Despite the controversies surrounding the death of one of the most wanted bandits in the Middle Belt, Terwase Akwaza popularly known as Gana, has been linked to the death of several high profile persons in Benue State.
Gana was reportedly involved in several criminal activities including banditry, kidnapping, assassinations, ritual killings and cattle rustling for so many years.
Although towards the end, he wanted to be seen as a saviour and a defender of the Tiv people against external aggression, he was accused of fighting supremacy gang wars with his former allies that visited devastation on several communities in Ukum and Katsina-Ala local government areas.
Uncountable deaths linked to him
Desperate to end his reign of terror in a civilised manner, the state governor, Samuel Ortom granted him amnesty in 2015. The State Government made him a Revenue Consultant as part of his rehabilitation and that of the other beneficiaries and he made a fortune.
The amnesty programme was automatically cancelled after he was indicted in the alleged assassination of the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Security, Mr. Denen Igbana.
Rumors had it that Gana constituted himself into an alternate government and enjoyed the status of a maximum ruler in the jungle. His kingdom is known as the Sankera geo-political axis that comprises Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo local government areas of Benue State.
He was alleged to have presided over the activities of that area from the jungles of Gbise, his immediate community where it was believed that the community played a big role in shielding him from security operatives who were on his trail.
Severally, the Benue State Security Council moved against him by declaring him wanted and placing a bounty on him of N10 million which was later increased to N50 million.
These efforts were later complemented by the Federal Government that joined the manhunt through, first “Operation Ayem A Kpatuma” and later “Operation Whirlstroke”.
Despite the open manhunt, Gana formed several notorious gangs that operated in state and during his reign of terror an entire community said to be against his style of leadership was razed down.
The entire Sankera area, which used to be the most productive part of Benue State particularly in agriculture could barely produce enough to feed themselves. Gana was said to have placed special levies on farmers, traders and prominent people in his domain. Failure to pay meant death.
Some of his alleged victims who were killed in cold blood including the District Head of Mbayongo, Chief Aloo Alev, and his counterpart in Michihe, Chief Chiahemba Livinus Shom, in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area.
His latest victim amongst traditional rulers was Chief Awua Alabar, District Head of Kundav in Ukum Local Government Area, who was gunned down in the presence of his family.
These include Mr. Igbana, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ortom on Special Security and Msugh Tyavyar alias Pastor whose roles in the prosecution of the first Amnesty Programme he considered a threat to his interest. Both were brutally gunned down by people believed to be sent on the orders of Gana.
Also the abduction and murder of Mrs. Esther Nguumbur Tur, wife of Justice Tine Tur of the Court of Appeal and her companion, Mrs. Mbalamen Kpensuen Aminde, after collection of ransom and seizing of the Hilux van vehicle in which they were abducted. The Appeal Court Justice could not survive the trauma of his wife’s murder. He died shortly afterwards.
He was also accused of being at the centre of the crisis brewing between Benue and Taraba border communities leading to the death of many and destruction of property worth billions of naira on both sides. Gana was believed to be the man behind most kidnappings in Taraba and Benue states.
Quite aware that all effort to get Gana to end his terror appeared impossible, few prominent indigenes of the geopolitical axis, including political, religious and traditional leaders pleaded with the state government to consider second Amnesty Programme.
On Friday, September 4, 2020, Governor Ortom while on project commissioning and inspection tour of the Sankera axis accepted the request of the leaders.
The governor gave an ultimatum for those who wanted to embrace the 2nd Amnesty to surrender their weapons on Tuesday, 8th September in order to become beneficiaries of the programme. They were able to persuade him to accept amnesty.
In company of religious leaders, he left his hideout and presented himself at the Emmanuel Akume Atongo Stadium in Katsina-Ala in full public glare to embrace the programme.
The State Security Council was holding a meeting at the New Banquet Hall of Government House, Makurdi where the Second Amnesty programme was to be formalised.
Selected traditional rulers, prominent indigenes and security personnel took off with Gana and other potential beneficiaries from the stadium to come and present them to the Council. On their way to Makurdi the military intercepted the convoy at Masaje, close to Yandev in Gboko Local Government Area.
They pulled the Katsina-Ala Local Government Chairman, Alfred Orya Atera and his security detail, a former House of Assembly member, Dr Ianna Jato, out of the chairman’s official vehicle in which Gana was being conveyed to Makurdi.
The military took the vehicle and Gana away. They also arrested close to a hundred other potential Amnesty beneficiaries from Katsina-Ala, Ukum and Logo local government areas.
Later reports were received that the military killed some of the potential beneficiaries near Moji Farms after Tse-Kucha, and later they killed Gana at another location in Nasarawa State.
In their defense, the military in a statement from the Commander of the 4 Special Forces based in Doma, Nasarawa State, Major General Moundhey Gazama Ali, stated that Gana was killed in a gunfight with the military, with the picture of the wanted gangster at the back of the official vehicle of the Katsina-Ala Local Government Chairman.
Although he is gone, there are fears that members of his gang spread across the state and beyond might attack the volatile communities, as they believe that the death of Gana was a conspiracy between government and the people.