According to The Nation, one of Nigeria’s most respected national dailies, the Nigeria Army is requesting for the payment of N50million bounty from Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, for the killing of the state’s most wanted militia, Terwase Agwaza (Gana).
Citing a military source, the report said the Army is waiting to see if Governor Ortom will keep to the promise he made before Gana was killed.
The unnamed source went on to note that Governor Ortom’s response to this request will prove whether the military has the backing of the government in the fight against banditry and terrorism in the state.
The source disclosed: “Despite the ransom (bounty), Gana still remained elusive, forcing the state government to raise it to N50 million bounty for his arrest. Yet, he was elusive, not until he was gunned down by the Special Forces on 8 September 2020.
“In the midst of this situation, the Nigerian Army deserves to be paid the N50 million ransom, having killed Gana. The assignment has been completed, the Army should be paid.
“It is not the cash that is important, but the need for political authority to set good precedent by giving backing to the military.”
Moreover, the source stated clearly that the sum, if paid, will be a symbolic reward for the Nigerian Army’s effort for killing a wanted criminal who bullied and terrorised most parts of the state and beyond.
Earlier, Gabriel Suswam, senator representing Benue north-east and former governor, had condemned the killing of Gana, a notorious criminal.
In a statement, Suswam described the killing of Terwase after turning a new life from crime and criminality by soldiers was counterproductive to peace already returning to the State.
He explained that 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 engenders the healing process as “this is time to heal and not to kill “.
Suswam’s Statement read: “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 terrorized 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 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 standby 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.
“The Benue State Government along with the security agencies have long desired for a return to normalcy, peace , prosperity and security of the area.
“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 and end.
“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.
“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 furure.”