PRESS STATEMENT BY SANKERA MEDIA FORUM ON EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLING OF TERWASE AKWAZA, KNOWN ALSO AS “GANA” DATED THIS DAY, SEPTEMBER 11th, 2020.
Gentlemen of the press, the event of September 8th, 2020 which began at the Akume Atongo stadium in Katsina-Ala, Benue State with the public renunciation of violence by militia groups in Sankera land provided some moments for respite not only to inhabitants of the area but our neighbors and visitors who love peace.
The renunciation became necessary due to what Governor Samuel Ortom said intensive engagement of the youths in dialogue by their elders who included traditional rulers, influential politicians and other relevant stakeholders led to the consensus across party lines for the amnesty no one could blame another on efforts to stem the tide of criminal activities that have destroyed social and economic wellness for the inhabitants of the area the programme was designed to address the challenges!
The event was historic for the fact that the group’s militia leader, Terwase Akwaza, known also as “Gana” who reputedly eluded attempts by security agents to arrest him consented to the programme to repent and surrendered his weapons as well as himself to authorities of the state in Katsina-Ala for onward submission to Governor Ortom in Benue People’s House where media workers and other bodies assembled to witness the historic occasion.
Unfortunately, enthusiasm for the long journey to peace was cut short by the Governor’s address to curiously waiting journalists in the new banquet hall that soldiers had intercepted convoy of the government made up of traditional rulers, officials of his administration, the clergy and other key stakeholders who had accompanied Terwase Akwaza to Makurdi for the programme and whisked the repentant leader to an unknown destination!
The disclosure quickly destroyed happiness initially established in the hearts of people that surrender of arms and renunciation of violent crimes by the militants would open a fresh chapter of peaceful living in Sankera land could be of no effect!
But the most disturbing news about interception of the vehicle conveying the repentant militia boys was reported on Channels Television that their leader, Gana who already submitted himself to the authorities in Katsina-Ala and headed for the amnesty in Makurdi became suddenly over powered by soldiers in a shoot out en-route the destination which hangs till now in the realms of conjecture.
As media executives, we detest and condemn act of criminality without pretending. We demonstrated this fact of hate for crime in firm support of the over nearly five years continuously military onslaught on Sankera soil, identified with other security agents to neutralize activities and influence of Gana when he was in the bush terrorizing people of the area!
We have no objection to action by the military on erring citizens but certainly condemn such action perceived to have ill motive, orchestrated against the rules of approved practice or contrary to the standards of engagement recognized worldwide. Abuse of the process appears to manifest in the reported claim that the armless Gana was killed by soldiers in a shoot out!
Nothing could equal the claim ridiculously as it stares in the faces of discerning minds to probe, especially arising from the existing fact that even in war situations, combatant enemy figures who surrendered voluntarily to superior fire power of the opponents were spared and taken captive as prisoners of war.
In the current situation, the soldiers did not keep alive the former criminal making susceptible to instigate suspicion that killing of the repentant Gana extra judiciary failed the test of established military standards and conventions on engagement of enemies the killers must be made to account for misconduct on the duty.
His gruesome murder violates the United Nations Charter on Human Rights encompassing the right to life and presumption of innocence till proven otherwise, Nigeria as a signatory must preserve the charter. For this reason, we find preposterous, the claim as reported that Gana was killed during the exchange of gun fire killed with soldiers.
Similarly, we seek to contradict the said demand by Nigerian military reported in some sections of the country’s press that the fifty million naira reward the state government previously promised any person who found Gana be paid to soldiers for extra judicially killing the guy who repented and submitted himself voluntarily to the lawful State Government.
Meanwhile, as we condemn the reported claim by the soldiers, we alert of the growing opinion that the extra judicial killing could amount to some double standards for example that Boko Haram terrorists subdued on the battle field reportedly receive pardon and support from the authorities and reintegrate them into the society but the other hand, justify extra judicial killing of the man who renounced violence and sought reintegration.
In this direction, we oppose the reported demand for payment of the fifty million naira bounty that it could serve as reward for the bad conduct which has tendency to equal the promotion of lawlessness, greater indiscipline, widen the net for extra judicial killings and above all threaten to reduce her reputation to mere merchants of killers for money!
On the strength of the opinion, we join the representative of the Benue North East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Distinguished Senator Gabriel Suswam to condemn atrocious murder of Terwase Akwaza by the soldiers! We also demand for establishment of a commission of inquiry into the circumstance of the killing as well as seek punishment for the killers, believed to serve as deterrence to others and pay reparations to family of the victim.
Additionally, we draw attention of the international community and other relevant bodies, especially the United Nations, UN whose charter on human rights has been abused. We alert the Prosecutor-General, International Court of Justice to intervene on the need to investigate the murder and ensure that the Tiv people of Nigeria enjoy security guaranteed for everyone.
Sankera Media Forum, Worldwide