Controversy has continued to trail the alleged attempt by some armed men to assassinate Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam. He was said to have narrowly escaped death yesterday at Abua, a Makurdi satellite community, about 15km from the state capital, along the Makurdi-Gboko Road.
While the suspected assassins were said to be members of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) in the state, the ACN had insisted that it was not responsible for the act, saying that the governor should look within his party.
The incident was said to have occurred when Governor Suswam, in the company of his wife Yemisi was riding in a long convoy from Makurdi to Katsina-Ala to attend a grand reception in his honour by the Sankera community .
The alleged assassins, numbering about six in a defaced Japanese car and armed with sophisticated weapons, had, on sighting Suswam’s convoy, reportedly moved straight towards the Escalade Sports Utility Van (SUV) conveying the governor and his wife in a bid to forcefully stop the car.
The assassins were said to have then alighted and headed to the governor’s car but were disappointed that the doors were shut.
On sensing danger, the governor’s driver quickly maneouvred the car off the spot while the security personnel on Suswam’s escort chased the attackers who reportedly took to their heels.
In the ensuing confusion, the governor’s spare car conveying the director-general of National Agency for Foods, Drugs Administration and Control(NAFDAC), Dr Paul Orhii, who was also travelling on Suswam’s convoy ran into a ditch and lost two tyres in the process.
The security personnel then chased the attackers, who reportedly abandoned the vehicle and fled into a bush.
But luck was said to have ran out of one of them identified as Tanimu Mohammed, who was said to hail from Abinsi, a nearby community as he was apprehended by the governor’s security personnel.
The vehicle used for the mission which was said to have faint inscription of a political party but completely defaced with paint and bearing Abuja registration number AA 804 RBC, was also recovered.
The chief security officer to the governor, Mr Manger, a superintendent of police, who led other security personnel to conduct a search on the vehicle, discovered some charms, bottles of ogogoro, a local gin, and campaign posters of a political party.
The suspected assassin was then taken to the Benue State Command headquarters of the police where he was being interrogated at press time.
The Special Adviser on media and public affairs to the governor, Dr Cletus Akwaya, confirmed the incident to journalists, saying that the police were investigating the matter.
Akwaya, however, warned those with criminal intentions to attack Governor Suswam to forget the idea as it was a fruitless and expensive venture.
He said: “ The incident that happened today is clearly an indication of the desperation of certain forces to create confusion in the state.
“Governor Suwam has directed that security personnel to intensify their vigilance in the state to ensure the safety of life and property of all Benue people.”
But the national publicity secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, has denied the involvement of the party in any plan to kill the governor.
In a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday, Mohammed said it was not in the character of the party to visit violence on its opponent.
He said, “If at all there is an attempt on the life of the governor, he should look within his party. Most Nigerians know where there is a nest of killers. In fact, it is our members in Benue State who have been at the receiving end of the repressive regime in that state.”
He also pleaded with the police to carry out full- scale investigation into the governor’s allegation, adding that “it may be a ploy for him to begin another crackdown on our members”.