Nigerian forests are no-go areas


Nigeria military in pursuit of Boko Haram terrorists in Sambisa forests

from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
Nigeria Bureau
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – A SPATE of kidnappings, with hundreds of people subsequently unaccounted for in recent weeks, has amplified calls for the Nigerian government to speed up the deployment of the Forest Guard.

That is because bandits and the Islamist sects use vast forests in the West African country to evade detection and hold their victims hostage.

A series of mass kidnappings have hit Nigeria recently, the most documented having been perpetrated overnight 17-18th March (Sunday-Monday) in the Kajuru Local Government Area (LGA) of the northern Kaduna State.

Suspected bandits kidnapped 87 residents, mostly children.

This is the second such kidnapping in the same LGA in as many weeks.

Overnight on 11-12th March, suspected bandits abducted 60 people.

Also on 12th March, armed bandits kidnapped 61 people in the Kajuru area of Kaduna state.

Five days earlier, some militants kidnapped 300 people in the Chikun LGA also in Kaduna.

On 9th March, gunmen abducted 15 children from an Islamic school in the Sokoto State in the extreme northwestern Nigeria.

“Further similar incidents are likely in the near term,” a security expert forecast.

The Northern Christian Youth Professionals has thus called President Bola Tinubu and the state governors to prioritise the revitalisation of the Forest Guard.

The organisation said most of the violent groups terrorising Nigeria, such as Boko Haram, Islamic State in West African Province, Indigenous People of Biafra, Eastern Security Network (ESN) bandits, and so-called oil militants were all hiding in the forest.

“As such, a well-groomed Forest Guard made of local forest community people will help the military to tackle the activities of these groups,” Isaac Abrak, Northern Christian Youth Professionals, said.

Over 12 percent of Nigeria’s total area of 923 768 km² is forest, mostly Savannah woodland and lowland rainforest. The Falgore, Gomo, Kamuku, Kenyehu, Kuyambana and Sambisa Forests are some of the most feared.

Tinubu’s government has revealed it would establish the Forest Guard but dates have not been provided.

The proposed Forest Guard is to be armed security operatives, whose work is to keep all forests across the country safe from militants.

Currently, the non-governmental Nigerian Hunters and Forest Security Service (NHFSS) has intervened.

The Nigerian Hunters and Forest Security Service Establishment Bill meanwhile awaits the assent of Tinubu, who came to power in 2023.

Last month, Tinubu urged the 36 state governors to support NHFSS.

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime reports that since the end of February, over 500 people have been kidnapped in the series of mass abductions in the North.

It stated, coming about a month before the tenth anniversary of the highly publicized kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Chibok in Borno State, this recent spate of incidents marks a dramatic spike in mass abductions.

These had not been seen in Africa’s most populous country (estimated at 227 million) since the abduction of at least 60 train passengers in July 2022.

They were kidnapped on the Kaduna bound train from Abuja, the capital.

– CAJ News

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