A Nigerian court has issued an arrest warrant for a senior member of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration charged with abuse of office and criminal conspiracy, police said.
Authorities plan to ask Interpol for help in tracking down Nasir el-Rufai, minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Obasanjo from 2003-2007, after he failed to show up to any of his court hearings in the past seven months.
“We have received from the court a warrant of arrest in respect of el-Rufai we will employ Interpol to do that,” national police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said.
El-Rufai, who is studying abroad in the United States, faces eight criminal charges, which includes the illegal re-allocation of land belonging to the state-run Power Holding Company of Nigeria to himself and his associates.
El-Rufai’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam has denounced the arrest warrant as “groundless” and “part of a campaign of intimidation invented not for the purpose of detention, but rather to dissuade the long-awaited return to Nigeria of el-Rufai.”
The former minister, who is a strong critic of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration, was reported in the local media this week as saying he planned to return to Nigeria before the end of the year.
Corruption is endemic in Africa’s top oil and gas producer, from traffic police asking for bribes at checkpoints to multi-million dollar cases involving senior politicians and government officials.
Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s successor, came to power over two years ago pledging zero tolerance for graft in one of the world’s most tainted countries. But critics say that while many officials have been charged, the prosecution process is slow and few have been convicted.