European Scientific Journal December 2014 edition vol.10, No.35 ISSN: 1857 – 7881 (Print) e - ISSN 1857- 7431
FORESTS AND FOREST RESERVES AS
SECURITY THREATS IN NORTHERN NIGERIA
Suleiman Iguda Ladan B.A, MSc.
Department of Basic and Applied Sciences
Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic Katsina, Nigeria
Forests are important plant communities that consist of trees and other
woody vegetation that performs life supporting functions on earth. This
paper attempts to examine forests and forest reserves as security threats in
the northern region of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. The study is
both empirical and theoretical in nature as both primary and secondary
sources of data were collected, edited and analyzed for the research. The
results identified the reasons why forests and forest reserves can be security
threats as indicated using examples in countries from different parts of the
world such as Colombia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and India.
The results further identified eight forests and forest reserves in the region
using their location, specie composition and present status. The security
threats they posed were examined which include bases, hideouts and
camping sites for insurgents, highway armed robbers, thieves and other
criminals. The study proposed the way out of the present insecure situation
through launching attack to dislodge the insurgent, protection of forests and
forest reserves, reforestation of degraded sections among others. These
forests and forest reserves need to be properly harnessed and developed into
recreational parks and tourist centers that will yield the much needed revenue
to the governments of northern Nigeria.
Keywords: Forest, Forest Reserve, Security Threat
Forests are plant communities consisting predominantly of trees and
other woody vegetation occupying an extensive area of land. In its natural
state, forests remain in a relatively fixed, self-regulated condition over a long
period of time (Oludotun, 2011). When areas of land characterized by the
presence of trees they are referred to as forests. Forests are collection of trees
covering a land area of land with undergrowth. Large areas of land where
the dominant plants are trees are forests. Lodha (2007), further defined
European Scientific Journal December 2014 edition vol.10, No.35 ISSN: 1857 – 7881 (Print) e - ISSN 1857- 7431
forests as large tracts of land covered with trees and other plants growing
Forest reserves are areas of forest designated by the government for
the protection of trees growing or planted for the purpose of their ecological
benefits among others (Usman and Adefalu, 2010). Forest reserves are areas
of land that are protected and managed in order to preserve a particular type
of habitat and its flora and fauna which are often considered rare or
endangered (Farlex, 2014). Forest reserves are thus areas of forests which
are reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special
opportunities for study or research.
Governments especially in semi arid regions of the world designate
areas of forests as forest reserves to stimulate rainfall, reduce wind erosion,
stem the tide of desertification and halt the encroachment of the desert.
Therefore in many countries forest reserves enjoy judicial and/or
constitutional protection under a legal system. According to Garg et al.,
(2006), forests are the next most important resources of nature on earth after
air and water. They essentially support life on earth by absorbing carbon
dioxide and releasing oxygen, thereby maintaining balance in the gaseous
atmosphere and also in completion of hydrological cycle to cause rainfall.
Forests are sources of food, medicine, timber and many other products.
They play protective roles against soil erosion, drought, floods, intense
radiation etc. Forest also performs accessory functions which include the
role of forests in recreation, aesthetics and as habitat of diverse wild life
It is based on above importance of forests that the United Nations
mandated that 25% of the surface area of every country should be conserved
under permanent forest cover as the minimum ecological requirement for the
socio-economic survival of the country (Bugaje, 2007). It is in compliance
with the above mandate that forest and forest reserves are found in different
countries of the world. However in northern Nigeria, forests and forest
reserves have presently become security threats. This is because forests and
forest reserves have become bases for insurgents to launch attacks. Hideouts
for armed robbers who launch attacks on travelers/traders, hideouts for
thieves, criminals and cattle rustlers and camping sites for unknown gum
men to launch attacks on local people.
The Study Area
Northern Nigeria was a British protectorate in the northern areas of
modern day Nigeria formed in 1905 from the union of the Royal Niger
Company above Lokoja on the River Niger(See Figure 1). Today the region
is a geographical region of Nigeria that is made up of nineteen (19) out of the
thirty six (36) States that comprise the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The
European Scientific Journal December 2014 edition vol.10, No.35 ISSN: 1857 – 7881 (Print) e - ISSN 1857- 7431
region covers about 60% of Nigeria’s land area of 923,800 square
kilometers. It is more populated than the southern region and based on the
2006 population census, the States have a population of 73,599,965
representing 52.57% of the total population (African Masterweb, 2013).
