The killing of the militia leader in Benue State, Terwase Akwaza, otherwise known as Gana, may worsen the level of insecurity in the country and lead to the creation of another deadly group in the mold of Boko Haram. That was the view of some notable security experts, who feel that the extra-judicial killing of the notorious gang leader may aggravate the security situation, saying that the action of the law enforcement agents has left the people in palpable fears. Speaking with Saturday Telegraph, a security consultant and former Director of the State Security Service (SSS), Mike Ejiofor, said it is unfortunate that the military men would take laws into their hands and allow such extra-judicial killing in a democracy.
“It’s unfortunate that in a civilized and democratic society like ours, military men as alleged, will take laws into their hands by killing someone who already surrendered himself. This was how Boko Haram started, to this point we are now, because their leader was killed extra-judicially.
“If there is an amnesty as claimed by the governor and they were stopped, why didn’t you take him to your office, interrogate him and see whether he meant well with his intentions, rather than actually killing him? I don’t want to believe that story of gun duels.
“It is quite unfortunate, and honestly, if it’s not properly managed, it might bring us again back to the same situation that started Boko Haram. On his part, a retired officer in the Nigerian Army, Capt Aliyu Umar, said Gana’s death was an unfortunate incident that has put the authorities between a rock and a very hard place.
Agreeing that Gana was though seen as a dangerous person, with a lot of atrocities to his name, the retired officer faulted the manner in which he was killed, saying it does not help the situation at hand. Umar said: “On aggregate, strategic security wise, the entire situation may fester, to the detriment of peace, security, and the stakeholders in the matter. Where this goes and what comes out of this, remains a direct function of how the involved agencies and law enforcement entities handle it.
“They will indeed need to, going forward, weigh in on a lot of metacognition, and professional savvy, when handling matters of militarycivilian engagements. One can say, while profiling the nature and history of these kinds of occurrences in the past, it is not unlikely that Gana’s followers may run haywire and extract a reprisal or revenge.
“It’s also not out of the way to assume that, like the situation in the North East, it may morph into some more bizarre activity or group setting. This becomes particularly so, when weighed against Intelligence reports of major terrorist organisations seeking inroads onto our national space “Allegiances and collaborators may just weigh in on this, to exploit the angst in whatever is left of Gana’s band of rogues, to further their own operations.
The military and what could have been done differently is not the issue at the moment. What is for now, remains who, why, and how of that occurrence. “There is indeed a need to properly interrogate what occurred and ensure corrections are made swiftly, particularly in the communications, mission clearance, and cross functionality aspects of military operations. However, a retired onestar General, who spoke briefly on the strict condition of anonymity, argued that the incident must be viewed objectively, saying; “If Gana was killed in an encounter, then his killing is justified. But if he was going for Amnesty, his killing will cause more problems”.
But a former Commissioner of Police in charge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Command, Mr. Lawrence Alobi, said the killing will send warning signals to other suspected criminal elements, on the readiness of the military and other security agencies, to protect the state and its citizenry from violation.
Alobi said: “Earlier, I think the Police had already declared him wanted. Isn’t it? If a suspected criminal is wanted, he is a criminal. And, a criminal should always face the wrath of the law. If actually there was an encounter, as the military has made us to believe, and it is true, and in a firing encounter with the military, may be the military fire power was overwhelming; that led to his death. “…
If actually he has been killed, as the military claimed, of course that will send a signal to those criminal-minded people, that the military and security agencies are up and doing, to ensure that, the security of the country is guaranteed, To ensure that they insecurity and banditry”. Killing may worsen insecurity – Sokpo A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Kpam Sokpo also expressed fears that the killing of Gana may worsen the level of insecurity while expressing fears that the situation may cause more harm as many of his followers might interpret it as a deliberate attempt to silence them. Sokpo, who represents Buruku Federal Constituency of Benue State, said it may aggravate the security situation because the action of the military has truncated the initiative to rein in the bad boys and grant them amnesty to leave their criminal activities. The lawmaker, though noted he was not in support of criminality, gangsterism and other forms of social vices, he said he would not also endorse extra-judicial killing of any Nigerian.
