An investigation by the Coalition of Human Rights Groups in Nigeria (CHRGN) has revealed that notorious Benue militia leader, Terwase Akwaza, popularly known as Gana was killed after an exchange of gunfire with the military.
CHRGN made its findings known in a report signed by its special rapporteur, Edward Omaga and unveiled at a press conference on Friday in Abuja.
Gana, whose act of terror lingered for over five years in Benue and parts of Taraba State was finally gunned down on Tuesday at a roadblock mounted by the army along Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi road.
CHRGN said it then embarked on a fact-finding mission to clear the doubts of the Benue State Government and some prominent political figures in the state over the death.
The group said it relied on information provided by eyewitnesses, other locals in the area of the incident and aggregated the views of local vigilante groups operating within that area.
It added that opinions of some political actors were aggregated as well to form a background to the amnesty programme initiated by the state government.
As part of its findings, the coalition disclosed that “indeed there was a shoot-out between Gana and his boys in an entourage of about 20 vehicles driving dangerously along the Makurdi-Gboko road when they were accosted by troops from the 4 Special Forces Command in Nasarawa State who had mounted a spontaneous roadblock acting on Intel on the movement of a large convoy with sporadic shootings”.
It added that “indeed the late Gana who was seating on top of one of the vehicles opened fire at the military checkpoint and at that point, there was pandemonium and sounds of gunshots rented the air.
” We also gathered that the identity of Gana was not initially ascertained, not until he was neutralized that his identity was confirmed. By then, he had sustained gunshot wounds that ultimately led to his death”.
The coalition also revealed that the state government kept the movement of Gana and his gang from the troops and this indeed caused a communication breach and the Nigerian Army acting in Intel of the movement of a large cache of arms along that axis mounted an improvised checkpoint.
The report added, ” that it was when news reached the governor that he made frantic efforts to reach the military commanders in the state, informing them that Gana was his guest and that he was on his way to Makurdi to surrender for the Amnesty Programme of the State government.
“It was at this point the governor was informed that there had been a shoot-out with Gana and his team members and he sustained gunshot injuries. We gathered that the governor was furious and consequently called for a press conference alleging that the Nigerian Army killed Gana despite having knowledge of his movement from his base to Makurdi the state capital”.
The Coalition of Human Rights Groups in Nigeria, therefore, concluded, that there was a communication gap between the State Government and the Nigerian Army in the operation in Benue-Taraba Axis.
It said the movement of such a large cache of firearms should ordinarily attract the attention of the security operatives if indeed the said Gana was on his way to embrace amnesty.
While repelling the notion that it was an extra-judiciously killing, the report, however, warned state governments against initiating or implementing amnesty programmes without proper communication with security agencies.