Since the year 2009, the security situation in northern Nigeria
deteriorated with communal/ethnic classes in Plateau and Nasarawa States,
Fulani herdsmen/farmers crisis in Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue States,
suspected Fulani herdsmen battle with Tiv and Jukun in Benue and Taraba
States, unknown gunmen attack in Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi, Borno and
Yobe States. These plus bombings linked to Boko Haram insurgency in
Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Suleja, Jos and other northern cities (See Figure 1).
The security situation went from bad to worse when over 200 school girls
were abducted from their hostel at Government Girls’ College Chibok,
Borno state. It was later discovered that the girls are being kept in Sambisa
forest (Bakare, 2014).
This has brought to limelight how forests and even forest reserves are
used by groups who cause insecurity in the northern region. A recent study
on conflicts in the continent of Africa has observed that armed groups have
taken shelter in forests areas and forest reserves in Central African Republic,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan and Nigeria (Ladan, 2014).
It is against this background that this paper seeks to examine forests and
forest reserves as security threats in northern Nigeria.
Figure 1: Map of study area Northern Nigeria with the forests/forest reserves.
Objectives of the study
The objectives of this study are:
1) To identify and examine the forests and forest reserves posing
security threats in northern Nigeria.
2) To identify the reasons why forests and forest reserves can be
security threats anywhere in the world.
3) To identify examples of forests becoming security threats in different
parts of the world.
4) To examine the security threats posed by forests and forest reserves
in northern Nigeria.
5) To make recommendations on the way out of the situation.
There are several studies that were carried out on forests and forest
reserves in Nigeria in general. These studies are focusing on various issues
that concerns forest and forest reserves in the country.
Some of these studies focuses on analyzing the tree species, conserving
the trees or general vegetation, analysis of the forests reserves. Okpiliya
(2013), analyzed the flora species abundance in the tropical rain forest
ecosystem of Boki, Cross River State which still remains one of the few
ecosystems that have been highly valued for its species diversity despite the
spate of indiscriminate logging. The study recommended that government
and conservation agencies should swing into action with a view to protecting
the integrity of the spies that are of low and moderate abundance which if
steps are not taken they may face extinction.
Ihenyen et al (2009) evaluated the tree composition of Ehor Forest
Reserve in Edo state, southern Nigeria. The study observed that several tree
species are under threat of extinction from the reserve which is quite
alarming and calls for a more resourceful and sustainable management
techniques. The study further suggested that the reserves should be protected
from further timber and fuel wood exploitation in order to allow it to
regenerate itself fully.
Akinsoji (2013), carried out a vegetation analysis of Ngel Nyaki Forest
Reserve on the Mambilla Plateau Nigeria. The results indicated that the
vegetation of Ngel Nyaki forest reserve is stable and self-sustaining. The
more dominant species based on importance values are poulteria altissima,
polysciasfulva, carapa grandiflora and entandrophragma angolense. The
study observed that most of the forest is relatively undisturbed but the edges
are subjected to burnings by incursions of grasslands fires.
Several studies focuses on decline in forest reserves, changes in forest
tree species, depletion of forest reserves and forest degradation. Kankara
(2010), noted that over the years there is decline in forests in Katsina state,
northern Nigeria caused by neglect and human interference which results in
the disappearance of wild animals that once roams through the forest across
the State. The study recommended establishing tighter control on fuel wood
extraction from forest and encouraging community involvement in the
management of forests across the state.
Ati et al (2010), assess the changes in Kagoro forest, Kaduna State
using remote sensing and GIS, the result of the study reveal that settlement
and cultivable area increased between 1987 and 2005 by 72% and 17.77%
respectively while undisturbed forest decreased by 24.06%. This shows
significant depletion of the Kagoro forest due to clearance for settlement and
farming. The study finally observed that the forest is in danger of being
destroyed and laid bare in the nearest future which has implication for global
carbon dioxide loading and temperature.
Omale (2011), observed that in Nigeria, there is the depletion of forest
reserve through improper wood harvesting methods. This is alarming and
threatening the reserves, which gives all stakeholders serious concern and it
has become imperative for a research to be undertaken to find an alternative
and better logging that is environmentally sound and acceptable.
Abubakar et al (2014) describe an effort to estimate the amount of
forest degradation and carbon sequestration for Effan forest reserve, Kwara
State using remote sensing/GIS techniques. The results show that there is a
significant amount of carbon sequestered at the forest reserve and the
sequestration capacity increases as the size of forest stands also increases.
The study suggested the use of Gmelina aboree tree species in reforestation
programme to help mitigate global warming.
