The long-awaited federal grand jury indictment, unsealed on 22 August by the US Attorney’s Office, California District, revealed the identities of 77 Nigerians reputedly participating in a huge network of fraud.
One of those wanted criminals on the FBI’s list, however, was recently appointed to a Nigerian government committee tasked with recovering looted property.
Earlier this year, the Imo State government in Nigeria appointed Chika Odionyenma, named in the FBI list, on one of the sub-committees for the inauguration of the new governor, Emeka Ihiedioha.
- The revelation comes as a photo of Jerry Ikogho, another of those on the wanted list, with current federal minister Festus Keyamo, has come to light.
Keyamo, a former prosecutor with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has clarified his relationship with Ikogho, saying, “He is my childhood friend…It’s a family relationship from birth. He’s from a decent family. Hope they got their facts right.”
Both suspects are part of a 80-man roster of fraudsters released last week by the US Attorney’s Office as part of an on-going investigation into cybercrime, mostly perpetrated by a syndicate of Nigerians at home and in the diaspora.
Nigerian government officials have a long history of associating with suspected and convicted criminals, many of whom have been re-integrated into society without proper penance for their crimes.
- Buruji Kashamu, PDP senator and former governorship candidate in the southwestern state of Ogun, is a principal character on which the TV show Orange is The New Black, is based. He escaped from a US prison where he had been convicted for drug-related charges.
- Amaka Anajemba, who with her husband forfeited $242-million in what was perhaps the most brazen fraud outside Nigerian politics, is currently chairperson of the Enugu State Waste Management Agency (ESWAMA). Anajemba had been sentenced to three years in prison by a Lagos court.
- Atiku Bagudu, an associate of the late dictator Sani Abacha, was elected governor of the northwestern state of Kebbi in 2015,. The year before, the US government froze more than $458m embezzled by the late general and laundered by Bagudu and others.
Bottom line: People in power hobnobbing with people of questionable virtues, and the metamorphosis of criminals from enemies of the state to being agents of the state itself, are worrying trends.