He said: “I am afraid his boys may go back to the bush and continue with their criminality. In fact, some of them who were willing to give up may be hardened by the killing of their leader”. “It is true that Gana had several allegations of criminal activities, such as murder and kidnapping, hanging on his neck, but what has happened is an abuse of human rights. It is extra judicial killing because he was not armed. He accepted to give up criminality and accept amnesty; he was not tried in any court of law but just killed summarily. “According to the UN convention, even in war you don’t kill an enemy who has surrendered. This was a person who was unarmed and was arrested alongside some of his boys numbering over 40 on their way to denounce their criminal activities. “Yet only he was killed in the alleged cross fire with the military. The story does not add up. I will advise the Federal Government to collaborate with the state government and work out the best strategy to address this issue,” the legislator said.
Reacting on the matter, a community leader from Logo Local Government area of Sankera, Chief Joseph Anawa, admonished the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) to take the issue up with the military as according to him, it is a clear case of extra judicial killing. Anawa said: “What we suspected is that the military tried to hide something that made them to kill him or else he would have been handed over to the police for prosecution.
I am sure Ghana would have revealed so many things, some people just wanted to silence him and they got him. The CSO and human rights activists should help the Tiv nation to fight the extra judicial killing of Gana. Also reacting to the killing, President-General of the trio of socio-cultural organization in the state made up of Mdzough-U-Tiv, Opiatoha K’Idoma and Omi’nyi Igede, Chief Iorbee Ihagh, condemned the manner Gana was killed, having surrendered himself to embrace amnesty programme of the state government. Chief Ihagh said the act “shows he had repented and the best thing to do is to hand him over to police for prosecution”, while calling on the Federal Government to constitute a commission of inquiry into the matter so as to investigate the killing. A local farmer from the locality, Aondover Tyoban, expressed worry over the death of Ghana especially the way and manner he was brutally killed by men of the Nigeria Army. “The way he was killed pains everyone here in Sankera. You see, even though he committed atrocities, we feel he should have been handed over to the police for prosecution. Killing Ghana means more trouble in waiting for our people, this is a clear case of extra judicial killing and the army should be made to face the music”.
Ortom appeals for release of 40 hostages
Meanwhile, Ortom has appealed to the Nigeria Army to release the other 40 repented youths being held in its custody so that the government can continue with the amnesty programme. The 40 youths were arrested and whisked away to an unknown destination by the military forces shortly after their militant leader was picked and killed the same day. Governor Ortom who briefed the media yesterday, shortly after a meeting of the State Security Council at the Government House in Makurdi said, if there is need to prosecute them, civil ways should be adopted and not the military way. “It is the resolve of this expanded State Security Council meeting that the repented youths who were arrested by the military should be released so that they will continue from where they were coming to receive the amnesty and we’re arrested”, he said. Governor Ortom also appealed for the release of confiscated official cars belonging to the Katsina-Ala local government chairman and documents seized by the military men as they were important in the discharge of the official functions of the chairman. He announced that the amnesty programme will continue, adding that the government has decided to extend it beyond the Sankera axis of the state to embrace all other criminals who are willing to denounce their criminality so as to provide an enduring peace for the development of the state. According to him, those who would accept the programme would be given new orientation and thereafter, rehabilitated to go back home or be made to join any trade of their choice to become useful.
Suswan weighed in earlier
On his part, former Governor Gabriel Suswam and now the senator representing Benue North East senatorial district, appealed to elders and leaders in the state to help douse tension created by the incident. Suswam, who was said to have brokered the amnesty said it is time to heal, noting in times of uncertainties and crisis, it is incumbent on statesmen to stand out and douse tensions, especially those that threaten the good order of society. Maintaining the role of elders at times like this is not to inflame passions or fan the embers of hate but to heal all wounds, the former governor said Benue State is at a critical juncture in its existence. He said: “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 terrorised by activities of criminal gangs led by Gana for many years. The consequences of this endless terrorism have 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 stand by 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.” Suswam further explained that the state government along with the security agencies have long desired for a return to normalcy, peace, prosperity and security of the area. “We have all been in agreement that the continuous existence and activities of gangs is an ill wind that blows no one any good. That is why some leaders were mandated to reach out to these outlaws to persuade them to drop their arms and channel their energies towards the rebuilding of our thoroughly battered community. “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 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 dumb founded to learn that while Gana was on his way to Makurdi the state capital to present himself to the 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 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”, Suswan said.