17 May 2017

Nigeria: Boko Haram Fighters Returning to Sambisa Forest - UN Report

Photo: Premium Times

Lagos and Abuja — Members of a faction of Boko Haram are regrouping, re-arming and returning to the Sambisa Forest area, a report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned.

The commission has also expressed worry about the increase in the number of children used as suicide bombers from nine in 2016 to 27 in the first quarter of the year.

The regrouping and returning of insurgents to the Sambisa forest may rubbish the successes recorded so far by the Federal Government in the anti-terrorism fight and worsen the security situation in the affected parts of the country.

UNHCR, in the statement made available to The Guardian through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the increase in the number of IED attacks around Maiduguri and Southern Borno had raised concern over the safety of the IDPs in the camps.

According to the report, the security situation is also the same with Cameroon, as there has been an increase in the number of incursions with deadly attacks, suicide bombings and kidnappings occurring on a regular basis. It added that the security situation in Niger Republic had deteriorated as Boko Haram insurgents carried out a major attack on Niger Security and Defence Force position near Gueskerou and allegedly stole food stocks, medication and cattle from various locations.

The Nigeria Northeast Humanitarian Emergency situation report reveals that currently, over 4.7 million people are estimated to be faced with insecurity in the most crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, maintaining that the number could rise to 5.2 million between June and August if adequate measures were not put in place to address the situation. It further revealed that additional 2500people had been displaced from Dikwa, Gwoza and Bama Local government areas during the reporting period.

As at April, UNHCR and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) had registered a total of 260,000 people who returned from Cameroon, Niger Republic and Chad, out of who only three per cent were recorded as refugees in the countries of asylum, while 86 per cent were not registered, the report revealed.

According to the UN agency, the main reasons given by the refugee returnees are the need to participate in upcoming local elections, return to stability in areas of origin, resume economic activities as well as lack of food and water in their hosting areas.

There is the fear that recently released Boko Haram suspects may have been regrouping in the forest. Some human rights organisations and indeed Nigerians had criticised the swapping of Boko Haram suspects for abducted Chibok girls.

At the forefront of the criticism is the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). The group flayed the recent claim of the release by so-called Boko Haram terrorists of 82 hitherto kidnapped Chibok school girls and the constant release from detentions of detained Boko Haram terror suspects by the military authorities without the office of the Federal Attorney General subjecting them to criminal prosecution over the four-year-long bombing campaigns that slaughtered over 30,000 innocent Nigerians.

But a retired Commissioner of Police, Frank Odita told The Guardian that the Sambisa forest was too hot for Boko Haram to regroup in.

He said: "I don't see how they can regroup in Sambisa forest because the Nigerian army has taken over the place. The air raid that is going on in Sambisa forest is so intense that no terrorist would find it safe to be there. They can be regrouping somewhere else where they carry out their hit-and-run bombing.

"Their reign is over and people should see it that way. Although I frowned at the swapping of Boko Haram suspects for Chibok girls. I don't know why the Federal Government took that action. Maybe the pressure was too much on them, but saying the Boko Haram insurgents are regrouping in Sambisa forest cannot be true."

A retired military officer and President of Private Security practitioners, David Akhimien, however, said it was possible for the insurgents to regroup. "It may not be in Sambisa. It may be anywhere, but not Sambisa. Regrouping is a part of war. With modern technology, it is possible for any gang to regroup anywhere but definitely not in Sambisa forest."

Attempts by The Guardian to reach the army spokesman, Brigadier General Usman for reaction failed as his phone rang several times without any response.


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