Former governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswan (PDP Benue North-East Senatorial District) has called on the Federal Government to set up a judicial panel to unravel the circumstances leading to the gruesome killing of the late Terwase Agwaza alias Gana by soldiers on Tuesday.
The deceased was reportedly killed by some soldiers on September 8 on his way to Makurdi, the state capital, where he was scheduled to voluntarily surrender himself to the state governor, Samuel Ortom.
Governor Ortom narrated what happened prior to the incident: “We were waiting for the repentant militias when I received a call that Gana and others have been arrested close to Yandev Roundabout in Gboko by soldiers.
“Many of the repentant militias had weapons in which they were bringing to surrender to us.
“The process of the amnesty programme was known to the security operatives, so I don’t know why they have to be arrested.”
The Commander, 4 Special Forces Command, Doma, Nasarawa State, Major General Moundhey Ali, told newsmen on Tuesday that Gana was killed at a roadblock mounted by the army along Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi Road following exchange of gunfire.
Ali said about 40 members of Gana’s gang were captured in the process.
But reacting to the incident in a statement titled, “A time to heal”, in Abuja, on Wednesday, Senator Suswam said the soldiers’ action could frustrate the peace efforts of the state government and other stakeholders in the state.
Suswam said, “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.
“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 traumatised and the people terrorised by activities of criminal gangs led by Mr. Terwase Agwaza alias Gana for many years.
“The consequences of this endless terrorism has been a steady decline of economic and social activities leaving a once prosperous people pauperised.
“Markets no longer attract traders, schools are closed and farmlands abandoned. Politics in the area has become a war with the 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, clergymen, and elders of the area decided to utilise 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 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 to present himself to the State Governor, who was waiting, his long convoy that included political leaders, traditional rulers, clergymen, and security agencies was ambushed by alleged 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.
“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 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.”