Former Benue State governor, Senator Gabriel Suswam has condemned the Tuesday killing of a notorious armed bandit, Mr. Terwase Akwaza, alias Gana by soldiers, noting that the act has, rather than douse tension, escalated it in the state.
The Nigeria Army had confirmed the killing of Gana tagged the “most wanted criminal” in Benue State on Tuesday at a roadblock mounted by its men along Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi road following exchange of gunfire.
But Senator Suswam, who presently represents Benue North East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, said the convoy in which Gana was travelling to meet the state governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, traditional rulers, clergymen and other leaders in Makurdi where he had agreed to surrender his arms and renounce banditry, was actually intercepted and singled out for arrest before his killing.
The lawmaker, in a statement he personally signed and issued yesterday, however, pleaded with all elders and community leaders, especially in Benue North East District to “rein in their youths and avoid a deterioration of an already bad situation.”
“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 renounces a life of crime. Our revered king extracted a pledge from him never to turn his kingdom into a wasteland.
“I was totally dumbfounded to learn that while Gana was on his way to Makurdi, the state capital to present himself to the state 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 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. We stand to benefit more by subjecting suspects to due process of the law. Information extracted from a living Gana would have helped security agents get to the root of activities of criminals. By this gestapo style execution, we have missed an opportunity to learn vital lessons about the structure of crime in the area,” he stressed.
Senator Suswam added that “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.”
He, however, called for an independent judicial commission of inquiry to unravel facts of the matter to serve as lessons for the future.
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