The Federal Government is recruiting forest guards to assist the Joint Task Force (JTF) in combating Boko Haram insurgents in the northern part of the country.
Most of the insurgents are believed to be using routes cutting through forests in states like Borno, Yobe, Taraba and Adamawa to smuggle arms into the country from Cameroon and other neighbouring countries.
The Conservator General of National Park Service (NPS), Mr. Haruna Abubakar, told the House of Representatives Committee on Environment on Monday that the guards would help the JTF to comb the forests for hideouts of insurgents.
Abubakar had appeared before the committee in Abuja to defend the 2014 budget of the agency.
The NPS had been classified as a para-military agency in January this year by the government.
According to Abubakar, the agency will rely on its knowledge of the country’s forest terrain to conduct sweeps with the military.
He informed the committee that the agency controlled seven national parks in the country, covering about 24,000- square kilometres of land.
Abubakar said, “The National Park Service has been playing a crucial role in intelligence gathering for the country’s military in the North-East and the forest bordering Chad and Cameroon.”
The committee, which is chaired by Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, stated that insurgents operated camps in forests like Sambisa, Mafa, Wulgo and Kirenowa, all in Borno State.
Sambisa forest camp which was said to have been first discovered during a military raid in 2013, covers an area of about 300-square kilometres.
The chairman of the committee expressed concern that besides the loss of human lives and property, Nigeria was losing revenue from tourism due to the activities of insurgents.
“We have to look inwards to find a way to protect our forests.
“It is regrettable that our forests have been turned into havens for insurgents,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Baptist Convention has appealed to Boko Haram sect to pursue the path of peace for Nigerians to live in harmony.
The sect destroyed Mainok village, about 50 kilometres to Maiduguri in Borno State and killed 39 people in its latest attack on Sunday.
During a press briefing organised by NBC on Monday in Ibadan, the President of the church in Nigeria, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, sympathised with the victims of the attack, adding that the church would maintain its stance against all forms of terrorism in the country.
Ayokunle called on the Federal Government to step up security in the northern part of the country. – Punch.