By Egbe Attah & Moses Mbaiorga
Mixed reactions last week trailed the killing of the most wanted criminal Kingpin in Benue state, Mr. Terwase Akwaza Agbadu, alias Gana, by Troops of Operation Ayem Akpatuma along Gboko-Makurdi road.
While the Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom expressed shock at the killing of the alleged criminal who was on his way to Makurdi to embrace a second amnesty programme declared by the state, Senator Gabriel Suswam who played a vital role in facilitating the acceptance of the amnesty by Gana said even on the war front enemies who surrender are not executed.
But the army, whose troop killed the wanted Gana claimed in a press conference that he was killed in a shoot-out that ensued between him and troops of operation Ayem a Kpatuma.
Security forces have been on the trail of Gana for over five years since he renounced the first amnesty granted to him and members of his gang by the Ortom administration. The Benue state government and the Nigeria police force had placed a bounty of N50Million on his head.
Earlier in the day before he was killed, the late Terwase Akwaza, alias Gana led other members of his gangs of repentant criminals to the Akume Atongo Stadium in Katsina Ala and were being taken to Makurdi in company of other security agents and delegates from the Benue Sate Security Council for a second amnesty ceremony, which was to be performed by the Governor Samuel Ortom.
But at Masaje, a suburb settlement in Gboko town, officers of the Operation Ayem Akpatuma intercepted the convoy conveying the repentant Gana and others who were going for confession and reintegration into the society.
The Special Forces who intercepted Gana ordered him to come down from the Toyota Hilux Van that boarded him and the Katsina -Ala Council Chairman along aside clergymen and whisked him away. Hours later, he was said to have been killed by soldiers in controversial circumstances.
Governor Samuel Ortom who confirmed the incidence said “…in the process of conveying these repentant criminal elements to Makurdi for the official ceremony, the Military Operation Whirl Stroke at Masaje a community in Ipav Gboko Local Government Area, the vehicle conveying some of the repented criminals were intercepted while Mr Terwase Akwaza AKA Gana and others were arrested and taken to unknown destination.
The Benue State Governor expressed shock at the killing of Gana, saying that he was awaiting briefing from the Commander of Operation Ayem A Kpatuma from Doma in Nasarawa State, Major General Moundhey Gadzama Ali who promised he was coming to brief him on their operation.
The Governor stated that five repentant youths from Ukum Local Government Area who were among those arrested by the Nigerian Army were released and were conveyed to the Benue Peoples House Makurdi by the Council Chairman of Ukum, Hon. Stephen Ayua to be part of the amnesty offer.
The Governor explained that despite the setback occasioned by the killing of Gana, the amnesty programme would not be truncated as those who could not make it to Makurdi due to the confusion created by the military operation would be given another chance.
He urged the people of Sankera to remain calm as he was still investigating circumstances surrounding the arrest and killing of Gana before taking action on the matter, stressing that he owes Benue people the duty to protect lives and property.
“I called the Commander of the Operation Whirl Stroke, Major General Adeyemi Yekini who confirmed the arrest while he informed him that, the order to arrest Mr Akwaza and others came from the higher authority and he (Gen.Yekini) promised to talk with him later.” he said
But addressing a press conference in Lafiya, the Commander, Headquarters 4 Special Forces Command, Major General Gadzama Ali confirmed the killing of Mr. Terwase, alias Gana by Operation Ayem Akpatuma, (Operation Cat Race) troops.
“…at about 1200hrs today (Tuesday), we received strategic information on the movement of the dreaded bandit named Terwase Akwaza Agbadu AKA Gana along Gbise-Gboko-Makurdi road.
“Troops of Operation Ayem Akpatuma 111 moved swiftly and mounted snap road block along routes. At 1300hrs, there was a meeting engagements with the convoy of the dreaded bandit AKA Gana. A shoot out ensured and he was killed.
