“I know I am going to die at the appointed time, but I won’t allow myself to be killed by any human being”. These were the words of Terwase Agwaza, alias Gana, in an interview granted a newspaper by the alleged king of the underworld who held Benue State by the jugular while his reign lasted.
On Tuesday, September 8, Major-General Moundhey Ali, Commander of the 4 Special Forces Command of the Nigerian military based in Doma, Nasarawa State, reportedly confirmed the killing of Agwaza at a roadblock mounted by the Army along Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi road during a gun duel.
“At about 12:00 hours today (Tuesday), we received strategic information on the movement of the dreaded bandit Terwase Akwaza Agbadu, aka Gana along Gbese-Gboko-Makurdi road. Troops of Operation ‘Ayem Akpatuma III’ moved swiftly and mounted snap roadblocks along the routes. At about 13:00 hours, there was a meeting engagement with the convoy of Gana, a shootout ensued and the bandit was killed”, General Ali was quoted as saying.
He further said 40 armed members of Agwaza’s gang who were captured during the operation and were in custody of the Army, would be handed over to appropriate authority for prosecution.
Several rifles, pump action guns, ammunition, charms and explosives among other items, according to him, were recovered from the gang, while Agwaza’s corpse had been deposited in an undisclosed hospital mortuary.
However, there is a twist on the circumstances surrounding the death of Agwaza, who was declared wanted by the police in 2017, but came out of hiding in acceptance of an offer of amnesty for the second time by the Benue State government on September 8, alongside members of his gang at Katsina-Ala, Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of the state.
He was said to have surrendered various arms and ammunition at a ceremony in which the police Area Commander, Katsina-Ala, the traditional ruler of the area (Tor Sankara), chiefs and other dignitaries were in attendance. Among the weapons reportedly surrendered at the event to the police Area Commander, were two AK47 rifles and one riot gunner allegedly snatched from a police patrol team of Katsina-Ala Division on July 24.
But in a Situation Report (Sitrep) on the event sighted by Scudnews at the Benue State police command headquarters in Makurdi, the state capital, the police said Terwase Agwaza and others who surrendered themselves were being conveyed to Makurdi under armed escort by police and military personnel when “men of Operations Whirl Stroke ambushed the convoy at Masaje village, near Gboko and snatched Terwase Agwaza, drove him away in the K/Ala Executive Chairman’s official vehicle to an unknown destination along with other firearms surrendered by them”.
The report added that “the firearms were handed over to the Area Commander, K/Ala in the presence of his Royal Highness, Tor Sankera, other chiefs and dignitaries at K/Ala town”.
…AGWAZA’s LIFE, HIS EXPLOITS
For three years, the police and other security agencies had been on the trail of Agwaza, a man acclaimed as the most dreaded king of the underworld in Nigeria’s North Central geopolitical zone.
He had been on the wanted list of the police since 2017 after the killing of Danen Igbana, an ex-cop who, until his death, was Senior Special Assistant on Security, to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State.
Before then, Akwaza had reigned for over a decade in Benue and its neighbouring states; and like the legendry Robin Hood, he exuded a split image in a macabre display of professional dexterity, as he killed, robbed, and maimed.
It was as if Benue was in a war situation, a state under siege, held by the jugular by Akwaza and his men, who spilled blood with glee as they dispossessed hapless residents of cash and valuables in their homes, business premises, and on the highways.
When the heat became unbearable, the state governor, Samuel Ortom, moved to mop up illegal arms in circulation and checkmate the rising insecurity. He granted unconditional pardon to all arms-bearing militia groups and hoodlums in the state in exchange for weapons, in an amnesty programme which lasted between August, 2015 to January, 2016, during which the government was said to have retrieved over 700 heavy and light firearms, as well as other dangerous weapons from various gangs.
Reports indicated that Akwaza led about 500 gangsters to surrender weapons and renounce criminality at the grand finale of an event marked with fanfare, with residents of the state hoping on a new dawn, where they would be free to move at will and sleep at night in peace, with their eyes closed.
