*‘BUT WE’RE CLOSING IN ON HIM’
By James Ibechi
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, says the belief that Terwase Akwazza, aka Gana, is very powerful through witchcraft has compounded things.
His words: “It is believed that the man is very powerful through witchcraft. If you discuss about him, he would know and he would come and kill you. So, people are afraid to give us information. It has compounded our problem.”
However, he said the security agencies are closing in on the militant who he said is an ally of Boko Haram.
The governor, in a chat with journalists on Friday in Abuja, said it was God that saved the state because it would have had another Boko Haram episode.
Akwazza has held three local governments – Logo, Katsina-Ala and Ukum captive in Benue State.
The governor said: “It is a terrible thing, but the Federal Government, the Benue State security apparatus and that of Taraba State are working together. He was residing at the border of Taraba.
“I and Governor Darius Ishaku are working together and we are closing in on him. We have arrested most of his close associates.
“Recently, one of his wives came to surrender. We believe that Ghana would be rounded up very soon.”
“He (Akwazza) was trained in Borno and Cameroun. I think he is linked with Boko Haram terrorists. All that they do is to cause chaos or to kill.
“Initially when we came in and we did the amnesty programme, he was one of the people that came forward close to the three months of the programme. He surrendered himself; we accepted him.
“He pleaded that he had a lot of followership and we told him to bring others too and they should surrender and he did.
“The very day he came alone, he surrendered 87 guns, thousands of ammunition and several other weapons, including explosives.
“We extended the amnesty by another one month because of him. He brought other weapons and we accepted them.
“In the course of rehabilitating the boys and himself, we gave him a contract appointment for the collection of revenue.
“But he was not sincere. He went behind and was committing several criminal activities, including kidnapping, killing and robbery.
“My late Special Assistant on Security, Denen Igbana, was able to rescue 13 kidnap victims and when my special assistant fingered him that he was responsible, he organized and went to kill him.
“That was how he fell out and started running away from security agents. Since then, he has been running and we declared him wanted.”
Ortom said the militancy of Akwazza was beyond what the state could handle and it had to seek help from the Federal Government.
He added: “It was beyond us at the state level because one thing that we noticed was that he had mass followership. I don’t know how evil can spread within a short time.
“We discovered he was buying motor-cycles for most of those youths that were around there and putting them into his gang.
“I think it was just God that helped us. We would have had another Boko Haram episode in Benue State, if we had not identified him as a terrorist.
“Today, the Federal Government’s attention has been drawn to the situation.
“We are in a democratic era, and we are civil as much as possible. This man was caught on many occasions and somehow he always escaped.
“He has intimidated his people to kill. He kills anybody he suspects may give him away.”