by Bosun Awoniyi
LAGOS, June 13 (Xinhua) -- A Nigerian court on Tuesday sentenced a serving senator, Joshua Dariye, to 14 years over corruption charges.
Dariye, a former governor of the North-central Plateau State, was charged for allegedly diverting about 1.2 billion naira (about 3.3 million U.S. dollars) while in office as governor.
Two weeks ago, the same high court in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, sentenced a former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame, to 14 years' imprisonment for his acts of criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of 1.64 billion naira belonging to the state.
The judgment marked the end of about 11 years' trial which would be the first full-blown criminal proceedings to be conducted in a Nigerian court and ended in a guilty verdict sending a former governor to jail for a period as long as 14 years for corruption.
Dariye's sentence followed his conviction on 15 counts of criminal breach of trust and criminal misappropriation offences. The court freed him on eight out of the 23 counts for which he was tried.
The official was arraigned by the country's anti-graft body on July 13, 2007 on a 23-count charge in which he was accused of diverting the state's funds, using his private company Ebenezer Retnan Ventures.
He was sentenced to two years for misappropriation and 14 years for criminal breach of trust. The sentences are to run concurrently, implying that Dariye will spend 14 years in custody.
Reacting to the judgment, Danjuma Auta, a spokesperson for the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in Plateau, described the judgment as a sign of good things to come, saying that the rule of law has finally taken its course.
Dariye's conviction was a right step in the right direction for democracy to thrive, he told Xinhua on phone.
Mark Longyen, the state spokesperson, said the action would go a long way in disabusing the minds of the opposition parties that the government was shielding members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in its fight against corruption.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has identified corruption as the single biggest menace to Africa's development, saying it undermines development and impedes democracy and the rule of law.