Linus Oota, Lafia and Uja Emmanuel, Makurdi
- Claims gang leader saw his death coming
- Ortom: I’ll not take issues with military
About 200 trained members of the Gana-led terror group remain in the forests of Benue North East and parts of neighbouring Taraba State, according to a leader of the gang.
Aondehemba, as he identified himself to The Nation during an encounter in Keffi, Nasarawa State yesterday evening, said Gana had instructed his second in command to take over in the event that he (Gana) got killed during his trip from Katsina Ala to Makurdi.
Aondehemba a.k.a. “Major’ said Gana, whose real name is Terwase Akwaza, seemed to have a premonition of his death before venturing out of the forest on Tuesday to accept the offer of amnesty from the state government.
‘Major’ spoke on his way to Abuja to commiserate with one of the widows of Gana.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State said yesterday that he would not take issues with the military on the circumstance of Gana’s death.
Speaking in Tiv, ‘Major’ said: “We warmed him not to come out. We told him that the said amnesty was a ploy to get him.
“He agreed with us but said he had made up his mind to surrender and that he was tired of staying in the bush.
“He told us that he was coming out from the bush to honour the Bishop of Gboko William Aveyam and Senator Gabriel Suswam, both of whom he said had been mounting pressure on him in the last three months to come out and embrace peace, and that he had made up his mind to embrace peace.”
Aondehemba said Gana had a structured ’empire’ in place in the forest with over 200 well trained armed men spread across Benue North East and parts of Taraba State.
“It is a battalion. We are many and have a very strong network. Gana was a leader that cared so much about us.
“On that very day, he assembled us in the morning in the bush and addressed us. He directed us on what to do if he did not return alive.
“He told us that if his coming out was a setup, the battle should continue, but if it was with genuine intention, he would want us to lay down our arms.”
Aondehemba recalled that Bishop Aveyam was always calling Gana on the phone, preaching the gospel to him to change his ways and embrace peace.
He added: “I can tell you that Gana accepted Christ before his death. He had planned to be baptized by the Bishop after the amnesty. He had even discussed wedding one of his wives in the church. He was actually tired of what he was doing.
“I was among the five gang members that disappeared in the convoy when the army stopped us in Gboko. Our vehicle was behind the official car of the local government chairman that was conveying Gana to Makurdi.
“Gana could not disappear because he had already handed over his power to the second commander before embarking on that ill-fated journey to Makurdi.
“His intention was to come back from Makurdi and make sure that peace returned permanently in Sankera (Logo, Ukum, Katsina Ala LGAs), and Suswam had assured him of full support.
“He had told us that one of the things he intended to do in Makurdi was to plead with Governor Ortom to forgive him and reassure him of peace in Benue.”
He claimed that Gana had super natural powers derived from burying his 12-year-old daughter alive 11 years ago in his Gbitse village.
“That was why he was very powerful. And those powers are still intact, because he gave them to someone very close to him.
“The military got Gana easily because he came out of the forest.
“Gana was in his village in Gbitse when he was declared wanted some years back, and each time the military went there to arrest him they were unable to identify him.
“Now Gana is no more but his spirit is still very much alive. He gave us a directive on what to do in case he died.
“At the moment, we are mourning him.”
‘I’ll not take issues with military on Gana’s death’ – Ortom
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who was waiting in Makurdi on Tuesday for what was planned to be a historic meeting with Gana only to be informed of his death, said yesterday that he would not take issues with the military on the circumstances of the terrorist’s death.
The military had claimed that Gana was shot dead during an exchange of gun fire with soldiers while government officials in the same convoy with the deceased said he was dragged out of the car that was taking him to Makurdi, bundled into a security vehicle and later shot.
Speaking to reporters after an expanded meeting of the state Security Council, Ortom said his administration had decided to move ahead with the amnesty programme as Gana is dead and will not come back to life.
He however said he was waiting for explanation from the military on what went wrong.
Ortom said the people of Sankera had expressed deep concerns over the circumstances and stories surrounding the arrest and killing of Gana, noting however that government would continue to interface with the army for amicable resolution of the impasse.
He stated that Council also resolved that the amnesty programme be extended to other parts of the state, saying that a committee had been constituted to ensure the training and reintegration of the repentant youths into the society.