A former Governor of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, who was being prosecuted by the EFCC for a N1.16bn fraud has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for criminal breach of trust and two years for misappropriation of public funds.
In a Press statement, Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal High Court, Abuja, before whom he was standing trial for a 23-count amended charge, found him guilty of 15 of the counts bordering on criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds, but discharged him on eight.
The judge, however, ruled that all the sentences would run concurrently, implying that the convict would have to spend 14 years in jail.
Dariye, who was first arraigned before the Judge on July 13, 2007, had his application to quash the charges dismissed.
He proceeded to the Court of Appeal, but failed before proceeding to the Supreme Court, which on February 27, 2015 dismissed his application and reprimanded him, condemning his application as “a disservice to the criminal process” in Nigeria.
The Apex Court also ordered “accelerated hearing” of the fraud case against him, thus necessitating the continuation of his trial on January 25, 2016 before Justice Banjoko.
Dariye was accused by the EFCC to have diverted about N1.16 billion Ecological Fund meant for the state, to his personal use, including transferring monies to Ebenezer Retnan Ventures (an unregistered company managed by him) and Pinnacle Communications Limited.
In proving its case against Dariye, the prosecution team led by Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, called 10 witnesses, including Musa Sunday, the EFCC investigating officer, and Peter Clark, a detective constable with the UK Metropolitan Police in London, who investigated Dariye in the UK for money laundering offence.
Presenting several documents in court, including bank documents, the prosecution established that Ebenezer Retnan Ventures was not a registered company, and that its account opening process with then All States Trust Bank, was riddled with irregularity indicating “dishonest intent” for opening the account.
The defence team, which was initially led by G.S. Pwul, SAN, before Kanu Agabi, SAN, later stepped in at the tail end of the trial, presented 16 witnesses in its defence.
In the allocution of the defence, which was made by Paul Erokoro, SAN who stood in for Agabi, he urged the court to temper justice with mercy, arguing that the Bank in question “misled the governor” into engaging in such practice of “private banking”.
In its counter-argument, Jacobs, called on the Court to consider the “aggravating factors” on the state, arguing that Dariye “exploited his position as a public servant and took government money and misappropriated it.”
Jacobs, further noted that indeed, the prisons are congested but they are congested with poor people, the big men are not there and that’s why they are congested because those who are in power and supposed to do something about it have not done anything.
In addition to the sentencing, Justice Banjoko also ordered that N80 million so far recovered by the EFCC be returned to the Plateau State’s coffers.