© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Why kleptomaniac Dariye is sent to jail
JOSHUA Chibi Dariye, the former governor of Plateau State and serving senator representing Plateau Central Senatorial District (his seat at the Senate is yet to be declared vacant), would be 61 years old on July 27, according to public record.
By then, the former governor would have spent a month and two weeks in Kuje prison, his new home.
Except the appeal court upturns the case, and finds him not guilty of embezzling over N1.16 billion ecological fund, Dariye will have to spend the next 14 years of his life in jail. But overturning the case would be a hard nut to crack. For nearly eight years, his legal team led by a former attorney general of the federation, Kanu Agabi had tried all the tricks in the book to stall the trial. But on Monday June 13, they reached the dead end. Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Abuja High Court handed Dariye 14 -year jail term.
This is not surprising. Dariye, using the accounts of several companies he owned, had brazenly looted his state between 1999 and 2007 when he was the governor of Plateau State.
But the most flagrant is the diversion of the ecological fund allocated to the state by the Federal Government.
In May 2001, Dariye as the governor wrote a Save Our Soul letter (a copy is still in the custody of The ICIR) to the Federal Government through the office of the Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, asking the government to help reclaim land devastated by past mining activities in his state.
The governor requested N3.1 billion to reclaim five abandoned mine ponds in the state.
But when he received the fund, the governor diverted major part of it into his private account and laundered part of it abroad.
The ex-governor collected a cheque for the sum N1‚161,162,900 from the Ecological Funds Office in Abuja, and deposited the cheque with his banker, the defunct Allstates Trust Bank Plc, Abuja branch, where he operated an account in the name of an unregistered company, Ebenezer Retnan Ventures.
Though Nigerian constitution forbids public officers from maintaining or operating a bank account in any country outside Nigeria, Dariye did not care. Instead he deposited millions in foreign currencies to various banks abroad.
The ex-governor adopted a simple though careless method of looting his state’s treasury. He just transferred monies from the account of the state government, its officials and agencies into his own accounts and thereafter instructed his own bankers to purchase foreign currency through the black market for onward transfer to his personal accounts abroad.
Sometimes, he ordered direct wiring of funds from his accounts in Nigeria to his foreign accounts. At other times, he routed the funds through friends and associates who then purchase foreign currencies and transfer same to Dariye’s account abroad.
One of such friends is Jolly Cole, a Political Science graduate from Rivers State who is into hospitality and property development business. Cole was discovered to have aided Dariye in transferring N118 million suspected to be looted funds abroad. Explaining his connection to the deal then, Cole told investigators that he had advised the governor in 2002 to invest in choice property that were then on sale in Abuja with a view to developing them into hospitality business. He said based on this, Dariye bought property in Asokoro District Abuja for N29 million which he later instructed should be converted into foreign currency and wired to one Joyce Falaju in London. The amount transferred into Falaju’s acccount totalled £470,000. The EFCC says
Cole’s statement was full of lies and he he knew that he was being used as a conduit to siphon funds.
But using firiends was the least of the means deployed by Dariye, for the governor found ready collaborators in bank and state government officials whom he rewarded handsomely . For example, in an apparent act of executive recklessness, Dariye transferred into the accounts of his company, Ebenezer Retnam Ventures, with account number 2502012136 in All States Bank, Plateau State’s allocation for July 2001 from the Federation Account, totaling N1,161,162,290.
Dariye and mysterious Daniel Haruna, believed to be non-existent, were the sole signatories to the account. Using Ebenezer Retnam account, Dariye instructed the money be disbursed thus: Pinnacle Communications, N250 million; Plateau State Government, N550 million; Union Home, N80 million; PDP South-West, N100 million, Chief Joshua Dariye, N16 million.
Ebibomo was the one Dariye charged with the disbursements, and it is alleged that for his efforts, the governor gave him N1, 568,656. Under interrogation, Ebibomo reportedly confirmed that Dariye maintained an account in the name of Ebenezer Retnam Ventures in All States Trust Bank, and that the governor usually instructed the bank to purchase foreign exchange from the parallel market.
