Nigerian authorities issued an arrest warrant on Thursday for a former militant leader from the oil-producing Niger Delta region after he failed to appear in court to face corruption charges, high court officials said.
Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, was a leader of rebels in the Delta region in the early 2000s. After a 2009 amnesty, he became a multimillionaire through government contracts to protect the pipelines he and his men used to hit.
Fears that the volatile region could erupt again rose after Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim, beat the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian, on an anti-corruption platform in the March 2015 presidential election.
Among Buhari’s campaign promises was stamping out the industrial-scale oil theft that flourished after the amnesty.
Nigeria’s financial crimes agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, invited Tompolo to answer questions last month but received no reply, prompting the EFCC to seek a court order which it said went unheeded.
On Thursday, a federal high court judge issued an arrest warrant for Tompolo, the EFCC said in a statement.
“Where he fails to appear in obedience to the summons, another process to compel his attendance is by way of arrest,” said prosecution lawyer Festus Keyamo. A spokesman for the former militant could not immediately be reached for comment.
The EFCC has said it will arraign Tompolo and the former head of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on a 40-count charge encompassing money laundering, conspiracy, stealing and diversion of funds.
The agency said four other suspects would also be arraigned along with the companies Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electricals Limited, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited and Destre Consult Limited.
The financial crimes agency has accused the suspects of diverting 34 billion naira ($170 million) it said was accrued from the public private partnership agreement between NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist Limited for personal use.
The case has been adjourned until Feb. 8.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the main militant group in the region, kidnapped expatriate oil workers and attacked oil facilities for years, crippling Nigeria’s main source of income.