The Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, has disclosed that 14 forests and game reserves in the country have become “sanctuaries for kidnappers, bandits and terrorists”.
However, the security chief noted that the army had commenced Exercise Harbin Kunama IV to flush bandits and insurgents out of forests in Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states.
Buratai revealed this in Abuja in his keynote address at a seminar on regimentation and combating security challenges associated with forests and protected areas.
Buratai named the forests as Kuyan Bana, Dan Saudau and Sububu (Zamfara); Pandogari and Kagara (Niger); Allargano, Sambisa and Chingurmi-Bugama (Borno).
The rest are Guljba (Yobe), Rugu (Katsina), as well as Lame Bura and Balmo (Bauchi).
The game reverses are Allawa and Falgore in Kano State.
The army chief said he had directed that the Sambisa Forest be turned into an “Ecosystem Resort Centre where war relics of the past few years in the North-East will be maintained as historical sites for tourism.”
Buratai said, “National parks are designated protected areas that are defined to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated services and cultural values.
“These parks provide a safe haven for our animals and native plants. They also serve as places of tourism that could be a source of foreign exchange earnings.
“Unfortunately today, our forests and parks such as Kuyan Bana, Dan Saudau , Sububu, Allawa Games Reserve, Pandogari, Kagara, Falgore Games Reserve, Allargano, Sambisa, Chingurmi-Bugama, Guljba, Rugu, Lame Bura and Balmo are now sanctuaries for criminals, kidnappers, bandits, insurgents and terrorists.
“Forests and wildlife park managers have been sacked from their jobs.
“There is gradual deforestation which in itself constitutes danger for the ecosystem. As I speak, Exercise Harbin Kunama is being launched in Zamfara and it will involve large-scale employment of personnel and logistics movement.
“The aim is to flush out bandits and insurgents from some identified forest areas.”