Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Festus Keyamo, has described suspected fraud kingpin, Jerry Ikogho, as a brother and friend from a good home. The newly appointed minister said this in an interview with newsmen after pictures of the two men appeared on the Internet.
Ikogho is one of the 77 Nigerians charged for massive fraud and money laundering in the United States of America following an extensive FBI operation. The suspects allegedly conspired to scam at least $46 million from victims via romance scams, business email compromises and other online fraud schemes.
A grand jury indictment was filed in the Central District of California back in October 2018 and unsealed last week after the arrest of 14 defendants in the US. The remaining 63 individuals are believed to be abroad, with most in Nigeria.
Keyamo began a relationship with Ikogho as a child in the 70s in Ughelli, Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State. They were classmates at Government College Ughelli and were children of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
While Keyamo’s family barely managed to make ends meet, Ikogho’s father was a major car dealer in the area. Speaking in the interview, Keyamo said he did not know the kind of business Ikogho was doing in America.
“We were born together in the same town at Ughelli in Delta State. His parents and my parents are close friends up till tomorrow. We were both raised in the Jehovahs Witnesses sect. It is a whole family union. If he has legal issues, I handled them for him free of charge. I didn’t know him as a client but as a family friend with whom we both grew up together,” Keyamo was quoted as saying.
Asked if he was aware that his friend was into shady business, Keyamo asked: “How would I know? He has not been proven guilty. Have you concluded that he is into massive fraud and money laundering?”
The lawyer who once prosecuted cases on behalf of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), added that he needs to hear from Ikogho what transpired in America before he takes a position.
Hear him: “If his explanations are not satisfactory, I will scold him. I have spoken with the wife since this issue broke out, but I have been unable to get in touch with him. But I need to hear from him.”
Describing what happened to his friend as “very unfortunate”, Keyamo added that Ikogho grew up and did his youth service in Nigeria.
“I used to stay with him when I first came to Abuja. He is my brother and friend, though I am just a month older than him. Anybody can be in trouble. I am praying for him. If he has valid explanations I will help him legally. I can’t run away from him,” he concluded.