Dreaded Benue crime kingpin, Terwase Akwaza popularly known as Gana is dead but the sad tales of his exploits still lingers. Recently, operatives of the Police Intelligence Response Team(IRT) arrested some of his gang members including his elder brother, Terkwula Akwaza. Popularly known as Sakura who was seen as the late Gana’s central bank confessed to the DCP Abba Kyari-led police team that he had received not less than N200 million cash smuggled to his location in Makurdi, Benue. He claimed to have invested most of the money by establishing businesses and buying landed properties in Benue and Abuja including government approved schools. Terkwula insisted that he worked for his brother for fear of his life and their parents who are still on the run.
According to a police source, most of his arrested gang members were nabbed while detectives were on the trail of Gana weeks before he was gunned down. They are: Simon Ruben Igundunase, Terhile Tsabee, Saater Undi, Henry Terkula, Aoigwase and Paul. They confessed to have worked for Gana but under duress.
Our parents fled the village because of Gana
According to Terkwula, his younger brother Gana was seen as mini-God and feared by all. “I am 47 and from Kastina-ala area of Benue state but I was born and bred in Makurdi. My father married two wives but Gana is my brother from the same mother. I am happily married with five children and was into carpentry till Gana invited me to work for him in 2015.
“I started working for him in 2015 when he was granted amnesty by the governor. I am educated although I dropped out of the university due to lack of funds. He called me to help him run his company and I was made one of the directors. Government allowed him to be collecting revenue on every agricultural produce in the state. It was a ccompany that had over 300 staff and along the line he started having issues with the governor and they terminated the contract. He went back to the village and started all over again and this time around he became deadlier. I was like a 5-year-old boy to him and dare not challenge his decisions. He kept sending money to me and out of fear I did as he instructed which was to acquire properties for him in Abuja and Benue. I became scared when about N80 million was sent to me in 2018. I bought some of the equipment that he ordered me to buy and handed over to his mining company business manager. I bought caterpillar excavator at the rate of N19.5million, one grader was N14.9million, and a Frontier Hilux jeep among others.
How money caused rift between the two brothers
Terkwula stated that accounting for the funds sent to him by Gana caused rift between them. “We argued over money spent and I decided to use the opportunity to pull out. I knew all funds were proceeds of kidnap, that was why I was looking for a reason to stop working for him. I ran away from Makurdi not knowing police were after me already. I dare not go to the police because there are informants everywhere.”
On why his brother ended up as a dreaded person, Terkwula claimed that it could be as a result of the beating he was given when he was much younger. “He grew in Kastina-ala with my father while I was in Makurdi with my mother. He attended Todonga primary school. I was told that in 1992, he was accused of stealing a wheelbarrow. He denied it until another boy was caught with the missing wheelbarrow and the boy claimed that it was Gana that gave it to him. My dad was so disappointed that he travelled to the village and arranged some young boys who publicly beat him up, warning him not to bring shame to the family. This was how he left for over five years, he came back as a terrorist and with a group of people.
The village chiefs, and politicians are loyal to him because they were terrified. You dare not challenge him. He became a warlord and the type of people he mingled with were not people you can joke with. He has fought against other tribes. He is a Tiv man and was very active during the Fulani and Jukun crisis.”
On the death of his brother, Terkwula said that everyone is now at peace now that he is dead. “I am very happy that he is dead. Some of his men ran away. My parents are still alive. They ran away when he returned. They are alive but no one knows their location because Gana might kill them.”
His business move
Not left out is Gana’s mining company manager, Ruben who lamented that his greatest mistake was to advise him.
“I am 34 and from Kastina-ala. I worked with a mining company in Switzerland. In June 2019, I went to the village for my grandmother’s burial. I was told to go and settle Gana if I want to do a successful burial ceremony. I told him that we don’t come to village again because of his activities. I told him to go into big business, because I knew that he made so much money from the contract that government gave him. He was remitting N15 million every month whereas he made up to N100million in a month. He can put it into mining and make money and stop kidnapping. Our farm market was no longer booming, we wanted to control his criminal business. Even if you report to the police, his informants will alert him and he will wipe off one’s entire family.
“This was my little contribution to change the situation in my village and also a way of getting money for myself. He sent his elder brother to buy machines needed. The business was not successful and the brother ran away, I simply packed the equipment and left. We did not make money before he was arrested. I knew he was a criminal and I was against it. My sister was once kidnapped by the same Gana group. You dare not oppose him, my meeting with him was a mistake. I have handed over everything to the authority. I am so sorry to have participated in anything that has to do with him.
I am very happy that he is dead. I don’t wish anyone dead, but in this case, I am happy. I am a free man; no one will come after me or my family members.”
Stories by gang members
One of his suspected gang members, Terhile who claimed that he is a farmer said that their lives will return to normal since Gana is dead. “I am from Kastina-ala in Benue state. I am 27 years old, married with two kids. I am a farmer, and after my secondary school education, I had to join my parents and learn farming. This was my source of living till the crisis in our area made farming as the only source of living impossible.
“It was while I was trying to find other means of survival that I met Teerna. Initially I thought that he is a farmer till he told me the truth. He explained to me how they were surviving and that if I don’t want to be harassed by Gana boys, that I should join them. I joined them because I needed money. We used to go out to hustle and when ransom is paid the person will be released. Unfortunately, in 2018, we did a job that Teerna decided to execute the victims. I had gone to visit Teerna in the bush where they were hiding to beg for money and he told me that times were hard that we should go out and hustle. They were hiding in a forest between Taraba and Benue.”