Convinced that he had shed his evil garb, he became the governor’s beautiful bride and was rewarded with an appointed as Chairman, Joint Task Force on Revenue Collection in the state, a gesture aimed at keeping him busy and under watch.
An eight-man team of security details comprising personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps was arranged and attached to him by the state government, as part of the perks of his office. Besides, his company, Ghatertex Nigeria Limited, was also awarded contract for the collection of Produce Tax for which he remitted N10million monthly to the state government’s coffers while he retained a certain percentage as running cost and for settlement of his boys.
One year after, unfolding events took a different turn, and like the Leopard, Agwaza didn’t change, and continued his reign in the underworld. His acceptance of amnesty proclaimed by the state governor and surrender of weapons was just a fluke, a smokescreen to conceal and give verve to his criminal activities.
The recovery of a large cache of arms on April 2, 2017, in an underground bunker at a forest near Gbishe, his ancestral home tucked between mountains in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of the state, was a testament; a fact alluded to by Governor Ortom when the weapons recovered by a combined team of security forces were display at the Government House, Makurdi.
“The recovery of the illegal arms has further shown that Ghana was using the amnesty programme as a cover up to perpetrate criminality; the whole world can now see who Ghana is, and his lies. You can now confirm when I was saying he was using the amnesty as a cover to perpetrate criminality”, a visibly shocked Ortom, had remarked.
To be sure, the romance between the Benue governor and Agwaza ended abruptly less than a year after his initial surrender weapons and acceptance of amnesty, following the brutal murder Igbana, on May 20, 2016. Since then, Ortom had repeatedly asked him to submit himself to the Benue State police command for his alleged complicity in the act.
Rather than giving up, the alleged terror king remained a fugitive of the law. Perhaps as a strategy, he stirred the hornets’ nest sometime and threw top government officials and security goons into suspense and apprehension.
Like a replay of the infamous Lawrence Anini saga in the defunct Bendel State when he named the late DSP Iyamu as one of his accomplices who supplied him with firearms for his unholy activities, Agwaza accused some officials in Ortom’s cabinet of having their hands soiled.
Specifically, he had alleged that a Special Adviser to the governor who held a sensitive portfolio (names withheld) had been involved in arms deals with him since 2007; he also alleged that another governor’s aide, now deceased, engaged in the illicit firearms business with him from 2011. He capped the allegations with a threat of an expose that would shake Benue to its foundation.
Expectedly, his missiles raised dust in the state as tongues wagged over the allegations. Belching fire from his nostrils, he had also shot a lethal bullet to the authorities in Abuja. In a letter dated June 30, 2016, addressed to the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission, he accused some government officials of involvement in kidnap racketeering and shortchanging of amnesty beneficiaries in the state.
Not much was known about him in his lifetime as he reportedly lived in obscurity, cohabiting with wild animals in the forests and caves until he emerged and presented himself as a rallying point to counter the incessant attacks on Tiv villages by suspected Fulani herders from Taraba and Nasarawa states.
Within a short period that he surfaced in public after assuming notoriety, he claimed innocence of the sins for which he was fingered, but residents of Benue and the neighbouring states, insisted he was terror personified.
At Gbishe, where he hailed from in kpav District of Katsina-Ala local council, he was discussed in whispers as the locals trembled at the mention of his name, believing he had magical powers of appearing and disappearing at will.
For this, he was feared, adored and protected by his kith and kin, actions he reciprocated by showing them care and compassion. For instance, he built a science secondary school named after him and a clinic in his village, where public amenities were non-existent. Thus, despite his alleged viciousness in crime, he was regarded by his folks as an enigma; a provider of succor for the poor and needy, and therefore, was considered a better alternative to government.
Agwaza was a self -acclaimed mercenary believed to have been trained on guerrilla warfare in neighbouring West and North African countries, and had confessed to being hired by various groups for gunfights in Cameroun and Niger Republic. “I was principally involved in mercenary assignments; for instance, I and my boys were hired as mercenaries to fight for the cause of some group of people. I have fought eleven times in Niger Republic for Fulani herdsmen and also fought seven times for the same group in Cameroun; it is very unfortunate that all those I led to fight for our financial interest were killed and no one returned. I am the only survivor today”, he had boasted in an interview.
