Nigeria: Controversy Trails Killing of Benue's 'Most Wanted' Criminal, Gana

(file photo).
9 September 2020

Controversy has trailed the killing of notorious Benue gang leader, Terwase Akwaza, also known as Gana as the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, accused the Nigerian Army of sabotaging his peace efforts.

The governor, on Tuesday, in an interaction with reporters, also accused the army of killing the ex-bandit while he was on his way to Makurdi after embracing amnesty.

According to the governor, Gana was killed while he and 42 other repentant criminals were being conveyed to Makurdi, the state capital "after they embraced the government's amnesty program".

Mr Ortom expressed a similar view on Wednesday while addressing journalists at the new banquet hall in Makurdi, TVC reports.

"I was very surprised about what happened yesterday. Because that wasn't the plan," Mr Ortom said during the interaction. "But now that it has happened, we'll still have to discuss in the security council."

Sources in Benue State confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that Gana had earlier been welcomed in his local government in Benue after he agreed to accept the government's amnesty programme.

A reception was organised for him by the Sankera Traditional Council in Katsina Ala that was attended by traditional and community leaders. It was when he was moving from Katsina Ala to the Benue State capital, Makurdi, alongside the mediators and police officers, that they were stopped by soldiers who subsequently shot him dead, this newspaper learnt.

At least five other repentant militants who were arrested by the army during the Tuesday incident have been released, Mr Ortom said on Wednesday.

Army's Stance

It is not yet clear if the soldiers that killed Gana killed him despite knowing he had just accepted an amnesty offer or if his killing was as a result of poor communication among government officials and security agencies.

When confronted with the controversial killing of Gana on Wednesday, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, declined comment.

Mr Buratai, a lieutenant-general, was answering questions from journalists at the Jaji military cantonment in Kaduna.

However, on Tuesday, the army had announced the killing of 'Gana' in a gun duel, a claim that has now been faulted by the Benue government.

The Commander, 4 Special Forces Command, Doma, Nasarawa state, Moundhey Ali, told journalists on Tuesday that Gana was killed during an exchange of gunfire at a roadblock mounted by the army along Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi road.

He said ammunition was also recovered from Gana, who had been tagged Benue's 'most wanted criminal'.

Mr Ali, however, did not say if the army suffered any casualty in the encounter or if there was evidence of the gunshots allegedly fired by Gana and his supporters.

Gana's Past

Gana had for several years been among the armed militants terrorising Benue and Taraba communities.

The Benue State Government in 2015 granted amnesty to over 500 persons including Gana.

Most of the terrorists later went back into criminality.

Gana was later in 2017 declared wanted by the police while the Benue State Government placed N10 million bounty on him.

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