The Supreme Court on Friday in Abuja upheld the conviction of a former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye on the charges of criminal breach of trust filed against him by the Federal Government.
While upholding his ten years imprisonment and conviction by the Court of Appeal, the Apex Court however quashed the criminal misappropriation of funds against him.
Delivering judgment in an appeal filed by the former governor, Justice Helen Ogunwumiju held that the Court of Appeal and a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory were right in their findings in the criminal breach of trust filed against the ex-governor under Section 315 of the Penal Code.
Justice Ogunwumiju in the unanimous judgment prepared by Justice Ejembi Eko which she read, however, disagreed with the two Lower Courts in their findings on the misappropriation of funds and subsequently quashed it.
The misappropriation of funds brought against Dariye under Section 309 of the Penal Code carries a maximum of two years imprisonment.
Report indicated that Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the High Court of the FCT had in 2018 sentenced Dariye to 14 years in the criminal breach of trust, but was reduced to ten years by the Court of Appeal.
The two years imprisonment imposed on the former governor in the charges of misappropriation of funds was also reduced to one year by the Appellate Court
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Mary Peter Odili, had, after hearing Dariye’s appeal on December 17 2020, fixed judgment for March 12 2021.
Dariye had by his appeal, prayed the Apex Court to upturn the November 16 2018 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which convicted him and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment for diverting public funds estimated at N1.162billion while he was the Governor.
A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Stephen Adah, in its decision, upheld an earlier judgment by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT High Court delivered on June 12 2018
The Court convicted Dariye on 15 counts relating to the offences of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation, contained in the 23-count charge on which he was tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
While upholding Dariye’s conviction, the Court of Appeal said that the EFCC prosecution team, led by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) effectively proved its allegation of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation against the ex-governor.
The Appeal Court however faulted the trial Court for convicting Dariye on counts 12 and 23, which it said the prosecution did not prove.
The Appellate Court also faulted the trial Court for imposing the maximum sentences on both offences of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation.
The Appeal Court proceeded to reduce the 14 years sentence for the offence of criminal breach of trust to 10 years and reduced the two years sentence for criminal misappropriation to one year.
While arguing the appeal before the Supreme Court on December 17 last year, Dariye’s lawyer and former Attorney-General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi (SAN), asked the Court to either reverse his client’s conviction or reduce the 10-year jail term handed him by the Court of Appeal.
Agabi had after adopting his written argument, prayed the Court to allow his client’s appeal and set aside Dariye’s conviction and sentence.
He argued that Dariye’s conviction was speculative and urged the Court to show mercy on him.
Agabi said, “Here is a man sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. 10 years is more than a lifetime for some people. You should show him mercy.”
He however added that, should the Court be minded to disallow the appeal and affirm the decision of the Court of Appeal, it should reduce the sentence substantially.
But Jacobs countered and urged the Court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the concurrent findings of the two Lower Courts.
Jacobs contended that a public servant was not better than the common man in the eyes of the law.
He said, “As for the sentence passed, it has been reduced to 10 years. That he (the appellant) is a public servant does not mean he should go free.”
The Supreme Court in the judgment upheld Dariye’s conviction only on count one which borders on criminal breach of trust and quashed the rest 14 charges.