Between 1999 and 2004, All States Trust Bank had helped to procure from the black market about N147,584,890 for Dariye. Ebibomo is believed to have confessed to purchasing foreign exchange from the black market for Dariye a number of times and also confirmed the receipt of N1,161,162,900 state allocation which he disbursed according to the governor’s instructions.
In the other case of open looting, Dariye threw caution to the winds and just instructed that huge sums be moved from the state government’s accounts into his own. To do this, he engineered an ingenious scheme whereby he runs accounts in banks where the state government has accounts.
For example, it was discovered that Dariye maintains three accounts with Lion Bank, Jos branch. Two of the accounts – Nos 0011010060197 and 001201008111 – were held in his name, while the third, No 001201008433, was maintained under the name Nanpe Associates.
Incidentally, perhaps by design, the state government also maintains three accounts with Lion Bank, Jos Branch. The accounts are: No 011042346 titled Accountant General, No 0271703001 titled Account-Payable and No 013001825 also titled Accountant-General.
Investigations showed that between December 2000 and December 2001, a space of one year, N82,600,000 was moved from the account of the Accountant-General No 011042346 in Lion Bank to the governor’s private account in All States Trust Bank.
Also, between December 2001 and April 2004, a total of N31,700,000 was transferred from the account payable into Dariye’s personal accounts in All States Trust Bank.
Besides, Dariye also diverted funds from the state treasury into private accounts. For example, it was discovered that Plateau State Water Board also paid about N6 million into Dariye’s account with All States Trust Bank.
Dariye, investigations also show, has several other accounts in Nigeria holding his immense fortune. In one account in the name of Dan Destiny, nearly N150 million passed through in just few months. If these revelations about Dariye’s mindless looting of the state treasury are shocking, then there might be no words fit enough to describe the wealth which the governor has either warehoused or invested abroad.
Contrary to constitutional provisions, Dariye not only maintained a foreign account, he has several. They include Acc No 5033450 in the name of Joshua Dariye with Barclays Bank, Portman Square, London; Acc No 70197041 in the name of Joshua Chibi Dariye at the Edgware Station Road branch of Barclays Bank, London; Acc No 79703941, in the name of Joshua Chibi Dariye at the National Westminster Bank, Baird Road, Middlesex, London; and another dollar account held in the same bank.
Dariye also maintained accounts in the names of his family members. For example, he held an account No 70289248 in the name of Nanle Miracle Dariye at the Barclays Bank, Edgware Road, London, and another, No 20573949, in the name of Joy Dariye Neshitan at the same bank. But he is the sole signatory to both accounts.
Apart from the accounts to which he was sole signatory, Dariye was also found to have used the accounts of other people abroad to launder money. One such was a woman, Joyce Oyebanjo. The convicted governor was also found to have several accounts in the United States, US. These include Acc No 71916227 in Fifth Third Bank in the name of D I Investments and Acc No 1458008742119 with the US bank.
Perhaps, the only sane thing about Dariye’s kleptocracy has been his ‘wise’ investments. The governor has huge investments in property and real estate both at home and abroad. In Abuja alone, he is said to have more than 15 buildings and landed property, many of them in choice areas. These include a residential building in Maitama District near the FHA staff quarters, a building in Asokoro, an undeveloped plot at Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse II and another building in the same area.
Notwithstanding, Dariye’s ‘wisest’ investment in real estate is abroad. He is believed to have several houses in London alone, including Flat 28, Regents Plaza Apartments on Greville Road, London. Investigations have revealed that many of the properties in Nigeria, Britain and the US belong to the governor.
In 2004, the Metropolitan Police arrested the former governor for money laundering, and later granted him bail pending the conclusion of his case.
But Dariye jumped bail and sneaked out of London to re -claim his exalted position as governor of Plateau State.
And for many years, he sidestepped the long arm of the law in Nigeria until last week when he was finally hedged in.
“Having found the defendant guilty of these counts of criminal breach trust and criminal appropriation, the court sentences you to two years for criminal breach of trust and 14 years for criminal appropriation,” the judge declared.