INVESTIGATION: How Taraba, Plateau would have benefited from N2.7 billion convicted ex-governors loot
By Emmanuel Bagudu, Abuja
The white handkerchief, probably deployed to serve the purpose, moves obstreperously on the face of the docked man. The judgment lasted for hours and for most of the period, he decided to hide, maybe control his emotion, all that was let loose in a matter of seconds.
The piece of fabric is certainly doing what it’s deployed to do but this could only be a short term remedy for the reality that has just dawned on then 60-year-old Joshua Dariye, a former governor of Plateau State.
Two among many other actualities are now clear; he would no longer continue as a Senator and more heart-aching, he would spend the next 12 years in the prison. That was in June 2018.
Barely 42 days before this judgment, a contemporary of Dariye suffered the same fate.
Two-term Taraba State Governor, Jolly Nyame was born on Christmas Day, grew up in fold of Christendom, embraced the faith service early in life and later became a Reverend.
All these, with his political experience, could not save him from temptation- the urge to steal from state coffers.
“…I must say that I am morally outraged by the facts of this case; the people of Taraba State had elected the defendant, a clergyman, on three different occasions; their expectations must have been very high.
“How would he begin to explain to the people of Taraba State his actions? How would he explain such a colossal loss to the people?”Abuja Federal High court judge, Adebukola Banjoko, said in her concluding statement.
It’s over a year now since the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) secured the convictions of the two ex-governors in what is adjudged by many as one of the most significant achievements of the anti graft agency since its establishment in 2003.
This piece explores what could have changed in Plateau, Taraba States had the stolen N2.7 billion been channeled to developmental projects?
Nyame, the ‘common thief’
First to be convicted was ex-governor Jolly Nyame Whose name goes with the appellation of a Christian title ‘Reverend’. A total of 41 count charges was preferred against him out of which the court found him guilty of 27 bordering on criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation and gratification.
He was found guilty of looting a total of N1.64 Billion in the course of the trial, which lasted for 11 years (2007-2018).
In her 288 page judgement on Nyame, Trial Judge, Adebukola Banjoko, took a close scrutiny of Nigeria’s Regulatory Laws, Directions and Guidelines to determine whether the actions taken by Nyame as governor from 1999 to 2007 were in strict compliance with laws of the country.
The Judge began with the 1999 constitution where she said the court found Nyame guilty of violating his oath office which he swore before the people of Taraba “to discharge his duties to the best of his abilities faithfully and in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Law.”
The court also found Nyame guilty of violating his oath to abide by the “Code of conduct contained in the fifth schedule of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
In doing all these, the Trial Judge first of all faulted Nyame’s attempt to distance himself from a company named Salman Global Ventures Limited and its Managing Director Ibrahim Abubakar who on instruction of the convicted ex-governor received a total of N340 Million within five months.
The judge said the totality of evidence adduced in the case showed Nyame had close relationship with the company’s MD and so committed the offence of criminal breach of trust.
More on Nyame’s Crime according to Justice Banjoko was the spending of over N100 Million to host the then president of Nigeria.
The judge said “….over N100 Million was spent in a day for the visit of one man who was President who was not God in April 2007, when he was expected to vacate office in May 2007”. She added that “this is just one in the catalogue of crimes he (Nyame) committed”.
Rounding up her judgment Justice Banjoko also found Nyame guilty of several criminal misappropriation which when added up will amount to the total sum of N1.64 Billion. She said without mincing words that there was “Crazy level of corruption in the air in the state” during Nyame’s administration adding that “the defendant (Nyame) behave like a common thief”.
What N1.64 billion could have done for Taraba
Since this landmark judgment, the anti-graft agency and indeed the Nigerian government have received several applauses from within and outside the country. While the applauses keep ‘ringing in’, the damages and injuries inflicted by Nyame’s loot in Taraba remains conspicuous.
Considering that his administration started just after the demise of a highly corrupt military era, one would expect the now over 2,294,800,000 people of Taraba state to enjoy democratic dividends. But this was not to be so.
The N1.64 Billion looted by Nyame is a very significant figure to the people of Taraba state. Its value and what it can do in changing the lives of the people of Taraba cannot be overlooked.
Starting with the grassroots in the state; Bali local government area which is the biggest among the 16 local government areas in the State received a total of N29,488, 728, 315.10 from May 1999 to June 2017, i.e 18 years, according to a report from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).
If this amount is divided by 18 years, it means that each year, Bali LGA gets N1,638,262,684 approximately. This is almost the same amount Nyame looted in his eight years in office.