“During the operation, the following items were recovered, 5 AK 47 Riffles, 1 FN Rifle, 2 Beretta Pistols, 3 pump Action Guns, 1 locally Fabricated Sub Machine Gun, 10 Dane Guns, 19 Browning pistols, 35 Fabricated Revolvers Pistols and 2 Fabricated Mortars. “14 AK 47 Riffle Magazines, 3 FN Rifle Magazines and 1 machete, 2 waist charms, 2 finger ring charms and two Fabricated Improvised Explosive Devices” Major Gadzama gave the breakdown.
In his reaction, Senator representing Zone A, in the national assembly, Senator Gabriel Suswam said the incidence that led to the killing of Gana leaves a sour taste in the mouth. “The events of September 8 2020 in my senatorial district where repentant criminals who had surrendered after extensive persuasions were singled out and killed extra judicially leaves a sour taste and has opened a gaping wound that requires all efforts to heal.
According to him, “No responsible leader will idly standby and watch his community become a theatre of war and a gangster’s paradise. It is with this solution mindset that traditional rulers, clergy men and elders of the area decided to utilize means of constructive engagement and dialogue to ensure that youths of the area do not become tools for the destruction of that society.
“We were all excited to see the dreaded Gana come out of hiding to the warm embrace of our traditional rulers, clergy and political leaders at a public function at the Akume Atongo Stadium in Katsina-Ala. Our joy was multiplied when we saw him along with his militia surrender arms and publicly renounced a life of crime. Our revered king extracted a pledge from him never to turn his kingdom into a wasteland.
“I was totally dumbfounded to learn that while Gana was on his way to Makurdi the state capital to present himself to the State Governor who was waiting, his long convoy that included political leaders, traditional rulers, clergy men and security agencies were ambushed by allegedly armed soldiers and he was isolated and taken away. In the midst of the confusion, pictures began to circulate on social media of the bullet ridden body of Gana with a rifle callously placed on his side.
“Even war criminals captured alive are entitled to certain rights. The claim that Gana was killed in a gunfight needs further explanation because those who accompanied him and who watched him being taken away, including his Local Government Chairman do not believe he was in possession of any arms. An independent judicial commission of inquiry will unravel facts of the matter to serve as lessons for the future.
“This is a time to heal and not war. This is a time to hold each other to our common values as human beings. This is a time to rebuild our fractured society. This is a time to rally together as brothers and say enough is enough,” Suswam said.
Also speaking, an Abuja -based human rights activists and social crusader, Barrister Paul Edeh, said the killing of Gana amounted to extrajudicial killing, adding that, if, the military felt he had to pay for his nefarious activities they would have charged him to court.
Another Otukpo – based lawyer, Barrister Oche Egwurube, said that if indeed Terwase Akwaza was abducted by the military from a government convoy conveying him and his accomplices and VIPs from Katsina-Ala to Makurdi, and later murdered as being speculated by his co-travellers, then, it was unfortunate, describing the execution as extrajudicial.
Meanwhile, the Benue State Security Council has appealed to the military authority especially the Headquarters of the 4 Special Forces Command, Doma, Nasarawa State to release repentant criminal suspects arrested along with the late Terwase Akwaza Alias Gana.
Chairman of the Council, Governor Samuel Ortom told journalists at the end of the Security Council meeting said such repentant criminals should be given a chance to be reintegrated to the society.
“The Security Council in some of its resolutions appealed to the military authorities to release the repentant criminals in their custody to enable them receive the amnesty programme of the state and be integrated to the society for them to add value to the development of the state,” he stated.
While expressing shock of the Security Council on the circumstance that led to the killing of Mr Terwase Akwaza by the Military, the governor pleaded with the people of the state and Sankera axis in particular not to join issues with the Military but remain calm and peaceful as the Council is working assiduously to ascertain what actually happened.
He explained that, the Security Council also resolved that, the amnesty programme will be extended to other part of the state and called on the Criminals to embrace the amnesty programme and be integrated to the society for their total well-being.
“The youths whom we granted amnesty will be given a new orientation and the state government would train them in skills acquisition to enable them carter for their lives and that of the family,” he noted.
Ortom, Suswam, others react to Gana’s killing
By Egbe Attah & Moses Mbaiorga