From Government House To Prison: Jolly Nyame’s road to prison

It could be recalled that former governor of Taraba state, Rev. Jolly T Nyame, was convicted by the supreme court to 12 years in prison on 7th February  for alleged fraud of 1.3 billion. The sentenced had generated a lot of reactions from different quarters.

The former governor of Taraba State was first docked on a 41-court charge in July 2007. He was alleged to have embezzled N1.3 billion. A graphic illustration of how he perpetuated the act was given by one Mr. Dennis Nev, a staff of the Taraba State Government House.

The witness told the court how Nyame directed him to raise the sum of N100 million being an amount proposed for the preparations of the visit of then President Olusegun Obasanjo to the state in 2006. He also told the court how he used discretion and raised three different memos for the former governor in which he requested for N323 million, N27 million and N42 milllion respectively, listing vehicle maintenance, overhaul of power generating sets, security arrangements, general facelift of the capital city (Jalingo), sanitation, civil works, souvenirs and honorarium as the purposes for which the money was to be used.

Nev, further told the court that upon the receipt of the three memos, Nyame approved the release of the funds and ordered him to bring the monies to his office, an order he complied with and added that the funds were never used for the purposes for which they were approved. Nyame was also alleged to have collected N180 million from USAB International Nigeria Limited, a kick back money from a N250 million contract awarded to the company for the supply of stationeries to the state government between January and February 2005.

Though the trial was initially delayed over technicalities, 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.
The trial emanated from a petition jointly signed by Messrs Umar Baba and Kelas Obadia, entitled “Taraba State in a mes, the commissioner of Finance goofed,” written on behalf of concerned citizens of the state, Nyame pleaded not guilty to the charge, which he insisted was not only incompetent, but brought against him in bad faith. But, he was found guilty on 27 out of the 41-counts on May 30, by a Federal High court in Abuja, presided by Justice Adebukola Banjoko.

In a 300-page judgement that lasted for over six hours, the judge not only sentenced the former governor to 14 years imprisonment that would run concurrently, but asked him to refund the monies he diverted. His plead for leniency was turned down on ground that the court was “morally outweighed by facts of the case.”
Justice Banjoko held: “Citizens of Taraba had elected the defendant, a clergyman, in three separate occasions to govern them, which shows constant level of trust. The expectation must have been so high.

As a reverend, he must have been seen as an epitome of morality, piety and everything good. How will Reverend Nyame begin to explain to people of Taraba State his actions and inactions? How can he justify causing such a colossal loss to the state?” She added that the court would be failing in its responsibility if it fails to impose the full sanction.

“The evidence before the court showed that while officials that served under the defendant were returning their loot to the EFCC after they were questioned, the defendant was still busy committing more crime. One of such crimes included N100 million the defendant withdrew from the state treasury to host former President Olusegun Obasanjo,who paid a one-day visit to Taraba State in 2007.

“After a careful examination of all the evidence, prosecution tendered before the court, it is my opinion that either the defendant entered into office without a corrupt mind and became corrupted, or he was corrupted ab initio.

There was such a crazy level of corruption in the air in Taraba State Ministry of Finance. It is, however, amazing that none of the officials were arraigned,” Justice Banjoko held. A classical case of an epic fall, Nyame, born in 1955 in Zing, Taraba State, is an ordained clergy of the United Methodist Church of Nigeria. He later joined politics in 1991, contested for the governorship position of Taraba State in 1992 and won.

His term as governor was short-lived, when the military aborted the Third Republic in November 1993.Fortune, however, smiled on him again in 1999, with the country’s return to civil rule.

Nyame contested that year’s general elections as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and won. He was reelected in 2003, making him the only individual to have won three governorship elections in Taraba State.
After serving out his tenure in 2007, Nyame anointed his then Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Danbaba Suntai (now late) as his successor. The latter won, but typical of political relationship between godfathers and their godsons, it did not take long before they fell apart as Suntai began to build his own political structure independent of his predecessor immediately he settled in office.

The turnaround in events forced Nyame to dump the PDP for the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011, perhaps to seek his pound of flesh from Suntai though he explained then that he decided to step aside from the party “as a matured person” due to pressure, which he did not want to contend with at that time.

However, his bid for a senatorial seat to represent Taraba North failed following a defeat by Aisha Alhassan (former Minister of Women Affairs) then of the PDP.
The former governor staged a comeback to the PDP in 2013, with the hope of re-contesting the senatorial seat that Alhassan was leaving then to contest for governorship election after her defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC), but he lost out in the race.

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