The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, says the Nigerian Army will continue to collaborate with stakeholders to have a professionally responsive Army.
Buratai spoke on Monday in Abuja, at a seminar on `Regimentation and Combating Security Challenges Associated with Forests and Protected Areas in Nigeria.’’
The theme of the seminar is: “Enhancing Synergy between the Nigerian Army and National Park Service: National Security in Perspective.’’
Buratai was represented by Maj.-Gen. Ali Nani, Chief of Policy and Plans, Nigerian Army.
“The Nigerian Army under my command will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders to achieve my vision to have a professionally responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional role,’’ he said.
He said that the main thrust of the seminar was the strengthening of regimentation through the maintenance of mascots by existing units of the Army.
The army chief said that National and Wild Life Parks provided a safe haven for animals and native plants.
“They also serve as places of tourism, that if well harnessed, will be a source of foreign exchange earnings,“ he said.
He said that most of the animals in the parks were being poached illegally, while the forests and parks have become sanctuaries for criminals, kidnappers, bandits and terrorists.
Buratai said that the gradual deforestation had constituted danger for the ecosystem and a challenge to national security.
He said this development necessitated the setting up of Operation Lafiya Dole in the North East and other operations across the country.
“As I speak now, HARBIN KUNAMA IV is being launched in Gusau, Zamfara. The exercise will later dovetail into real time operation.
“This will involve large scale deployment of personnel and logistics movement to cover Suburu, Kagara, Gando, Dumburum forests in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states.
He said that the aim was to flush out bandits and insurgent groups from some identified forest areas.
“There is the need for all stakeholders to partner to deliberate on how to salvage our forests and parks from poachers, insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, cattle rustlers and bandits,“he said.
“I have just directed the Department of Army Standards and Evaluation to ensure that my directive for the establishment of mini zoos in all army barracks is enforced.
“I have also directed that the Sambisa forest should 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,’’ he said.
He said this would attract scholars and tourists as well as generate revenue for the country.
Buratai said the Army had continued to collaborate with other stakeholders to guarantee national security, necessary for national development.
“The National Park Services, being one of such stakeholders, manages all national parks as well as protect these sites for the development of Nigeria,“ he said.
He said the activities of bandits and criminal elements in such protected areas across the country through illegal logging, cattle rustling and other criminal vices have made these areas uninhabitable for animals.
“These activities have driven animals away from various protected areas which hitherto were their natural habitat.
“It is therefore my intention to bridge the insecurity occasioned by the gap created by these challenges to our national security through enhanced collaboration with relevant stakeholders,“ he said.
Earlier, the Chief of Army Standards and Evaluation, Maj.-Gen. A.O. Shodeke, said the seminar would assist to build capacity of troops in combating the emerging security challenges associated with game reserves, forests and protected areas across the nation.
He said the collaboration between the military, police, paramilitary and other security agencies was a step towards curtailing security challenges peculiar to some forests, game reserves and national parks in the country.
The second part of the seminar includes; a field trip to two National Parks at Kanji and Cross River.
Participants at the seminar include officers of the Nigerian Army, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and National Park Service.