By Alex Enumah and Seriki Adinoyi
The war against graft scored another victoryTuesday when former a governor of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, got a 14-year prison term for fraud.
His conviction came less than one month after the imprisonment of former governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba State.
He was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment also by the same Federal Capital City (FCT) High Court, Abuja that put Dariye behind bars.
In her judgment Tuesday, Justice Adebukola Banjoko found Dariye guilty on 15 of the 23-count charge and sentenced him to 14 years imprisonment.
The court found the former governor guilty of criminal breach of trust and sentenced him to 14 years jail term, while handing him another two years on each of the count relating to criminal misappropriation.
The sentences, according to her, are without the option of fine, and would run concurrently.
Dariye was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 23-count criminal charge of diversion of ecological fund meant for Plateau State.
According to the EFCC, the former governor diverted the funds into the account of Ebenezer Retina Venture, which was alleged to be one of the companies through which he allegedly siphoned public funds.
The court in the judgment held that Dariye as a public servant entrusted with and having dominion over N1.1 billion ecological funds for Plateau State, was guilty with the manner the cheque was cleared and disbursed contrary to the real intent of the fund.
The judge in addition, found Dariye guilty of causing his state a loss of over N600 million out of the N1.6 billion ecological fund.
She found that only N550 million out of the N1.6 billion was paid by Dariye to Plateau State Government.
He was found to have diverted N160 million to Ebenezer Retina Ventures, a company owned by him.
While the court dismissed eight counts for want of evidence, it found him guilty on 15 counts including counts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7, among others.
Before his sentencing, his counsel, Paul Erokoro (SAN), pleaded with the court to be lenient with his client but counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, urged the court to hand down the maximum punishment for the crime so as to serve as a deterrent to others.
Dariye clad in white agbada and white cap was driven away in a Toyota Hilux vehicle with registration number HH 433 ABC, Abuja along with a retinue of security men to prison.
Dariye has become the second former governor to be convicted and sentenced for embezzling state funds within the last few weeks.
Only two weeks ago, the same Justice Banjoko had handed down a 14-year jail term without an option of fine to former Taraba State Governor, Nyame, after convicting him on corruption charges
The court said the imposition of the maximum sentence was to serve as deterrence to public office holders.
Dariye, a serving senator, was first elected governor of the state in 1999 under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He was re-elected in 2003, but later impeached by the state House of Assembly in November 2006.
He was elected a senator and re-elected in 2015 but defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2016.
Following judgments of the Appeal and Supreme Courts nullifying his impeachment however, Dariye was ordered to complete his tenure in 2007.
At the expiration of his tenure in May 2007, the EFCC arraigned him on a 21-count.
According to the anti-graft agency, the former governor used his office to siphon money out of the country, through various accounts.
Ahead of his arraignment in 2007, Dariye challenged the competence of the charges against him, but failed at the trial court.
Subsequently the ex-governor approached the Court of Appeal where he also failed in his attempt to stop the trial.
Dariye, who had secured an order for the suspension of his trial at the lower court, also proceeded to the Supreme Court with his appeal.
He was, however, made to continue the trial following an order of the court in 2015, after stalling the case for over seven years.
There were bitter reactions to Dariye’s imprisonment in Jos, capital of the state Thursday with residents expressing sadness that President Muhammadu Buhari did not intervene on his behalf.
The former governor had defected to the ruling APC for refuge like many others that had found cover in the party.
Mr. Moses Kim, a kinsman to the convicted senator said: “We on the Plateau and the Middle Belt know that President Buhari hates us as a people; if Dariye were an Hausa Muslim, and decamped to the APC like he did, Buhari would have shielded him.”
Although the state government has not issued a statement regarding the conviction, THISDAY gathered that the feelers in the Government House was moody and sad, with the staff gathered in groups and discussing in low tones.
Dariye had defected from the PDP to the APC in the state, throwing his weight behind Governor Simon Lalong and President Buhari.
In fact, the former governor was one of the persons who paid glowing tribute to Buhari during his two-day visit to the state earlier this year.
Many of his kinsmen had castigated him for praising the president during his visit while herdsmen were killing in Bokkos, Dariye’s village.