By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – An Abuja High Court at Gudu, on Tuesday, held that the former Governor of Taraba State, Reverend Jolly Nyame, who was accused of looting public funds to the tune of N1.64billion, has a criminal case to answer.

The court said it was satisfied that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has established a prima-facie case capable of warranting the former governor to enter his defence to a 41-count money laundering charge pending against him.

Consequently, trial Justice Adebukola Banjoko ordered Nyame to be prepared to enter his defence before the high court on March 8.

Rev Nyame

The Judge further dismissed a no-case-submission that was made by the defendant who contended that EFCC failed to by way of credible evidence, nail him to the alleged fraud.

“having had a close look at the evidence and exhibits, I hold that this case requires the defendant to provide information and give explanation with regards to evidence presented by the prosecution, and so he is ordered to enter into his defence in the interest of justice”, Justice Banjoko held.

Nyame had on January 18, through his lawyer, Mr. Charles Edosomwan, SAN, prayed the court to strike out the charge and discharge him on the basis that the prosecution was unable to effectively discharge the burden of proof placed on it by the law.

However, in a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Banjoko held that Nyame’s contention was bereft of merit.

The court said the defendant has questions to answer regarding allegation that he diverted public funds while he held sway as Taraba state governor.

EFCC had on November 22, 2016, closed its case after it called14 witnesses that testified against the defendant.

The prosecution told the court that the former governor perpetuated the fraud between January 2005 and May 2007.

The trial culminated from a petition jointly signed by one Umar Baba and Kelas Obadia, entitled “Taraba State in a mess, the Commissioner of Finance goofed” written on behalf of concerned citizens of the state.

Nyame whose trial commenced since 2005, earlier went to the Supreme Court to quash charges against him. He was turned down by the apex court on March 5, 2010.

He was among other things, accused of diverting N180million out of N250million meant for the purchase of stationeries by Taraba State government between January and February 2005, as a reward for the award of the contract to USAB International (Nig.) Ltd and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 115, 309 and 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 laws of Federation of Nigeria 1990.

Among those that testified before the court were former finance commissioner in Taraba State during his administration, Mr. Abubakar Tutare, a compliance officer with Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Olubunmi Ogunode, as well as the Permanent Secretary to Taraba State government, Mr Dennis Okuma Nev.

Nev told the court that he was at a time, compelled to raise three separate memos for the withdrawal of N100m, which he said was used by Nyame to host former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he visited the state in 2001.

Similarly, an Accountant with the Rural Electrification Board in Jalingo, Taraba State, Mr. Abdulrahman Mohammed, narrated before the court, how the ex-governor used his name to withdraw N282m from Zenith Bank PLC, using 20 separate cheques.
Mohammed said the illicit transactions took place between 2005 and 2007 when he functioned as an accountant in charge of Taraba State liaison office in Abuja.

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