Fashion



By  Tunde Ajaja

A former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, who was recently released from the Kuje Correctional Centre after he was granted state pardon by the Federal Government, has described freedom as a priceless gift he would always appreciate.

Speaking in an interview aired on Channels Television’s News Night on Monday evening, Dariye said his travail was politically motivated and that there were people who committed more grievous criminal offences that were not sent to prison.

He said Nigerian correctional centres were not habitable for human beings and that they could make people more hardened criminals than they were before they went there.

He said he would remain grateful to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for granting him and some others state pardon.

He said those behind their travails were also responsible for the delay in releasing them after the state pardon was approved. He however noted that he remained grateful to God that he was alive.

Dariye, a former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame and about 157 other convicts were granted state pardon sequel to the approval of the Council of State on April 14, 2022. The pardon of the former governors, however, generated a huge public outcry, especially because they were jailed for N2.7bn fraud.

Many Nigerians and civil society organisations also berated the Buhari-led regime for such pardon given its touted anti-corruption fight.

Nyame was serving a 12-year jail sentence for diverting N1.64bn during his tenure as governor of Taraba, while Dariye was serving 10 years’ imprisonment for N1.126bn fraud.

Speaking on his prison experience, he said, “The correctional centre is one republic that is a government on its own. They don’t have the best of facilities, I must say. It’s not habitable for human beings, and I think the federal government must have a look at it.

“The first thing I said when I heard about the pardon was ‘To God be the glory’ and I thank Mr. President because even though we were almost ending our tenure, one day freedom from that environment, you can never put a value on it. Freedom is priceless. We thank Mr. President.”

He called for quick reforms of the correctional centres, saying they were more likely to turn the inmates to hardened persons than reform them.

He stated, “When they talk about prison reforms, there is the need to look at the conditions, the sanitary places, the environment and the congestion. If you take people to a correctional centre, you are supposed to come out reformed, not hardened. Most of the young men there come out worse than when they went in and I don’t think that’s the essence of taking people to prison.

“Some people wanted Jolly Nyame and myself to stay longer but it didn’t matter. We were able to persevere. We paid bills for young people. Some people were there for just N10,000 or N100,000 and they were kept for years. It was an interesting experience, meeting people from different backgrounds, especially youngsters.

“I won’t say it was a worthless one. Unfortunately, I was ill and I was taken to the hospital, so I was there for a long time and it was a challenging time, but I also added value to people and the University Teaching Hospital. So, it was a rewarding experience.”

Asked why he could not use his position as a governor to push for reform of the correctional centres, he said the prisons were under the federal government and that even while in the Senate, he never served on the Committee for Interior and so he couldn’t have helped. “It would amount to overzealousness for a governor to want to repair the prison, because there is separation of power,” he added.

Speaking on his travails and why he misappropriated public funds while in office, he explained, “My issue was political in the sense that the same charge was taken to the court in Kaduna State, Justice Liman dismissed that case. They were not happy, they carried the same document to the Plateau State House of Assembly nothing happened and the whole amount we are talking about is N1.1bn.”

Narrating how the money was disbursed, he said N800m went to Plateau State account, N100m went to Peoples Democratic Party in the South-West; N100m went to Obasanjo campaign organisation; N80m went to ecological fund and about N60m to N66m went to PDP’s Plateau State office; about 274 wards and every ward got about N200,000. What was missing in the paper was N4m, which was the commission on turnover.

He added, “The judge asked if Mr. Dariye wanted to convert money into his personal use, will he use his letterhead and write the bank ‘Please distribute as follows?’ I am a chartered accountant and I wouldn’t have been that foolish. If I wanted to steal, I would have lodged the money in commission and turnover but that never happened.

“But because it was politically motivated, they didn’t succeed in the state of emergency, the other vehicle of prosecution, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, became the only veritable tool.”

He said he believed there was no sense of justice in his case but that his accusers were determined to send him to jail. “But I leave the rest to God. Time will tell,” he added.

He said other charges preferred against him were dismissed and he was only held for misappropriation, which was the donation to the PDP.

“If that was the case, I take it as part of the cross of serving in a democracy,” he said. “If that donation amounted to criminal misappropriation, so be it. There are people who have done more damage that are not in prison. But I take it and I thank God.

“They have made me a better human being, better leader and better citizen and I will exercise more caution next time.”

Following the clemency he was granted, he said he had no immediate plans politically.

He said the people of state also believed his sentencing was politically motivated and that this reflected in the turnout of people at the reception held for him when he returned from prison.

“It was a massive reception that testified that ‘we still stand by you, we believe in you’. Even when I was still in prison, the kind of turnout, Kuje became like Mecca,” he stated.


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