Crime Interviews

Issues as killing spree continues in Sankera axis of Benue state

The last week’s gruesome murder of Chief Terkura Suswam, elder brother to former Governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswam, has marked the height of high profile killings in the Sankera axis of Benue North East Senatoreial District, Writes AUSTINE TULE.

It all started in late 2015, when Atoza Hindan, a Second Republic State lawmaker felled to the  assailant’s bullets while inspecting work on his perimeter fence at the outskirts of Katsina-Ala town. Hindan, one of the pillars behind the administration of Governor Gabriel Suswam was  belived to have been  murdered owing to fallouts between him and the alleged killers, who it was alleged before then had a cordial relationship with him.

The axis has become notorious with killings, and has gone out of hand shortly after the killing of Chief Hindan with criminal activities in the area hitting a crescendo, crippling the economy of a once flourishing axis which also houses the biggest yam market in West Africa,  

Kidnapings, armed robbery and other forms of crime became common norms in the zone leading to  the fleeing of  residents to areas of safety amidst the killing fiesta. Dr.  Justin Kpagh, a Deputy Rector at the Collage of Education Katsina-Ala was also gunned down by people believed to be members of the killer squard, among other prominent persons in the axis.

Governor Samuel Ortom, in efforts to end the ugly situation initiated an amnesty programme with a two pronged approach. The programme according Ortom had the carrot approach which was meant to provide amnesty to repentant militants who had volunteered to renounce crime and surrender themselves alongside weapons. Such repentant militants according to the programme were to be rehabilitated and empowered to  live in the society, while the stick approach Ortom said was to lunch a manhunt on all who refused to surrender insisted he was not going to surrender the state to criminals.

The amnesty which recorded a huge success at the initial stage with over a hundred militants embracing it with several arms surrendered sadly failed following the murder of Ortom’s top security aid, late Denen Igbana, by people who were suspected to be members of the said repentant militants.Terwase Akwaza aka ‘Ghana’ through whom the programme was anchored was accused of been behind the killing of Igbana.

The insistence by Ortom that ‘Ghana’ must report himself to answer questions leading to the killing of his security was said to have shattered the entire programme as Ghana refused to show up and rather retreated back into the bush with a chunk of his followers who had embrace the amnesty where lots of heinous activities  resurfaced.

A second attempt at granting ‘Ghana’ and his group amnesty hit the rocks with his abduction and subsequent killing, shortly after he had surrendered himself in a glare of both government, traditional as well as religious leaders at the Akume Atongo Stadium in Katsina – Ala late last year by a team of military personnel who had ambushed his convoy midway, while heading to Makurdi with his members to be handed over to Governor Samuel Ortom.

Though ‘Ghana’s killing was widely condemned by both Governor Ortom and Suswam, allegations according to investigations were levelled against the duo for having a hand in his  abduction and killing, especially from members of his militia group some of whom were also taken away in the process of his abduction. The level of Ortom and Suswam’s involvement in the alleged  killing of Ghana could not however be substantiated our findings revealed.

The killing of Dr. Suswam  according to findings is premised on the alleged suspension by the killer gang that ‘Ghana’ was only cajoled by  the initiators of the second amnesty to be killed and hence a manhunt for such persons with a view to taking a revenge. Terkura’s death is therefore viewed as a hit back at his younger brother Gabriel even as the slain Accedemic was said not to be associated with politics of acrimony and never haboured nor patronized militants.

The gruesome murder which has followed wide condemnation across the state has continued to spark reactions. Governor Samuel Ortom, following the killing at the weekend declared a dusk to dawn curfew in the entire Sankera axis. The governor also placed a ban on the use of old Model Toyota Corolla popularly known as ‘duck nyash’ believed to be the vehicle commonly used by criminals in the Sankera axis.

He also placed a five million naira bounty on useful information about the killing Suswan, who was the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention

Is the security situation in the axis a product of those who have today become victims of same?

The AUTHORITY gathered that while a segment blamed it on the leadership in the  zone, others held it there were pure cases of criminality holding further that the militants had been granted opportunities to turn new lease of lives  by government and other stakeholders,  those in the other school of thought were of the view that leaders in the area own up and show leadership by speaking  the truth with a view to finding a lasting solution to the carnage as  according to them, they were the same people that had initially armed and used the militants who have now grown  out of control.

Are there  conspiracy theories as regards the killings in the zone as postulated in certain quarters, with certain facts been shielded?.

 Those who spoke with The AUTHORITY were of the view that leaders in the zone must come to terms with the realities and work towards finding a lasting solution to the very terrible situation.

The Killing of Chief Terkura, one of Benue’s best brains according to opinions has provided an opportunity for government and other critical stakeholders to unravel any form of  myth associated with the unwarranted killings in the zone and also take a step further by deploring the finest mechanism   at their disposal with the aim to finding a lasting solution to the incessant acts of criminality in the Sankera axis.

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