A former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, has reportedly been taken into custody by State Security Service (SSS), PREMIUM TIMES has learnt through his elder brother.
The SSS has no spokesperson and has not released any statement about the development, but Terkura Suswam told PREMIUM TIMES his brother was arrested on June 17.
“They arrested him on June 17 and we have not seen or heard anything from him ever since,” Mr Suswam, a politician and founder of Ashi Polytechnic in Benue State, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Thursday afternoon.
“We are working with lawyers to see how we could secure his release,” he added.
Mr Suswam said his brother’s arrest has political undertone because it was linked to the state’s most-wanted violent crime suspect, Terwase Akwaza.
Mr Akwaza was declared wanted by the SSS and the police. Governor Samuel Ortom also placed a N50 million bounty on him in February.
“He was suspected of committing grave atrocities when my brother was governor, and that was why he ran away from the state because he knew the government was tracking him back then,” Mr Suswam said.
Mr Akwaza returned to Benue as part of an amnesty programme put in place by the Mr Ortom in August 2016.
Mr Ortom also appointed Mr Akwaza as a senior official at the state’s internal revenue office to collect taxes from produce merchants, especially.
But when frequent killings linked to herdsmen returned to the state following the passage of the anti-open grazing law last year, Mr Akwaza became a major suspect in the violence.
Hundreds of people have been killed across Benue since the January 1 carnage that claimed at least 100 villagers in Logo and Guma Local Government Areas.
He fled Makurdi, the state capital, into the forests around Benue and border, according to security sources.
The SSS claimed some of Mr Akwaza’s men have been arrested in a string operation around the Benue-Taraba border, but he remained at large as the prime suspect.
Mr Suswam said his brother was detained because he is the most prominent member of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, and his continuous detention would allow the All Progressives a free hand to go into 2019 with little or no resistance in the state.
Mr Ortom and the younger Mr Suswam reportedly settled their political rift a few weeks ago, but it was not clear whether either was ready to decamp to the other’s party for 2019.
Terver Akase, a spokesperson for Mr Ortom did not return requests for comments Thursday afternoon.
The SSS first arrested the former governor in February 2017 on allegations of illegal possession of firearms. He was released without charges after spending over two months in custody.
In December, he served as the chairman of the PDP’s national convention committee in Abuja.