Nigerian forces, Otokar Cobra APCs and 4WD trucks
by NDAHI MARAMA
Sambisa is a vast area of land located
south of Borno State. The thick forest
area with swampy condition during rainy season is believed to be harbouring makeshift camps of suspected members of Boko Haram Islamists. It has boundaries with Chibok, Askira Uba, Damboa, Gwoza, Konduga,Dikwa, Bama and other local government areas of the state.
There is a game reserve situated in the heart of Sambisa forest, but when
members of the terrorist group were
dislodged by the military and vigilante youths from Maiduguri,Borno State capital, most of them relocated to the Sambisa and destroyed the game reserve last year killing some of the staff and settling there.
Although the military has told the whole world severally that during their offensive against Boko Haram, they were able to kill many of the insurgents and destroyed their camps,people question
whether it is true that security forces actually were able to enter Sambisa. This is because of the several number of attacks and killings in Sambisa and surrounding villages.
The game reserve, according to findings,is located 14 kilometres of Kawuri village, along Maiduguri-Bama road which came under a deadly attack last month, leaving 85 people killed with property worth millions of naira destroyed.It has an area of approximately 518
square kilometres.It harbours a sizeable population of wildlife, typical ofsavannah habitat/ environment; like monkeys, antelopes, lions, elephants, as well as bird species such as ostrich,bustard, etc.
Contrary to what many think that Borno is a desert area, there are sizeable parts of the state, especially southern Borno,Sambisa inclusive, which vegetation is
savannah by nature. Prior to its destruction by insurgents, the
game reserve was handed over to the Federal Government through the National Park.
The Chibok incident, which sparked
global outrage, saw over 200 schoolgirls of a government girls secondary school being abducted, and still missing with extensive search and rescue mission into
the Sambisa forest.
*Ordeal in Sambisa
Parents of the abducted school girls, at the weekend, recounted their experiences in the Sambisa forest in search of their daughters. The aggrieved, traumatised parents, who spoke when Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima visited the school,also disputed the figures provided by the state government of the victims who
escaped from their kidnappers. The parents had vowed, last week, to storm the forest because the military had purportedly failed to enter the place and rescue the children.
Narrating his experience, Mallam Amos Chiroma,who was among the parents who combed the Sambisa forest, told the governor: “We saw a lot of strange things in the Sambisa forest but we will not be
able to disclose all for security reasons. Borno and indeed this country require prayers from all and sundry.
“While we were in the forest with over 200 volunteers who only had cutlasses,bows, arrows and sticks, we came across different makeshift camps suspected to be owned by terrorists. It is however
unfortunate that we had to turn back when we met one good Samaritan in the forest who advised us that it was in our own interest to go back because the area we were approaching in the forest was a dead zone dominated by terrorists.
“If soldiers had accompanied us to the forest, we would have been optimistic that our missing children would have been rescued, or we would have been satisfied if we could just see the bodies of our daughters”.
Another parent, Mallam Shettima Yau Haruna, said since the incident, he and other affected parents had been having sleepless nights and they summoned courage to enter the Sambisa forest.
He told Shettima: “We want to seize this opportunity to thank you for the visit and identify with us at this sorrowful moment. But the truth of the matter is that only 39 out of about 250 students have so far been rescued contrary to official reports that 44 students were rescued out of 129 who were abducted as they were preparing to write their senior secondary school certificate examinations. We want to emphasise that we are not happy with this development. While we continue to pray for the safe return of our daughters, we therefore appeal to government and our security operatives to please intensify the search for our missing innocent children”.
Our correspondent, who visited the
school, last week, observed that the
entire structure and vehicles in the school were set ablaze as well as the council secretariat and the residence of the caretaker chairman.
The governor, while addressing parents of the abducted students, sympathised with them and promised to deploy all human and material resources towards the safe release of the missing students. He, however, called on all and sundry to continue to pray and fast for the release of the abducted girls.