This implies that Bali LGA which is predominantly made of peasant farmers, and lower class workers have each year from 1999 to 2017 survived on the same amount stolen by one person.
In another record, the smallest local government in Taraba state which is Yorro LGA received N18,002,476,091.40 for 18 years according to another FAAC report. If this is divided by 18 years, it will mean that Yorro LGA approximately receives N1 billion yearly which is not up to ex-governor Nyame’s total loot of N1.64 Billion. The below records gotten from the FAAC says it all.
Infograph 1: To show that Bali and Yorro could have yearly survived on Nyame’s loot
In the area of mass literacy in Taraba, a good fraction of Nyame’s N1.64 billion loot could have done a lot in the Taraba education sector. The capital allocation of Nigeria’s 2017 budget indicates that with just N10,000,000, a block of 2 classrooms with a VIP toilet can be constructed.
With this cost, the state will build at least 164 blocks containing two classrooms with the N1.64 billion loot.
These blocks of classrooms will in turn house 60 students going by the global standard of classroom population which is 30 per class.
The current number of out of school children in Taraba state is estimated to be around 650,000. This figure is arrived at by averaging the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF’s) May 2019 report which suggests 10 states including Taraba and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have eight million out-of-school children.
Assuming the N1.64 billion is funneled to primary education alone, about ten thousand pupils will be housed comfortably in 30-per-class buildings.
NYAME’S LOOT AND TARABA’S BUDGET
Delving into the breakdown of the 2019 budget of Taraba, it is obvious that out of the N71,595,192,999 billion recurrent expenditure of the budget, several ministries, departments, and agencies in the state can thrive on the N1.64 billion Nyame’s loot.
A review of the budget suggests the ex-governor’s loot is way more than the allocation to four of the government agencies and ministries picked randomly.
The Primary Health Care Development Agency for instance was allocated N75, 067,534 million, the Taraba Community and Social, Development Project got just N6,000,000, Ministry of Agric and Natural Resources N806,610, 388 while the Ministry of Education was allocated N144, 178, 635.
This infograph shows that a total of N1,031,856,557 was allocated to four MDAs in the year under review and this amount is not up to the ex-governor’s loot.
Senator Dariye Jailed
Under ex-governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, ecological funds released by the federal government got missing thereby causing the state serious environmental crisis.
Dariye who was a serving Senator as at the time of his conviction was found guilty of 15 out of the 23 count criminal charges the EFCC preferred against him.
Trial Judge Adebukola Banjoko in her verdict said the ex-governor criminally misappropriated funds and acted in violent breach of public trust and his oath of office.
The court faulted the heavy inflows of funds into an unregistered company account owned by Dariye named Ebenezer Retnar Ventures. The funds which are in hundreds of millions comes from the Plateau State government accounts domicile at the Lion Bank, now Diamond Bank.
The court agrees with the prosecution that N1.126 Billion Ecological funds meant for reclamation and rechannelization was diverted into different private accounts by Dariye and is convinced that Dariye was guilty as charge of dishonest misappropriation and criminal breach of trust.
Amongst Funds Dariye was busy transferring to his company’s accounts also included money from the Plateau State Water Board. This explains why a good number of areas in the state suffers from lack of portable drinking water.
Some areas in communities like Janta Adamu in Jos North Local Government area, gura-top bukuru in Jos South LGA, Riyom in Barkin Ladi LGA, Pankshin in Pankshin LGA to mention just a few are typical examples of areas suffering from dearth of portable drinking water.
In her verdict, Justice Banjoko without mincing words described Dariye’s act as a “brazen act of systemic looting”. She noted that Dariye at a point was “richer than his state (plateau)”. She added that Dariye’s trips and subsequent spending and arrest in London was an act of “absolute pointless visit and reckless squandering of public funds, exhibiting ignorance of international laws and norms.”
Squandering ecological funds of up to N1.126 Billion meant for reclamation and rechannelization is not a small damage done to Plateau State. Reclamation and rechannelization of the ecosystem in the Jos Plateau was necessary during Dariye’s Regime.
This was as a result of human and naturally induced stress such as Tin mining and heavy rainfall which have degraded soils on the Jos Plateau.
This has made agricultural and infrastructural development in the state very difficult. Such degradation problems were also caused by deforestation, inappropriate farming system, bush burning and overgrazing which are hostile to the environment.
The impact of tin mining is the biggest factor that greatly affected the natural ecology in major areas in the Jos Plateau. It could be recalled that since the advent of incessant flooding due to this environmental degradation, the federal government synergized on different occasions to do channelization of ecological features in the state.
