sentences. And like ice, they melted quietly out of the court premises.
Nyame was convicted in 2018 by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Court of Appeal, respectively, over N1.6billion fraud charge brought against him by the federal government.
In a unanimous judgment read by Justice Amina Augie, the five-member panel of Justices of the apex court, presided by Justice Mary Peter Odili, however, set aside all the fines imposed on Nyame by the Court of Appeal.
Nyame had appealed against the November 16, 2018 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, which affirmed his conviction by the FCT High Court in Gudu, in a judgment delivered on May 30, 2018 by Justice Adebukola Banjoko, convicting Nyame on 27 out of the 41 counts contained in the charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in July 2007.
He was convicted on 16-count charge of criminal breach of trust, nine-count of criminal misappropriation, one-count of gratification and one-count of accepting a valuable thing without consideration and converting Taraba State’s funds estimated at N1.64 billion.
The trial court sentenced him to a cumulative period of 28 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
A breakdown of the sentence included 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 in its November 16, 2018 judgment on the appeal No. CA/A/658C/2018, the Court of Appeal affirmed Nyame’s conviction and the order for the forfeiture of his identified asset, but faulted the trial court in its decision to impose maximum sentences.
The appellant court held that since Nyame was found to be a first time offender, the trial court ought not have imposed the maximum sentences.
The appeal court consequently reduced the 14 years sentence to 12 years; the seven years was cut to five years; the five years was reduced to three years, while the sentence of two years was reduced to one year and nine months.
The appellant court, however, went further to impose various fines on Nyame, the highest being N100 million, holding that the trial court, by virtue of Section 315 of the Criminal Code Act, ought to have imposed a fine on the governor, in view of the gravity of the offence leveled against him, so as to serve as deterrence.
But the apex court felt differently, as it held that the lower court was wrong in imposing the fine on the appellant, saying it ought to have heard from Nyame, who appealed for the reduction of the sentence imposed on him by the trial court, before imposing all the fines on him.
“In the overall analysis, the judgment of the lower court is hereby affirmed, but the fine imposed on the appellant is set aside,” Justice Augie held.
The Justice, however, affirmed the guilt and conviction of the ex-governor by upholding the court of appeal’s reduction of the 14 years’ imprisonment to 12 years jail term.
Justice Augie held that Nyame’s appeal succeeded in part and that “allowing the appeal in its entirety is a tall order, but there is no question that the fines were a nullity.”
In its judgment delivered on November 16, 2018, the court of appeal affirmed the guilt of the former governor, but citing Section 416 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, which prohibits the imposition of maximum sentences on first offenders, reduced the 14 years’ imprisonment to 12 years.
In addition to the 12 years sentence, however, the Justice Abdul Aboki-led panel of the Court of Appeal imposed a fine on Nyame, a punishment the trial court had omitted in the judgment delivered on May 30, 2018.
The former governor appealed against the judgment of the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court, where his Counsel, Ahmed Raji (SAN), on November 14, last year, urged the court to allow the appeal.
But Counsel representing the anti-graft agency, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), urged the court to dismiss it.