Gana’s Death: Gov Ortom Seeks Refuge In Army Barracks

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Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom

By Raphael Ekpang

The  killing of notorious Benue gang leader, Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as Gana has continued to generate controversy in and around the state with the latest twist coming from the state governor, Samuel Ortom who has allegedly abandoned the Government House to seek refuge in 72 Battalion Army Barracks, Makurdi, the state capital.

The  killing of notorious Benue gang leader, Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as Gana has continued to generate controversy in and around the state with the latest twist coming from the state governor, Samuel Ortom who has allegedly abandoned the Government House to seek refuge in 72 Battalion Army Barracks, Makurdi, the state capital.

A source at the Government House, told our reporter that since the ugly incident occurred last week Tuesday, Governor Ortom has not been sleeping at his official residence, perhaps for fear of a possible reprisal attack from the late Gana’s gang members who survived the soldiers’ onslaught. The impeccable source told New National Star that Governor Ortom has since been taking refuge at the 72 Battalion Army Barracks in the North Bank area of the capital. 

According to the source, “Governor Ortom is now sleeping at the 72 Battalion Army Barracks in North Bank. I saw him on Wednesday (a day after Gana’s killing) Thursday morning when he woke up from the house he slept.” However, there are lots of speculations concerning the death of Akwaza, a dreaded gang leader who terrorized the state and Taraba State for five years before he met his death recently. Governor Ortom stated that Gana was killed while he and 40 other repentant bandits were being conveyed to Makurdi, the state capital after they embraced the government’s amnesty programme, adding that the action of the Nigerian Army sabotaged his peace efforts, urging the army to release about 40 other militias said to be in its custody. 

Briefing journalists after a five-hour security meeting at the Government House Makurdi last week Friday, Governor Ortom also called for the release of some official vehicles confiscated by the military authorities. The Governor explained that the call for the release of the repentant militias is necessary to enable them to embrace the amnesty programme of the state government. “It is the resolve of this meeting, the expanded State Security Council meeting, that the repentant youths who were arrested by the military should be released so that they will continue from where they were coming to receive their amnesty and they were arrested. “Also items that were confiscated, we are also appealing to the military to return them. Some of those vehicles were hired, some are official vehicles to our government officials. 

Some other things are documents. We appeal that all these be returned to us,” Governor Ortom said. Reacting to the death of Terwase Akwaza, alias Gana, Governor Ortom said the Sankara people and the state is pained by the development. He, however, noted that nothing can be done to bring back the dead to life, calling on the people of the state to cooperate with the security agencies particularly the military. While seeking more clarification on the true incident that lead to Gana’s death, Governor Ortom said the state government will continue to engage the military rather than being confrontational. “We are going to find out the truth of what happened. 

That is what the entire stakeholders here are demanding to know because from the press statement and information to us gives us a cause to worry. “We have resolved to move on and continue to inter-phase with the military and other security agencies to ensure that this kind of ugly incident does not happen again,” he said. However, there was confusion at the army’s camp as most believe that those who killed Gana may not be aware that he has accepted an amnesty offer, perhaps his killing was as a result of poor communication among government officials and security agencies. 

Meanwhile, the Commander, 4 Special Forces Command, Doma, Nasarawa state, Moundhey Ali, had last week Tuesday informed journalists 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’. 

However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Senator Gabriel Suswam who represents Benue North East at the Senate condemned in totality the killing of ‘repentant Militia Leader’ in Benue State, late Agwaza by men of the Nigerian Army in Gboko. Suswam noted that Terwase’s killing after turning a new leaf from crime and criminality by soldiers was counterproductive to peace already returning to the state. According to him, in a situation 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 endangers the healing process as “this is time to heal and not to kill.” 

Suswam in a statement last week Wednesday, said security operatives have not learnt lessons from the crisis triggered by the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, founder of the Boko Haram sect. “Security operatives were said to have killed Yusuf in front of the police headquarters in Maiduguri, Borno state, in 2009, and shortly after the sect launched a campaign of violence which rages till date,” he noted. Meanwhile, one of the five widows of the late Akwaza, Wantor Akwa, while corroborating Governor Ortom’s stance on her late husband that he was coming to the state capital to surrender his weapons and embraced peace said that her husband wanted to work for God before he was killed by the Nigerian Army. 

She insisted that her husband was on his way to surrender to the Benue State Government before being shot and killed by soldiers. She revealed that Gana came out of hiding because former Governor and Senator representing Benue NorthEast, Gabriel Suswam, told him he was involved in the peace deal. According to her, “I was in Makurdi when they called to inform me of the incident. Senator Gabriel Suswam went to meet him on Saturday because when they went for him on the second amnesty issue, he said if he did not see Suswam, he was not going to come out. He said until Suswam comes around, he will not believe that the amnesty was true. “After the initial amnesty, he went back into the bush. 

When the second amnesty programme started, he was briefing me about the development. “I spoke with him on Saturday and he told me that he was going for the amnesty and that he is tired of the life he was living. “He told me that he has worked for too long and that he wants to work for God and be a free man. My husband was not a wicked man. I am not saying it because I am his wife. My husband was not a wicked person.” She concluded. 

Gana was killed on September 8 in what military authorities described as a firefight, but Governor Ortom said soldiers snatched Gana from a government convoy of repentant militants in Gboko. Meanwhile, when New National Star contacted Benue State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Hon. Ngunan Adingi for comment on why Governor Ortom deserted the Government House after the death of Terwase Agwaza, she declined comment, saying that she does not know what we are talking about.

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