Bodunrin Kayode gives us some useful background on the Sambisa Forest.
A few months ago, the name Sambisa Forest meant nothing to many Nigerians. Not anymore. It has come to signify terror and home to the terrorist group Boko Haram. The forest is now almost mythical for so many people within the Lake Chad basin who have come to align the complex north-eastern vegetation with Boko Haram, instead of the game reserve the colonialists meant it for.
The colonial government had marked the forest out as a game reserve. Today, Sambisa has become one of the strongest bases of the Boko Haram insurgents who run back into its dark recesses anytime they have finished their slaughter of harmless citizens.
Of course they do. Forests have always been refuges for bandits, insurgents, ogres – in reality and in story, they’re where the wild things are.
For so many young people outside the savannah, it is indeed very strange to find a ‘forest’ in the middle of the savannah vegetation. How would a ‘forest’ be found in the north eastern axis of Nigeria? Are they not living in a desert full of sand from the great Sahara which has encroached badly from the receding Lake Chad region due to global warming?
The question many ask no one in particular is: why the Sambisa forest still remains intact as a game reserve when many other green zones in the Sahel have been overtaken by global warming? What is it that makes Sambisa a place for insurgents tormenting the people of the north-east to take solace inside?
The Sambisa Forest lost its innocence as a game reserve before 2006. It is now believed to have super bunkers underneath the Sahel so that the new tenants, Boko Haram, will be well placed to complete their aim of taking over all the government houses in the north-east after bringing down the few military installations created years back to protect the people of this region.
Wait, what? It is now believed by whom, and how reasonable is the belief? Is there any reason to think there are “super bunkers” under the Sahel? Building an underground bunker would take a lot of large and conspicuous equipment; is Boko Haram that well equipped?
“It actually took the intelligence services a long time to discover that the game reserve had become a hideout for the sect. They waited three years until several lives had been lost before acting reluctantly on the intelligence advises,” an intelligence source told the Nation. “As a matter of fact, Sambisa is not the only hideout of the insurgents.”
The source said they believe the school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram two weeks ago are now “at the beck and call” of the group and fears that they “could become the latest sex slaves of the insurgents”.
“The girls will be moved tactically from one base to another mostly in the night so that they cannot recognise where they were. They will finally end up in Sambisa or Algoni, the two most dreaded bases remaining for the managers of the nation’s security to bring down,” the source added.
The source said Nigeria’s intelligence agencies are willing to act to take down the Boko Haram base, but their efforts have been hampered by the government.
“We in the intelligence were ready to penetrate the sect but they [the government] wasted too much time concentrating on irrelevances. Now it is too late, the intelligence guys are not ready to risk their lives any more after all the frustration from the managers in Abuja. We have given them all the information they need including the level of sophistication of the insurgents; it’s up to them to act.”
Not a hopeful outlook.