The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Gudu, Abuja, on Tuesday, sentenced a former Governor of Plateau State and serving senator, Joshua Dariye, to 14 years’ imprisonment on charges of criminal breach of trust and criminal appropriation of the state’s funds running to over N2bn.
Justice Adebukola Banjoko, in a judgment which took her six and a half hours to read on Tuesday, convicted the ex-governor on 15 out the 23 counts preferred against him in July 2007.
The judge, barely a fortnight ago, imposed 14 years’ jail term on ex-Governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame, on similar charges.
On Tuesday, she sentenced Dariye to two years’ imprisonment on each of the five counts bordering on criminal misappropriation and 14 years’ jail term on each of the 11 counts of criminal breach of trust.
The judge, however, ruled that all the sentences would run concurrently, implying that the convict would have to spend 14 years in jail.
The punishments imposed on the ex-governor for the two categories of offences of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation are the maximum as provided under sections 315 and 309 of the Penal Code Act, respectively.
In all, the judge convicted him on 15 counts while she threw out eight of the total 23 charges on the grounds of either duplicity of charges or lack of sufficient evidence.
“I can’t imagine such a brazen act. Is it the transfer of as much as about half a billion naira from the state’s Ecological Fund into a personal venture account? Everybody is a victim here,” the judge said.
She said from a random check of some documents tendered as exhibits, she discovered that “the defendant was, in fact, richer than his state.”
She added, “This is a trauma of the trial; and there should be no compromise to corruption, by whatever shade or colour, or region, rich or poor; corruption will forever be corruption.
“Every case is different on its own, and I have no personal animosity, I’m just doing my job the way I know how to, and not only the Ecological Funds were misappropriated, but funds from the Plateau State government.”
The judgment, which came at the end of about 10-year trial, saw over eight years of delay caused by the trip Dariye’s appeals attacking the validity and the competence of the charges took from the trial court to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court even as he lost all the way.
It also came over 13 years after Dariye was said to have jumped bail in London, the United Kingdom, where he was investigated for alleged crimes including money laundering.
Dariye, a chartered accountant, who served between 1999 and 2007, was arraigned in July 2007.
Dariye was said to have, on behalf of Plateau State, on July 19, 2001, collected a cheque for the sum N1‚161,162,900 from the Ecological Funds Office in Abuja, and deposited the cheque with his banker, the defunct Allstates Trust Bank Plc, Abuja branch, where he was said to be operating an account in the name of an unregistered company, Ebenezer Retnan Ventures.
He was said to have cleared the funds with the bank “without paying the cheque into the account of Plateau State Government.”
Following her analysis of the testimonies and exhibits tendered, the judge also said Dariye took steps to hide from the state government the source of the fund, which was released by the Federal Government “to address the ecological problems of the state.”
The fund was released for the “flood channelisation” and “reclamation” of some mining-ravaged parts of the state.
But Dariye was said to have paid only N550m from the over 1.16bn to the state account.
The judge noted in her judgement that the ex-governor converted the balance to his personal use and for his party, the Peoples Democratic Party.
He was convicted for transferring N160m to his unregistered company known as Ebenezer Retnan Ventures on July 11, 2001.
He was said to have paid N80m into the Union Home account of the then Permanent Secretary of Ecological Funds, Mr. Kingsley lkumah; N100m into the account of Marine Float Limited, a company owned by a former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar.
He also transferred another N100, 000,000.00 to the Peoples Democratic Party, South-West, through the then Minister of Special Duties, Yomi Edu.
Apart from the ecological funds, there were also funds belonging to the state’s Accountant-General’s Office, which Dariye was said to have diverted.