The Nigerian Military on Thursday refrained from responding to claims by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State that soldiers killed Terwase Agwaza alias Gana extra-judicially (illegally), saying that they did not want to join issues with political leaders.
Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche stated this on Thursday when asked to clarify what really transpired regarding Gana’s death.
Said he, “It is not proper for us or I as the Coordinator of DMO to join issues with the Governor of the state and the Senator.
“I am not permitted by ethical standards to join issues with what my political masters have said or done. By Section 217 of the constitution, we are subordinated to our political masters.
“I want to appeal to you that every issue that has been taking up before now, I should be left out of it.
“I’m aware that the governor made a statement and one of the Senators also made a statement and like I told you during time of Borno State, when Senator Ndume spoke and another of one spoke, I said that it is not proper to join issues with the top; so if I comment now, you will now go and use it and join me as if I’m an umpire.
“Please spear me that. If there was no reaction from there, I could have answered you but my political masters have taken up and have spoken.
“So I’m not permitted by ethical standards to talk about when my superiors have spoken out.
“Quote me by ethical standards it is not done, I’m to subordinate to constituted authority. As the Coordinator Defence Media Operations, if you had asked that question may be the same Tuesday it happened, maybe I would have had an answer for you but for now let us not persist till it becomes confrontational.
“I am good at monitoring the media so I am not ignorant of what has happened; it was on Channels TV, it was in the Newspapers”, Gen Enenche posited.
The Army claimed that the most wanted criminal and militia gang leader in Benue state, Terwase Agwaza aka Gana was killed by the Special Forces of the Nigerian Army following a shootout with troops.
But the Benue State governor, Mr Samuel Ortom, and a former governor of the state, Senator Gabriel Suswan said the killing was illegal.
According to the Benue state government, Gana and about 40 other militias had agreed to surrender in accordance with Benue state Amnesty programme and were on their way to Makurdi for the programme when they were arrested. Senator Gabriel Suswan representing Benue North East Senatorial District faulted the killing of Gana saying,
In a statement on Wednesday, Suswan said: “The soldiers’ action could frustrate the peace already being achieved in the state following Gana’s decision to embrace dialogue and to surrender his arms.”
While calling on the Federal Government to set up a judicial panel to unravel how Gana died, Senator Suswan noted that “Even war criminals captured alive are entitled to certain rights.
“The claim that Gana was killed in a gunfight needs further explanations 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 future.” Continuing Suswan said,
“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 have 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 a war with uncontrolled proliferation of dangerous weapons.
“No responsible leader will idly stand by and watch his community become a theater of war and a gangster’s paradise.
“It is with this solution mindset that traditional rulers, clergymen 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 and security agencies have long desired for a return to normalcy, peace, prosperity and security of the area.
“That is why some leaders were mandated to reach out to these outlaws to persuade them to drop their arms and channel their energies towards the rebuilding of our thoroughly battered community.
“We were all excited to see the dreaded Gana come out of hiding to the warm embrace of our traditional rulers, clerics 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.
“Those present at this forum heaved a great sigh of relief with the thought that finally, a life full of uncertainty has come to an 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, clergymen and security agencies were ambushed by allegedly armed soldiers and he was 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 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.”
On his part, Governor Samuel Ortom disclosed that Gana and other repentant militias were on their way to Makurdi to surrender themselves when they were intercepted close to Yandev roundabout in the Gboko LGA.
According to him, “It was around 4 pm when we were waiting for the repented militias that I received a call that Gana and others have been arrested close to Yandev roundabout in Gboko by soldiers.
“Many of the repentant militias had weapons which they were bringing to surrender to us. The process of the Amnesty programme was known to the security operatives. So I don’t know why they have to be arrested.
“The people willingly surrendered themselves to us. So I believed they will adequately be protected”, Governor Ortom stated.
Away from Gana issue, Gen Enenche gave details of military operations against criminal elements across the country.