Other studies are centred on the effects of human activities on forests
and forest reserves. Oduntan et al (2013), evaluates the degree of pressure
from human activities on protected areas in Yelwa division of Ogun State,
Nigeria. The study randomly sampled four forest reserves as representative
samples. The findings reveal that all the reserves were severely threatened
by logging and grazing while other reserves were severely threatened by
conversion of land use. The study recommends adoption of policies that will
help in prioritizing strategies in protected areas management.
Mmon and Mbee (2014), carryout a study on Gele Gele forest
reserve, Edo State and the results show that there is a steady growth of the
population of the communities around the reserve which leads to rapid
decline and depletion of the rich biodiversity and biological resources in the
reserve due to overdependence on the forest resources. The results also
shows that besides population pressure, lack of indigenous people’s
participation in the conservation strategy has contributed to poaching as the
people feel alienated from the conservation efforts and as such develop
apathy towards the reserve.
A similar study was carried out by Okipiliya (2014) on the rain forest
and he observed that the forest is being destroyed by man for various
purposes such as agriculture, urbanization, fuelwood gathering and logging
among others. Also the increasing trend in the population structure of the
people inhabiting the rain forest has contributed to significantly to its
Olaniyi et al (2014) study determines the intensity of anthropogenic
activities that took place within the Chimpanzee’s distribution area in Oluwa
forest reserve, south west Nigeria. The study observed that anthropogenic
activities are having significant influences on the occurrence of this species
and recommended control measures such as encouragement of forest guards
to intensify anti-poaching and encroachment patrol.
Malabo (1999), conducted a study on Mau Mau and Kenya: An analysis of a
peasant revolt and observes that the Mau Mau are freedom fighters that have
their bases in the Mau forest, a forest complex in Rift valley of Kenya. They
carry out their operations from the dense forest attacking the British colonial
administrators and their native collaborators from 1952-1956.The British had
to carry out ground military attacks and aerial bombardments in the Mau
forest that killed, injured the fighters while a few managed to fled the forest.
This is one instance in the literature where forest posed security
threats to the settlement that are found around the forest.
The present study is different from those reviewed above but only
similar to that of Malabo (1999) as it seek to examine the security threats
posed by forests and forest reserves in the northern part of Nigeria
This research is both empirical and theoretical in nature as both
primary and secondary sources of data were collected and analyzed to write
the paper. The primary sources of data involved interview with people who
lived around the forest and forest reserves such as those who are living in
the settlements of Batsari, Runka and Safana that are bordering Ruma/Kukar
Jangari Forest Reserve in Katsina State. The questions asked were on the
motives of the attacks, places attacked, frequency of attacks,
fatalities/valuables lost, presence of security personnels and how best to
make the forests/forest reserves safer. Students of Al-Qalam University
Katsina that were from different states in northern Nigeria were used as
research assistants to gather adequate data from other parts of northern
Nigeria for the study. Forest officers of some states such as Katsina and fuel
wood collectors from forest reserves were interviewed which provided
additional data for the study. The forests and forest reserves included in the
study were purposively sampled as they are those that have become security
threats to the people of the region. A map of Nigeria showing the study area
with the forests/forest reserves was drawn and incorporated in the study for
proper identification of the locations.
The author made use of his personal observations while travelling on
some roads that passes through forests such as Birnin Kudu-Ningi-Bauchi
road for Balmo forest and Kano-Falgore-Jos road for Falgore forest. Field
visits to Kabakawa forest was made to collect data and also a photograph of
the remnant of the forest was snapped which is also incorporated into the
The secondary sources of data include published journal articles,
presented conference papers, textbooks and internet source literacy materials
which were used to complement the primary sources of data. The data
collected was then edited, analyzed and presented using descriptive analysis
in form of tabulations and discussions.
Results and Discussions
Forests and Forest Reserves in Northern Nigeria
The vegetation of northern Nigeria is made up of savannah which
comprises grassland with scattered trees and bushes covering an extensive
area. There are three types of savannahs which are Guinea, Sudan and Sahel.
The trees growing close to one another over a large area forming forests are
found in the Guinea and Sudan Savanna. These two types of savannas cover
large parts of the north with the Sahel savannah covering only the extreme
north east and north west (Dingba and Adamu, 2007).