For several years, he lived by the gun, his hands dripping blood of the innocent souls felled by his hot, ferocious bullets. Yet, his looks, while alive, did not betray the nature of a terror king. Agwaza, the son of a “powerful herbalist” who died long ago, did not have the luxury of acquiring formal education and had dropped out in primary school after losing his parents at a tender age.
He was a polygamist, but the activities of his family were shielded in secrecy. Except for the awesome mystic powers said to have been bequeathed to him by his father, Agwaza, a soft-spoken, reserved and diminutive king of the jungle, was said to be a fashionable personality who regularly adorned Jeans attires with an inscription, Ghana Agwaza, as a trademark.
His alleged killing of an army officer among others on a reconnaissance mission to his village from a military post in Taraba State about eight years ago, had shot him atop security radar especially within the North-central zone, but Agwaza, reputed to be endowed with native intelligence, a trait he reportedly supported with magical powers, had remained elusive, till September 8, when the end came for him.
Locals claimed he had a shrine situated atop a rock at the fringes of Gbise, his village, from which he protected himself. “I know I am going to die at the appointed time, but I won’t allow myself to be killed by any human being”, he reportedly vowed shortly before going into hiding in 2017.
Earlier, he had betrayed emotions and his fear of death when invited by Benue governor, Samuel Ortom, and offered statutory pardon in exchange for his arms during his proclamation of amnesty to militia groups across the state.
While expressing fears for his life, he offered to surrender himself only to the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Katsina-Ala who had successfully persuaded and assured him of his safety when the Benue State government initially offered amnesty to armed groups in the state in 2015. When he eventually showed up, he was said to have single-handedly surrendered over 80 assorted firearms along with some of his boys.
Two years later, the police declared him wanted over his alleged involvement in sundry offences including armed robbery, kidnapping, murder, and the rustling of over 3000 cattle. But tongues had wagged over why Agwaza’s security details were withdrawn shortly before he was declared wanted in circumstances which had placed the state government and the security authorities in the state on the defensive. Speculations were rife that rather than using the security men around him to effect his arrest, he was allowed to slip away in cloudy circumstances.
Prior to his declaration as a wanted person, the Benue State police command claimed it had extended several invitations to him in connection with his alleged crimes, which he had failed to honour. But before going out of circulation till his death, Agwaza had countered that no invitation was sent to him until June 20, 2016, when his name was listed in a police First Information Report (FIR) containing charges against some suspects who were arraigned before the Chief Magistrate Court 1, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.
He had further claimed that it was after the arraignment that a letter was sent same day to his corporate office located on No.35 Katsina-Ala Street, High Level, Makurdi, inviting him for investigation activities at the Criminal Investigation Department of the state police command.
In a petition to the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 4 with headquarters in Makurdi, requesting a transfer the case to his office for diligent investigation, Agwaza had expressed fears for his safety and declared lack of confidence on investigations at the state police command, where he said, the slain governor’s aide had earlier served and retired. The request dated June 23, 2016, was made through the law firm of Iorwase Ahile & Co, and endorsed by Jirgba Terfa, who was his lead counsel and Barrister O.T.Lough.
Eventually, Jirgba, had to battle to extricate himself from an intricate web and abruptly made a U-turn as he withdrew from defending him after being allegedly arrested and detained by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), alongside two of his relations over the whereabouts of his wanted client, whose sister and two children, the police confirmed, were held at that time in “protective custody”.
Thereafter, soldiers raided Gbise, Agwaza’s village in an apparent move to break his spirit and possibly rein him in. In that offensive, they allegedly reduced all his property including a clinic and school he built for the community to rubbles. His shrine and father’s house were also allegedly destroyed, but he remained elusive and reigned in the dark till the curtain closed for him on September 8.