*He was killed in a gunfight -Army
Former Governor of Benue state, Senator Gabriel Suswan has joined incumbent Governor the state, Samuel Ortom in condemning the killing of Terwase Akwaza popularly called Gana by military men.
Also a security expert, Kabir Adamu also condemned the killing of the repentant wanted man.
However, Adamu was not comfortable with the amnesty Governor Ortom offered criminals in the state on the basis of which Gana was said to be coming out to surrender.
Suswam who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Power and an indigene of Benue state, condemned in very strong terms, the Tuesday killing of repentant Militia Leader in Benue State , Terwase Agwaza alias Gana, by men of the Nigerian Army in Gboko.
In a statement yesterday in Abuja, Suswam, a former governor of the State described the killing of Terwase after turning a new life from crime and criminality by soldiers as counter-productive to peace already returning to the State.
According to him, where a criminal had surrendered for a new way of life after persuasion from elders and leaders in the community and later killed extra judicially by some State actors engenders the healing process as “this is time to heal and not to kill “.
Suswam’s Statement read : ” 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. “It is no secret that my senatorial district has been traumatized and the people terrorized by activities of criminal gangs led by MR Terwase Agwaza alias Gana for many years. ALSO READ: Soldiers confirm killing of Benue’s ‘most wanted criminal,’ Gana.
“The consequences of this endless terrorism has been a steady decline of economic and social activities leaving a once prosperous people pauperized.
Markets no longer attract traders, schools are closed and farmlands abandoned.
“Politics in the area has become war with an uncontrolled proliferation of dangerous weapons.
“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.
“The Benue State Government along with the security agencies have long desired for a return to normalcy, peace , prosperity and security of the area.
“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 publicity renounce a life of crime. Our revered King extracted a pledge from him never to turn his kingdom into a wasteland.
“Those present at this forum heaved a great sigh of relief with the thought that finally, a life full of uncertainty has come to an end.
“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 was ambushed by allegedly armed soldiers and he 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.
“While I have been consistent in condemning the reign of terror he unleashed on his community, I cannot in good conscience as a lawyer of over three decades and a senior parliamentarian accept cold blooded extra judicial murder of an unarmed person as a solution to our security problems.
“The lessons of the Boko Haram escalation after a similar murder of its leader (Mohammed Yusuf) are still here with us.
“If this method is accepted as a norm in our country, there will be no need for laws and courts. We stand to benefit more by subjecting suspects to due process of the law.
“Information extracted from a living Gana would have helped security agents get to the root of activities of criminals.
“By this Gestapo style execution, we have missed an opportunity to learn vital lessons about the structure of crime in the area.
“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 furure”, Suswan added.
While a security expert, Kabir Adamu has described as impunity, attempts by the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom to grant amnesty to wanted Benue militia leader, late Terwase Akwaza, alias Gana, Adamu however said it was wrong for Gana to be killed by soldiers.
In a telephone interview with Daily Trust on Wednesday, Adamu also condemned the alleged extra judicial killing of Gana, noting that the rule of law must always prevail.
He explained that Gana who was first a vigilante, allegedly armed by the state government, was subsequently declared wanted for killing an aide of a state governor, was all of a sudden in talks with Governor Ortom.
He noted that this is the highest level of impunity, adding that since Gana was declared wanted by the Nigeria Police, the Governor should have alerted the necessary authority on the location of such criminal.
He added that, Gana was declared wanted and as such could not be granted amnesty without a judicial injunction.
However, Adamu also said extra-judicial killings cannot be condoned.
He drew attention to Agnes Callamard’s United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions in Nigeria which pointed out certain aspects of the Nigerian Law that encouraged extra-judicial killing by enforcement officers.
He said such laws should be reviewed to ensure that extra-judicial killings are brought to an end.
He noted that Gana had prime information if debriefed would have been useful to the security architecture of the country.
Also speaking to Daily Trust, Group Captain Sadiq Shehu (rtd), said the Rule of Law and International Humanitarian Laws are sacrosanct and as such any killing of a suspect is unacceptable.
He said based on what Governor Ortom is saying, which implied that Gana was captured alive, although still remains to be verified.
He said if Gana died in gun battle like the military is saying; the soldiers have the right to protect themselves.
Shehu however, noted that what the law says is that, “if you arrest a person, he is under your control, and so as a professional military man you cannot gun him down.”
“It’s not for the soldier to decide that Gana is too bad for society, it’s the court that should decide that,” he added.
The Army side of the story as rendered by Commander of the Four Special Forces command, based in Doma Local Government Area, Brigadier General Maude Ali Gadzama on Tuesday said Gana was killed on Tuesday evening in a firefight with military personnel.
Gov. Ortom has, however, refuted the claim, saying that Gana was removed from a government convoy after he had handed himself over and executed.
Gana has a controversial reputation in Benue State but had reportedly come out recently to accept the amnesty offered by the state government.
News of his death became public when the Commander, 4 Special Forces Command, Doma, Nasarawa State, Maj-Gen. Moundhey Ali, told newsmen that Gana was killed along Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi road, following an exchange of gunfire.
Ali said: (at) “About 12:00 hours on Tuesday, we received strategic information on the movement of the dreaded bandit, Terwase Akwaza Agbadu, AKA Gana, along Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi road.
“Troops of Operation ‘Ayem Akpatuma III’ moved swiftly and mounted roadblocks along the routes.
“At about 13:00 hours, there was an engagement with the convoy of Gana, a shoot-out ensued and the bandit was killed.”
The claims of the military are being disputed by the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom.
The governor said Gana and other members of his gang were heading to Markurdi, the Benue State capital, to accept the amnesty offer of the state government after they had surrendered in Katsina Ala Township Stadium in Katsina Ala Local Government Area of Benue-North Senatorial zone (Zone A) on Tuesday.
Ortom said “Gana and his members were snatched from a government convoy transporting the repentant militants in the Gboko area of the state by soldiers”, until he was declared dead.