The father of a former Nigerian militant leader has died after sustaining injuries during a government military campaign aimed at halting attacks on infrastructure in the oil-producing Delta region, his spokesman said late on Wednesday.
Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, is a commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a group that spearheaded attacks on oil and gas installations in Nigeria’s Delta region in the early 2000s until a government amnesty program halted the attacks by offering contracts to protect pipelines and oil production equipment.
His 84-year-old father, Chief Thomas Ekpemupolo, died at a hospital in Warri, Delta state, as a result of injuries sustained during military incursions into his community, a spokesman for Tompolo said.
Comment from the government was not immediately available.
The death may inflame hostilities in the oil-rich region, which kicked off not long after an arrest warrant was issued for Tompolo in January on charges of corruption.
The violence has shut down more than 700,000 barrels per day of oil production and exacerbated an economic crisis in a nation reeling from its first recession in two decades. Tompolo has denied any involvement in the attacks on oil and gas infrastructure, as well as the corruption charges. He remains in hiding.
While oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said were progressing with various militant groups over a ceasefire, the military is simultaneously waging a campaign aimed at stamping out attackers. Locals have criticized the efforts as heavy handed, and said they risk fuelling more dissent, while other militant groups have said they run contrary to the ceasefire talks.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Niger Delta Avengers, the group that has claimed responsibility for bulk of the attacks this year, but recently declared a ceasefire, said the military campaign will “undermine any genuine disposition from your government towards restoration of tranquility in the Niger Delta.“