Terhile said they chose a part on the road with portholes and laid ambush. “No matter how fast you’re driving as soon as you get to that spot, you must slow down. We waited inside the bush while one of us pretending to be a traveler waiting for a bus monitored the quality of cars. As soon as a big car was approaching, he alerted us. It was later we discovered that the occupant was a doctor. We were four of us with one AK47 and a pistol.
“We were able to kidnap the doctor who was coming to Benue from Taraba and he was with a friend and his son. We handed him over to Teerna who negotiated with the family and they eventually paid N7.5million after three weeks. I was given N300,000 and I kicked against it. Teerna told us to disappear before Gana will order our execution. He told us that it was Gana that determined the sharing formula. It was later that we heard that they have killed them. I do not know why they killed them.”
On if he had a personal relationship with Gana, Terhile claimed that he had never come close to him. “I have seen him in a church in 2015 when he was granted amnesty. I followed those that came to see him because he was a dreaded warlord in our area. I have heard so much about him but that was the first time that I saw him. He is a kidnapper, robber and terrorist.
“Even as a farmer he gave us trouble. We normally pay him N3000 every year. He will send his boys to come and collect the money on his behalf. If you have a big farm, you will give N3000 and a goat every year. The money that we make from farming, he takes it forcefully from us. I know that I am a bad person but with the death of Gana it will be easy to survive,” he stated.
Another suspect, Saatee Undi told Saturday Sun that there is a possibility that the doctor and his family members were killed because they refused to bring more money. “I am from Vandika in Benue state. I was born in 1996. I have one wife although I have not paid her bride price. Her father gave her to me free to pay money whenever I have enough money. It was Terhile that took us to Teerna. I observed that Terhile was always buoyant and spending lavishly. I asked him how he managed, he told me how he was making money from kidnapping. I decided to follow him. He took me to Teerna’s house in the bush. His hideout is between Taraba and Benue boundary. He promised to contact us if need be. A month later we went back to his house inside the forest. He said there is no money that we should go and work. We went out and kidnapped a man and his family
“We took them to Teerna house and when we saw that they were Jukun people from Taraba state, I was told to negotiate with them. I understand their language that was why they chose me for the job. They brought the money after three weeks. When it was time to collect the money, he sent me out insisting that I could betray them by speaking the language in the forest. The next day I was given N250,000. We argued with him and he said that bulk of the money was for Gana. He said Gana was the one to determine the sharing formula.
“I don’t know why he killed the doctor because he was alive when we left. I am suspecting they wanted more money and the doctor was already too weak after staying in the bush for three weeks. I only saw Gana during the amnesty time. He came to church with the governor,” he stated.
On his part, Henry Terkula insists that he never knew that his cousin Teerna was a criminal till he visited his village. “I am from Todonga area in Kastina ala but based in Gboko. I am 26 and recently married. I am not a bad person, Teerna is my cousin. I was at an event in Gboko where I met Teerna after so many years and he promised to keep in touch. Then I never knew he had joined criminal gangs. He called me again that there is an electricity construction that encroached into their land, and government was ready to pay him. Teerna said that he was paid N500,000 and asked if the cheque can be written in my name and I said no problem.
“I drove myself to his house which is close to the boundary in the company of Terhile whom he asked me to come with. He gave me the cheque and I cashed it and took it to him. It was when I decided to enter our village in Kastina-ala that I was told that Teerna was working for Gana. I was told that soldiers have even razed down his house in the village, that was why he ran into the bush. I was warned that if I open my mouth and talk about it, my wife and mother would be killed. I had no choice but to keep quiet.
“Although I am his cousin our family was not spared. They kidnapped my sister and we were asked to pay N500,000. I was the one that they gave them the money to drop and when I got there my sister was released and they held me back and asked my sister to go and raise N300,000. I was shocked when I realized that it was even Teerna that gave them the information,” he narrated.
Another suspect, Aoigwase claimed that his only job was to give the gang information about possible targets in Kastina-ala “I am 25-year-old and from Kastina-ala and I knew some of Gana’s gang members who promised to pay me for information. The first job I gave them was that of an Igbo man that owns a satchet water company. Luckily for him police rescued him. The second person was the owner of Mercy School in Kastina-Ala. They gave me N85,000 after ransom was paid. Next was a businessman at Kastina-ala market and he paid N3 million, they gave me N60,000. Another was a lecturer, College of Education, he gave me N80,000 after collecting N6.5 million from him. The next one was another lecturer who is my neighbour. He paid N7 million. I ran away because my mum heard about it, she warned me and sent me to Abuja. I agreed to leave because they were shortchanging me. It was in Abuja that police tracked and arrested me.”
How I registered 47 SIM cards for him
Next is Paul who registered several sim cards for Gana and also helped him to negotiate for ransom. “I am also from Kastina-ala and was introduced to him by a friend when I was looking for money to complete my university education. I met him at Akwaza Comprehensive Primary School which belongs to him. He told me that my job was just to register sim cards for him with different names. I did that and can say that I registered not less than 47 sim cards. Anytime I fail to obey him, he will flog me thoroughly and threaten to deal with my family.
“I was the one he sent to buy those cars for that honourable that was arrested. Suddenly, he started inviting me to help him with negotiation especially if they picked any Hausa man. I lived in the North so I know how to speak Hausa. In one of the cases, I was able to convince them to pay N100 million. I cannot run away from the state; I was his slave. I am telling you the truth and nothing but the truth. I am not even interested in going back because his boys who are still in the bush might come after me.”