The need to engage in a rechannelization to tame the continued damage of the ecology in plateau state mostly done by flood prompted the federal government’s release of the N1.126 Billion Dariye squandered.
Considering the advantages of rechannelization which revolves round taming flood there by creating healthy soil for agricultural activities as well as upgrading the entire ecosystem, one will agree that N1.126 billion looted ecological fund has led to great looses since the advent of incessant flooding in the Jos Plateau.
Damages caused by flood from 2001 till date as a result of the looted ecological fund reveals how grievous Dariye’s crime is.
The most recent serious damage caused by flood in the Jos Plateau is in 2017 when the Plateau State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) revealed that 10 persons lost their lives, 7,342 persons got displaced from 832 villages, while 1,153 houses and properties estimated at N54,240,000 were destroyed in the April and July Floods.
These according to a former law maker who pleaded anonymity were conservative figures. This is just one among the many natural disasters caused by the several ecological defects in plateau state.
How Plateau poor population could have benefitted from Dariye’s loot
This analysis will start with two critical ministries in the state; health and water.
Delving into the plateau state budget of 2017; about N498,153,954 was the approved as recurrent estimate for the plateau state ministry of Health while N589,258,671 goes for the Plateau State Water Board.
A sum of allocation to these two ministries shows that Mr Dariye stole what the whole state could have benefitted in terms of health care and water management in 2017.
These recurrent allocations for 1 year are not up to the N1.26 Billion Loot ex-governor Dariye was convicted for. This implies that the ex-governor looted funds that can avail his state with portable drinking water as well as a viable health programme for a year.
On infrastructure, the 17 local governments of Plateau State could have enjoyed more physical transformation with Dariye’s N1.126 billion loot.
Construction experts who spoke to this reporter gave the average cost of one kilometer drainage at N1.8 Million. From N1.6 billion, the state can build up to 889 kilometres of drainage. This definitely could have solved part of the ecological problems.
With a N1.6 million per kilometer rate given by experts, plateau will have at least 1,000 kilometres of roads spanning across many local governments.
For a state well-known for water related problems, channeling the whole loot to provision of water could have resulted in immense benefit.
Our expert put the price of a manual borehole at N600, 000 while the automatic, accompanied with a pumping machine cost N1.5 Million naira.
If Dariye had decided to use this money for automatic boreholes, a little above 1 thousand of these would have been sunk across the state. By precise calculation, the state would have 1, 069 boreholes spread across the 16 local governments in the state. Each will get around 67.
There most likely will be a surplus if the state decides to go by the way of manual. With single cost of N600, 000 about 2, 667 boreholes. Each local government could benefit as much as 167 each.
Enforcement of Court Judgement on Dariye, Nyame
It’s over a year now since the conviction of the two ex-governors and the EFCC said it will make sure that all the terms of the various sentences and conviction are met. Acting Spokesman of the EFCC Tony Orilade stated this on Monday July 8, 2019.
According to Orilade; “Enforcement of court pronouncement in respect of a convict who is sentenced to serve prison term is not negotiable; more so that the subject matter, is already serving the prescribed jail term. I am sure if you go to Kuje Prison, the convicts will “host you”.”
Asked whether the looted properties have been forfeited to the respective states as ordered by the court Orilade said the process is ongoing. He said; “Remember they went on appeal after the judgement at the High Court, and their convictions were upheld with ‘slight modification’ by the Appeal Court.
The wheel of justice may be slow, but it is certain”. The EFCC could not disclosed whether Plateau and Taraba where handed over properties looted by the convicted governors.
CSOs berate corrupt ex-governors
While the two ex-governors head for their second year in prison, the civil society community in Nigeria have expressed disappointments at their conducts while in power.
Monday Osasah, the Acting Executive Director, Centre For Leadership, Strategy And Development said the judgement will serve as deterrence to others.
“The conviction will serve as deterrent to corrupt public office holders,” he said. “If the capacity to deliver services is crushed, then the country will be heading to serious crises. Any country that must grow, must invest in Education, Health, Agriculture and Infrastructure and any governor that sabotaged these must face the wrath of the law.” Osasah said.
On his part, Hamzaat Lawal, founder of Connected Development, a citizen engagement group, wants the jail terms to be elongated while describing the ex-governors’ offences as grievous.
He said, “a lot of people have lost their lives, lost their potentials, women died, the court would have given a more capital punishment. Senator Dariye was still receiving salary while in Prison, this is very bad. I also think that special court should be designed for corruption cases…..”
“THIS INVESTIGATION REPORT WAS SUPPORTED BY THE PREMIUM TIMES CENTRE FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM”