A Nigerian former state governor was today found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 14 years in prison after a long-running trial lasting more than a decade. Jolly Nyame was convicted of 27 out of 41 charges at the Federal High Court in the capital, Abuja, bringing to an end a case that began in May 2007 over theft of $12.2m (Sh1.2bn).
Judge Adebukola Banjoko said the former governor of Taraba state in northeastern Nigeria had behaved “like a common thief with an unbridled greed”.
“I am morally outraged with the fact of this case,” he told the court, adding that even when an investigation into his activities began in 2006, he kept on offending.
“That makes him a non-repentant sinner or the most audacious chief executive Nigeria ever had.”
Nyame, a church pastor, was accused of looting a total of some 1.64 billion naira — the equivalent at the time of $12.2 million (around Sh1.2 billion) — during his eight years in office from 1999.
He was one of 15 former governors who left office in 2007 to be questioned at the end of their tenures by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission anti-corruption agency.
Judge Banjoko blamed a “crazy level of corruption in the air in Taraba” for Nyame’s actions and said there was “no legal or moral justification for the level of that outright theft”.
He said he hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent to other public officials.
Nyame was handed a 14-year sentence for criminal breach of trust; seven for gratification; five for dishonesty; and two for criminal misappropriation.
All sentences were to run concurrently.
Nyame’s case pre-dates the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, who has been on an anti-corruption drive since he came to power in 2015.
Last year, another former state governor, James Bala Ngilari, was jailed for five years for irregularities in a procurement contract. He was later released on appeal.
Ngilari had stepped up to take over from Murtala Nyako as governor of northeastern Adamawa state in 2014 after the latter was impeached on allegations of financial irregularity.
Nyako’s trial is ongoing.