Recall that on 7 February 2020, the Supreme Court of Nigeria affirmed the conviction and sentencing of Reverend Jolly Tevoru Nyame, the former Governor of Taraba State, for criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation, taking gratification as a public servant, and obtaining a valuable thing, as a public servant, without consideration. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged him to court upon discovering dubious and fraudulent wrongdoings and transactions running into hundreds of millions of Naira involving the former Governor while in office. He was arrested and arraigned shortly after he vacated office on 29 May 2007.

The former Governor (and first Governor of Taraba State) remains the only Governor in Nigeria to be elected Governor on three different occasions. Nyame won the 1992 governorship election, but his term as Governor in 1992 was truncated by the military. In 1999, he contested as a governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and won. Nyame was later re-elected in 2003. He thus holds the record as the only individual to have won three governorship elections in Taraba State.

The full text of the Judgment of the Supreme Court has now been reported by the most trusted Nigerian Law Reports, the Nigerian Weekly Law Report (NWLR) – Rev. Jolly Tevoru Nyame v. Federal Republic of Nigeria [2021] 6 NWLR (Pt. 1772) 289.

At page 390 of the report, Hon. Justice Nweze, JSC was unequivocal:

My Lords, I, entirely, agree with the learned trial Judge who, in sentencing the Appellant, said inter alia: “I am morally outraged with the facts of this case. The Citizens of Taraba State elected Reverend Jolly Tevoru Nyame, a Clergyman, as Governor on three separate occasions which showed a consistent level of trust in him. Their expectations were so high, and as a Reverend, he must have been seen as an epitome of morality, piety, honesty, and everything good… The evidence showed that the defendant and his cohorts behaved like common thieves with unbridled greed…” The monumental corruption the Appellant, a man of God condoned while in office, scandalized Taraba State indigenes. Beyond them, however, the entire Christians in Nigeria were, equally, shocked by this unfortunate state of affairs. The conviction, and the ultimate sentence imposed on him, were thus deserving comeuppance for his greed!!!

By the above, the Supreme Court actually affirmed ex-Governor Rev. Nyame’s new title of a common thief with unbridled greed

Interestingly, while his case was pending, reports had it that Rev. Nyame still tried to secure a seat in the Nigerian Senate in 2011 and 2015 but failed. The affirmation of his conviction and sentencing by the Supreme Court on 7/2/2020 has become the final nail on his coffin. It is hoped that lessons were learnt. But at the same time, doubtful. The severity of a term of imprisonment and/or fine given to corrupt politicians and public servants like Nyame, do not appear to be sufficient to serve as deterrent. Otherwise, there would have been a drastic reduction in the level of corruption that our country, Nigeria, is grappling with. Monumental corruption should be visited with monumental punishment.

Instead of upholding morality, piety, honesty, and everything good, Nyame upheld immorality, impiety, dishonesty and everything bad against his people. A clergyman lost the chance to prove that when the righteous is on the throne, the people rejoice. 

Though a Reverend who probably believes in the power of the resurrection, Rev. Nyame’s political career and prestige has now received befitting burial and may never rise again.


Featured Image Credit: PremiumTimes

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.

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