By Amechi Chuks Oyema
The role of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) and other security agencies in protecting our environment cannot be over emphasized.
This was the crux of discussion when the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor visited her colleague in the Ministry of Defence, Maj Gen Bashir Salihu Magashi (rtd.) at the Ship House Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence in Abuja recently.
The different arms of the AFN are playing one role or the other protecting the environment.
The Nigerian Army says it has also been involved.
In his key note address at the Army Headquarters Department of Standards and Evaluation seminar on Regimentation and Combating Security Challenges Associated With Forest’s and Protected Areas in 2019, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. T. Y. Buratai explained that there is a point of convergence between the regimentation in the Army, floras and faunas, forests and national security
He stated that domesticated animals and some tamed wild fauna such as dogs, goats, horses, mules, camels, peak corks, eagles, jackals, foxes, lions, tigers are important aspects of the overall ecosystem.
He said “It is therefore imperative to note that all animals and plants in the ecosystem co-exist to balance each other out to ensure a perfect nature. It is for this purpose that environmentalists, scientists, Park Rangers, Park Wardens, Forest Rangers and Vet Doctors are required to ensure that they preserve the continual existence of these floras and faunas. In effecting these Forests, Wild Life and National Parks are designated in various countries of the world for the protection and preservation of these animals as well as the Forests and Parks. National Parks are actually designated protected areas that are clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.
According to Buratai, “The variety of our native species and the ecosystem forms the conservation of biodiversity which is a vital aspect needed in safeguarding our economy, cultural, spiritual and aesthetic values. These National and Wild Life Parks provides a safe haven for our animals and native plants. They also serve as places of tourism that if well harnessed would be a source of foreign exchange earnings.”
He further noted that most of these animals are being poached illegally and our forests and parks such as Kuyan Bana, Dan Saudau and Sububu in Zamfara State, Allawa Games Reserve, Pandogari and Kagara Forests in Niger State, Falgore Games Reserve in Kano State. Others are Allargano, Sambisa, Chingurmi-Bugama axis of Chad Basin National Parks in Borno State, Guljba Forest in Yobe State, Rugu Forest in Katsina State, Lame Bura and Balmo Forests in Bauchi State are now sanctuaries for criminals, kidnappers, armed bandits, insurgents and terrorists.
Buratai said “There is gradual deforestation which in itself constitutes danger for the ecosystem. All these have constituted a challenge to our national security thus necessitating the setting up of Op LAFIYA DOLE in the North East and other operations nationwide. As I speak now, Ex HARBIN KUNAMA IV is being launched in Gusau, Zamfara State. The Exercise will later dovetail into real time operation. This Ex will involve large scale employment of personnel and logistics movement to cover Suburu, Kagara, Gando, Dumburum forests in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states respectively.
“The aim is to flush out bandits and insurgents groups from some identified forest areas. The Exercise/Operation will be intelligent driven and highly mobile in nature while integrating other security agencies and collaborating with paramilitary organizations to enhance the posture of the troops and the successful conduct of the operation.
He made an appeal to all stakeholders to come together to deliberate on how to salvage forests and parks from poachers, insurgents, terrorists, kidnappers, cattle rustlers and armed bandits.
The Nigerian Army also presented 2 Hilux vans to the Nigeria Park Service to enhance their job in safeguarding our forests.
Similarly, in the Niger-Delta, the Nigerian Army is playing pivotal role in tackling the activities of oil thieves.
Activities of oil thieves and illegal refineries have posed threat not only to the economy, but become a major cause of Environmental degradation in oil producing communities.
Mention is made of the soots in Port-Harcourt, which was caused by these economic saboteurs.
The establishment of the 6th Division Nigerian Army with headquarters in Port Harcourt on 8 November 2016, by the current COAS has boosted the war against all forms of criminality including oil theft, thereby tackling Environmental degradation.
The Division is charged with the responsibility of securing the Niger Delta/coastal region along with its critical national oil and gas assets and infrastructure.
Amechi Chuks Oyema, Chairman, Environmental Media Correspondents Association of Nigeria (EMCAN)