Trees are more plentiful in the Guinea savanna with heights averaging
10 – 20 meters or more due to higher amount of rainfall than in the Sudan
savanna. In the Sudan savanna the trees are more scattered and are shorter
usually about 5 – 10 meters. The two savannas are sometimes characterized
by gallery forests along the river banks where the soil is moist (Dingba and
The forests and forest reserves to be examined in this study are found
in Guinea and Sudan savannas. The forests can be referred to as forested
areas that are not under strict management by the State Forestry Departments
(SFDs) but permission to exploit trees have to be obtained from the SFDs
(FAO,2004) The forest reserves are forested areas set aside for preservation
or controlled use which are owned by the state governments and managed by
the SFDs who have professional and technical staff including uniform guards
for performing their various responsibilities(FAO,2004).
The forests and forest reserves to be studied for this paper include Balmo
Forest, Falgore Forest, Idu and Gwagwa forest reserve, Kabakawa forest
reserve, Kagoro forest, Kamuku forest, Rumah/Kukar Jangarai forest
reserve, and Sambisa forest/forest reserve. These forests and forest reserves
can be seen on the table below.
Table 1: Forests and forest reserves posing security challenges in northern Nigeria.
Name of forest/forest reserve
Idu and Gwagwa Forest Reserves
4 Kabakawa Forest Reserve
Ruma/Kukar Jangarai forest Reserve
Sambisa Forest/Sambisa forest Reserve
Source: Data analysis, 2014
This forest is located in Bauchi and Jigawa States precisely along the
Birnin Kudu-Ningi-Bauchi road covering an area of about 350 square
kilometers. The forest is traversed by River Bunga that joins the river
Jama’are form the Hadejia – Jama’are wetlands downstream. The forest is
thick in some sections where a variety of wild animals are found and the
relatively low density of population in the area means that there is minimal
to moderate degradation of the forest trees and other forms of vegetation.
There are sign posts indicating cattle routes are found along the Ningi-Kafin
Madaki-Bauchi road that traverses the forest. The forest is within the Sudan
Savanna ecological zone and the tree species in the forest include Anogeissus
leiocarpus, Afzelia Africana, Azadirachta indica, Tamarindus indica some of
which were cut and used as fuel wood in the towns of Bauchi State. (Yilwa,
This forest is located in southern part of Kano state and is part of the
Falgore Game Reserve, a protected ecosystem designated for game/wild life
protection. The forest is found about 150 kilometers away from Kano city
lying on Tudun Wada, Doguwa and Sumaila local governments covering an
area of about 1,000 square kilometers. The forest is traversed by the River
Kano that was dammed some kilometers away to create Tiga Dam (Assoka
and Abubakar, 2005). The forest is within the northern guinea savanna
ecological zone and the trees found include Parkia biglobosa, Tamarindus
indica, Acacia nilotica, acacia albida, anogeissus leicarpus etc. However,
the forest is totally dissected by a highway that links the commercial city of
Kano with Jos the capital of Plateau state. The interstate highway has
opened the forest to illegal exploitation such as collection of fuel wood,
fishing, hunting, grazing and settlement (Marguba, 2011).
Idu and Gwagwa Forest Reserves
These two forest reserves are located in Abuja Federal Capital
Territory (FCT). They are among the reserves which the present FCT
inherited from Niger state. These forest reserves are found in the western
parts of the FCT in the rugged and less accessible parts of the Gurara River
covering an area of about 15 square Kilometers. The reserve lies in the
southern Guinea savanna with mixture of trees and luxuriant grasses in some
sections. The dominant tree species include Afzelia, Africana anogeissus,
Albizia zygia, Khaya senegalensis, Leicarpus, Prosopis africana and Vitex
doniant (NWE, 2014). The reserves are presently encroached upon and
turned into mechanic workshops, places for selling alcohol and restaurants;
in addition parts of the reserves were burnt during bush burning (Aduge-Ani,
2014). A road passes between the reserves which people and motorists uses
in travelling to other parts of the FCT.
