The Middle-Belt Civil Rights Congress (MBCRC) has justified the killing of Benue’s most wanted criminal, Terwase Akwaza, aka, Gana.
MBCRC said the military was right to have taken the necessary action that could prevent further threats to lives and property in the state.
Gana was gunned down by the military on Tuesday while on his way to the Government House in Makurdi after he surrendered himself for the second amnesty granted him and other criminals in the state.
He was first granted amnesty in 2015 by the state government when he submitted his arms to denounce criminality, but he later went back to it.
Gana and 172 other militia boys had earlier surrendered to traditional rulers, priests and local government officials in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of the state before the they embarked on the trip to Makurdi.
While the military claimed he was killed in a shootout, Governor Samuel Ortom said Gana was snatched from the government convoy he was travelling in.
The group, in a statement by its President, Maxwell Godwin, said there was no need for the controversy surrounding the death of Gana as the late criminal made himself unworthy of any act of leniency under Nigerian laws, having breached the terms of such conditions more than once in the past.
He said the purpose of amnesty was not to bend the law to protect certain persons no matter how highly connected, but to ensure justice without going through the rigours of trials.
In the case of Gana, he noted that it was criminal to grant him amnesty more than once, having flouted the prerogative in the past.
Godwin also said anybody that relapsed into crime even after conviction and having served the term, was not considered worthy of any form of leniency as that person was considered a serial offender.
The MBCRC president added that it was the same reason the court was most times lenient to only first-time offenders and not people with criminal records.
He said: “I’ve not come across anywhere in the world where a suspect is granted amnesty more than once.
“Once there’s a relapse into the crime for which forgiveness was given, the beneficiary makes himself a recidivist and unworthy of benefiting from such favours in future.”
He said in the case of Gana, it appeared that the political leaders in Benue were trying to bend the laws to the extent that Gana remained continued to escape prosecution.
He added: “What they were doing with Gana has no backing in law. A person cannot be too powerful to the state that you’re perpetually afraid to prosecute him even when he has demonstrated in words and deeds that he has no respect for such arrangements.”
Godwin argued that what the state governor was trying to do was a very dangerous dimension that should not be allowed.
“You wave prosecution and granted a man reprieve for his alleged crime, he breaches that; after some time you look for him and extend the same gesture, he abandons it again and goes back to his crime and you’re looking for him again to grant him the same favour of which there is no guarantee that he would honour,” he said.
The group’s president said precedents are taken very seriously in negotiating conditions for settlement, saying Gana by his past conduct, had failed in every material way to show that he deserves such favours.
He said: “That is why amnesty usually comes with a deadline for acceptance.
“It is at the discretion of the authorities to give and not for suspects to propose.
“If however the authorities propose and the suspect accepts, it is left for the authorities to examine the intentions for acceptance and if the suspect is found to be incapable of keeping to the terms, the authorities may also take the necessary action to avoid further damage on the citizens.”
Godwin said what the security forces did in the case of Gana is defensible in court as they have the right to take actions that would protect other citizens at any given time.
He added: “Can you imagine the number of people whose lives were put in danger the times that Gana reneged on the amnesty agreement?
“And can you imagine the lives that would be under threat if he again pulls out of another agreement?”
Godwin maintained that what happened to Gana is not extra judicial killing as some people have termed it, noting that the criminal in agreeing to an amnesty deal in the first and second instances admitted to committing those crimes.
He noted: “Extra judicial killings is said to have occurred when a suspect is not availed the opportunity to defend himself in a court of law. But what we have seen in the case of Gana is that twice he has admitted to committing the crime by accepting amnesty and then going back to the crime again.
“He has in the eyes of the law made a statement of defence and when the security agencies saw that he is a character who could not be trusted and could pose further threats to the lives of hundreds of people, they did what was right, as the laws permits the security agencies to bear arms and use it when there are such threats.”