A High Court sitting in Yola, on Monday, sentenced the immediate-past governor of Adamawa State, Mr James Ngilari, to five years in prison without option of fine, after he was found guilty of corrupt practices.
He was specifically charged for violating the provisions of the procurement laws of the state. He became the second former governor since the advent of democratic rule in 1999 to be convicted of corruption. The only other governor convicted was former Governor Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State.
More than 30 other former governors are currently undergoing trial, while one, Chief James Ibori of Delta State, was freed of 180 charges filed against him at the Federal High Court, Asaba, in 2009.
The charges against another former governor, Dr. Peter Odili, who governed Rivers State between 1999 and 2007, have been stymied upon a perpetual injunction obtained by the former governor stopping his trial.
Ngilari was a member of Oputa Panel in 1999. He also served in the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007. He became deputy governor of Adamawa State in 2007 and was impeached together with Governor Murtala Nyako in July 2014. He, however, bounced back as governor on October 9, 2014, after an Abuja High Court reversed his impeachment and ordered that he should be sworn in as governor. He eventually served for seven months during which the offences he was convicted of occurred.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had charged the former governor, along with two of his former aides, Mr Andrew Welye and Sunday Lamurde, Secretary to the State Government, SSG, and Commissioner of Finance respectively under his administration.
The court, presided over by Justice Nathan Musa, however, acquitted Welye and Lamurde for lack of proof of the offenses levelled against them by the anti-graft commission.
Delivering judgement, Musa, said the prosecution had proved its case against the former governor beyond reasonable doubt, adding that Ngilari violated the Public Procurement Act of the state by awarding contract for the procurement of 25 vehicles for his commissioners at the cost of N167 million, without following due process. He said Ngilari’s action amounted to executive lawlessness, and that the five years was the least he could sentence Ngilari.
Ngilari’s counsel, Mr Samuel Toni (SAN), had pleaded for leniency “in view of his (Ngilari’s) invaluable contribution when he was the governor of the state, during the trying moment of insurgency.” Musa said Ngilari would serve the sentence in a prison of his choice in the country “but for, now, he should start with Yola prison.” He expressed hope that the conviction of Ngilari, would serve as a deterrent to serving governors, who never cared to follow due process in the discharge of their duties. “It is my hope that this conviction and sentence will serve as deterrent to serving governors,” he said.
The judge, however, discharged and acquitted Welye and Lamurde, saying that the prosecutor could not prove the charges against them.
I will appeal — Ngilari Speaking to newsmen before he was taken away from the court, Ngilari said that he would appeal the sentence.
It shows success of anti-graft war — Sagay
The conviction of the former governor was welcomed by Prof. Itse Sagay, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, PACAC, who said it was indicative of the fact that the fight against corruption was becoming effective. Sagay said: “The Federal Government, as regards to corruption, has tried, (and) tried in the sense it has shown that the fight against corruption is not selective.
This is a case involving a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and he has not enjoyed any favour at all in the fight against corruption. “Also, there have been a lot of complaints that we only hear of the announcement of people being arrested and newspaper publicity among others. “We only started operating the Criminal Justice Act just late last year and with that improved act, you can see that the speed of convictions and acquittal. The speed of convictions and acquittal has improved and the fight against corruption is becoming effective.”
This is just the beginning for people like Ngilari—Adeniran
Also speaking, the Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said: The conviction is the much-expected progress in the renewed fight against corruption. Before now, many people were pessimistic about the fight against corruption but the renewed vigour has shown that the country was no longer aiding and abetting corrupt practices no matter how powerful the suspects are. What we have seen is different from what we were used to and this Ngiliari example indicates that this is just the beginning for corrupt people like him.”
Former governors still being tried
The list of those reportedly being tried and investigated include: Mr. Jolly Nyame, a former governor of Taraba State who was alleged to have embezzled the sum of N1.3 billion. Senator Danjuma Goje of Gombe State and four others were arraigned in 2011 on conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges for allegedly misappropriating N52 billion of public funds. Ikedi Ohakim, former governor of Imo State, who was accused of making a cash payment to the tune of $2, 290,000.00 (about N270,000,000.00) for the purchase of a property at Plot Number 1098 Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, otherwise known as Number 60, Kwame Nkurumah Street, Asokoro in Abuja.
Dr. Orji Kalu, a former governor of Abia State who is being tried before an Abuja High Court on a 10-count charge bordering on money laundering, official corruption, and diversion of public funds totalling over N5 billion. Senator Joshua Dariye, former governor of Plateau State, who is being tried on a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds belonging to Plateau State. He was accused of diverting about N1.2 billion from the state’s Ecological Fund.
Others are Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State; SaminuTuraki, Jigawa State; Sule Lamido, Jigawa State; Isah Yuguda, Bauchi State; Chimaroke Nnamani, Enugu State; Rasheed Ladoja, Oyo State; Murtala Nyako, Adamawa; and Boni Haruna, Adamawa State. Others are Senator Bukola Saraki, Kwara State; Senator Ahmad Sani, Zamfara State; Gabriel Suswam, Benue State; Martin Elechi, Ebonyi State; Abdullahi Adamu, Nasarawa State; and Gbenga Daniel, Ogun State. Also being tried by the EFCC are Senator George Akume, Benue State; Adebayo Alao-Akala, Oyo State and Ibrahim Shema, Katsina State.
Besides these, nearly all of the former governors have been quizzed by the EFCC over allegations raised against them while in office with investigations at various stages.