Kabakawa Forest Reserve
This forest reserve is located in Katsina metropolis, the capital of
Katsina State covering an area of about 8 square kilometers. The forest
reserve was created in 1948 by the British Colonial Administration. The
reserve is one of the four forest reserves that surrounds Katsina city for many
years until their recent degradation. The reserve is traversed by Ginzo
stream that had it source from the reserve flowing northwards close to the
city gates. The reserve is within the Sudan savanna ecological zone and the
dominant tree species that grows in the reserve in Azadirachta indica. There
are also different species of shrubs that are growing below the trees. The
reserve was de-gazetted in the years 2006 and 2009 with sections being
converted into political party office, housing units and industrial plots
(Ladan, 2013). However a small section of the reserve could still be seen
covered by trees and shrubs along Dutsinma road near Ulul Albab Science
This is a natural rain forest type of vegetation within the savanna due to
the location of the forest on the windward side of the Jos Plateau
experiencing more rainfall of more than 1550mm than the surrounding areas
(Ati et al., 2010). The forest is located in Jemaa and Kaura local
government areas of Kaduna State covering an area of about 200 square
kilometers. The forest is within guinea savannah and the vegetation is a
mosaic of savanna and forest occurring mainly in river and stream valleys
but also elsewhere due to high annual rainfall. Some of the tree species
include Isoberlina tomentosa, Nauclea latifola, Parkia biglobosa and other
species found in the rainforest. According to At et al (2010), parts of the
Kagoro forest is endangered as local industries especially carpentry has
engaged in felling of trees to make furniture. There is also the cutting of
trees for fuel wood and to make charcoal to keep warm during the cold dry
season. However the low population density around the forest has resulted
in minimal degradation in certain parts which account for its thickness in
those parts. A major road passing through the forest moves through Riyom
in Plateau State to Jema’a, Kagoro, Zonkwa, Kachia, Kujama, Makira and
then Kaduna all in Kaduna state.
This forest is part of the wider Kamuku National Park located in western
Kaduna State covering an area of 1,121 square kilometers precisely around
Birnin Gwari though part of the forest extends up to Sabuwa in Katsina State
to the northeast. The Funtua-Birnin Gwari (Kaduna state) – Kagara (Niger
State) road passes through sections of the forest and the road is used by
people from Katsina and Zamfara States for travelling to Ilorin, Ibadan and
Lagos. Several tributaries of River Kaduna that merged and flows into
Shiroro reservoir crosses the forest. The forest is within the northern guinea
savanna ecological zone with some transitional Sudan savanna elements in
some areas.The dominant trees include Isoberlina doka, Terminalia
avicennioides, Detarium macrocarpum and Daniellia Oliveri.The animals
found in the forest include elephants, lions , leopards, monkeys, baboons,
buffalos, roan antelope, hippopotamus, crocodiles and variety of wild birds.
A study by Osunsina et al (2008) shows that the forest is rich in fauna, flora
and cultural resources which needs to be further developed to enhance the
ecotourism potentials of the forest. However, people around the forest are
traditional farmers, hunters, pastoralists and craftsmen whose activities posed
threats to the forest resulting in partial forest degradation.
Rumah/Kukar Jangarai Forest Reserve
These are two forest reserves that were merged into one forest reserve
in 1959 and today are lying north west of Katsina state in Batsari and Safana
local government areas. The reserve covers an area of about 800 square
kilometers extending up to Zamfara State and is about 80km south west of
Katsina city (Jari, 2011). The reserve was once famous for its wildlife such
as lions, hyenas, gorillas, zebras and other wild animals with river, dams and
rocks that makes it a beautiful tourist site (Sunday Trust, 2012). River
Bunsuru and its tributaries traverse the reserve and the damming of the river
upstream affected water supply in the reserve as water becomes scarce
during the dry season.The density of the forest has over the years reduced in
many sections and it is now a camp for cattle rustlers, thieves and armed
robbers. The reserve is within the Sudan savanna ecological zone and tree
species still present include Acacia nilotica, Adansonia leicarpus,
Azadirachta indica, Adansonia digitata, Combretum glutinosum, Feidherbia
albida, Sclerocarya birrea etc (Jari, 2011).There are many lorries and trucks
that goes regularly to the forest to collect firewood for sale to fuel wood
wholesalers and retailers in Katsina, the State capital which has presently
resulted in deforestation of large parts of the forest.
Sambisa Forest/Sambisa Forest Reserve –
This forest/forest reserve are located in Borno State south of the
capital Maiduguri occupying a large area of 518 square kilometers between
Maiduguri, Damboa, Bama and Goza (Olugbode, 2014). In the 1990s, a
game reserve exists with birds and wild animals such as ostriches, pelicans,
baboons, elephants, gazelle and some facilities for tourists that later fell into
state of disrepair. The forest/forest reserves are within the Sudan – Guinea
savanna ecological zone, but human activities have degraded areas of the
reserve to be more of Sahel savanna. The dominant tree species include
Acacia spp, Balanites aegyptiaca, Combretum spp, Adansonia digitata,
Tamarindus indica, and Terminalia spp. In many areas short trees and
thorny bushes forms the dominant form of vegetation. Sambisa is one of the
few patches of forests in a vast land of north eastern Nigeria where there is
sparse vegetation. The Boko Haram insurgents took over what remains of
the game reserve in the forest on 5th February, 2013 by attacking the base
station killing two rangers and forcing other staff to flee (Olugbode, 2014).
