Terwase Akwaza aka Gana died the way he lived, controversially. He was seized in a convoy comprising religious, traditional and political leaders from the Sankera intermediate area who were accompanying him to an amnesty programme where he and his gang members were expected to surrender their arms and be granted amnesty.
This happened on the 8th September, 2020.
He was said to have perpetrated a lot of atrocities on his kinsmen even while claiming that he was protecting them against external aggressors. He was notorious for alleged several criminal activities including banditry, kidnapping, assassinations, ritual killings and cattle rustling.
In 2015, when the Benue State Governor initiated an amnesty programme, Gana was the greatest beneficiary. Not only was he granted amnesty, he was also made Leader of the beneficiaries and given a lucrative revenue consultant job as part of his rehabilitation.
He went back to his criminal ways after it was alleged that he was behind the assassination of the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Security, Mr. Denen Igbana.
The Benue State Security Council moved against him by declaring him wanted and placing a bounty of N10 million which was later increased to N50 million on him.
The state security apparatus, later complemented by the Federal Government made efforts through first “Operation Ayem A Kpatuma” and later “Operation Whirlstroke” to track Gana down but all efforts were abortive.
Gana’s activities between 2015 and 2020 led to a near total collapse of socio-economic activities in Sankera axis, which is the most productive part of Benue and the reason Benue is referred to as the “Food Basket of the Nation”.
“Mr Akwaza placed special levies on farmers, traders and prominent people in his domain. Failure to pay meant death. He fought supremacy gang wars with his former allies which visited devastation on several communities in Ukum and Katsina-Ala local government areas. This state of affairs prompted prominent indigenes of the geopolitical axis, including political, religious and traditional leaders to request for a 2nd Amnesty programme especially since the military had failed to nab him,” a leader was quoted to have said.
The State Governor while commissioning projects in the Sankera on the 4th September, 2020 accepted the request of the leaders and gave an ultimatum of Tuesday, 8th September for surrendering of weapons to become beneficiaries of the programme.
On the appointed day, he came out of his hideout and presented himself at the Akume Atongo stadium in Katsina-Ala where selected traditional, religious and political leaders took off with him and some of his gang members on their way to Makurdi where the State Security council was waiting to finalize the amnesty programme.
It is claimed that before he left his hideout, he told his foot soldiers that he suspected foulplay and in the event that he didn’t return, they should continue from where he stopped.
On their way to Makurdi, the military intercepted the convoy at Masaje, a few meters to Yandev in Gboko Local Government Area.
The soldiers pulled out the Katsina-Ala L.G. Chairman, Alfred Orya Atera, his security detail and a former House of Assembly member, Dr Ianna Jato, from the Chairman’s official vehicle in which Gana was being conveyed to Makurdi. The military took the vehicle and Mr. Akwaza away. They also arrested some other potential amnesty beneficiaries.
As news of this development filtered into the venue of the Expanded State Security Council meeting initially as unconfirmed rumors, there was shock among those present which included Governor Ortom, Senator Gabriel Suswam and the Tor Tiv, Professor James Ayatse.