Security threats posed by Forests and forest Reserves
In general forests anywhere in the world by their nature as areas of
land with the collection of trees and other forms of vegetation can be security
threats as thieves, criminals, armed groups, rebels, insurgents and terrorists
can use them in carrying out their activities in one way or the other. This is
a) Forests provide cover as forests consist of plant communities of
plants especially trees growing close together which can be use by
hideouts or for launching attacks in an ambush.
b) Forests are isolated areas where nobody lives and as such can be used
by those who oppose the government or societal values and carry out
activities that are against the law such as theft, armed robbery, attack
on security personnel etc.
c) Forests are areas that are usually far away from the watchful eyes of
the members of community and thus can be used as places for
criminal activities such as drug abuse, ritual killings, hiding of
d) Forests are areas where there is least of presence of security
personnel especially in developing countries and as such crimes can
be committed and help cannot easily come to the victims.
In different parts of the world there are examples of forests becoming
security threats as some people use the forests abusively to carry out their
unlawful activities. These examples are found in regions of some countries
from different continents.
• In Kenya, gunmen believed to be members of Al-shabab hiding in
two forests in Lamu county carried out attacks that kills 60 people,
destroyed people houses and farmlands in July 2014. The Kenyan
military deployed jets and security personnel to hunt down the
attackers that are hiding in Gorji and Balasange forests (Daily Nation,
• In India, a guerilla war is going on between the militants and Indian
troops stationed in Indian controlled Kashmir since 1989. The
militants who have been hiding in Gungerpat, Dhanni and Zab forests
and in August 2014 launch an attack that kills four soldiers. Fierce
battles usually take place intermittently across the region as the
military tries to defeat the militants (Xinhuanet, 2014).
• In Colombia, the greatest concentration of FARC guerilla forces is in
south eastern region of Colombia’s 50,000 square kilometers of
forests. The rebels have their bases in the forests from where they
launch attacks on government forces, capture people used as soldiers,
hostages and engage in illicit drug trade to finance their war. The
rebels also hide in remote areas of the forest whenever they lost
control of territories under the control (CRFARC, 2012).
• In Democratic Republic of Congo, various armed groups having their
bases in the forests have been fighting the national army and United
Nations forces for many years in the east. The armed groups from
their forest bases ambush government troops and also launch attacks
on the civilian population in the vast forests of the country. Besides
thus, the series of wars waged in the country armed group took
control of national parks where some endangered species are kept and
forest rangers were kicked out which results in the death of the
species. The armed group also engaged in the deforestation to
produce charcoal to finance their illegal activities that serve as
security threat to the country. According to UNEP (2010), the
Garamba forest has been a rebel stronghold for nearly two decades
which has negatively affected the plants and animals that are found
Security Threats Posed by Forests and Forest Reserves in Northern
In particular northern Nigeria is covered by forests and forest
reserves which presently have become security threats to the people of the
region. This can be seen on table 2 below.
Table 2: Security threat posed by the selected forests and forest reserves
1 Balmo Forest
- Base of insurgents used to launch
- Underground weapons armoury
2 Falgore Forest
- Base of armed robbers who attack
travelers and traders.
Sections of the
3 Idu and Gwagwa Forest
Reserves - Hideout for thieves who launch
attacks especially at night
Part of forest
4 Kabakawa Forest
- Hideouts for criminals
- Security threat to people around
land are built-up
5 Kagoro Forest
- Camping site for gunmen
- Used by gunmen to move through
Sections of the
6 Kamuku Forest
- Armed robbers hide in forest
along the road to attack travelers.
7 Rumah/Kukar Jangarai
Forest Reserve - Camps for thieves, armed robbers
and cattle rustlers.
Large parts were
degraded due to
- A notorious den, attack launch
point and hideout for insurgents
Source: Data Analysis, 2014.
Balmo Forest in Bauchi and Jigawa States from the table above is
used by Boko Haram insurgents as bases and hideouts for launching attacks.
For example for their base in the forest the insurgents launch an attack on the
Bauchi township prison and managed to free 721 inmates some of which are
their captured members awaiting trial on September, 7th July,
2010(Allafrica,2010). On 5th to 6th July,2014,the Nigerian military raided the
Balmo forest and discovered a stockpile of weapons at underground
armories, also discovered are motorcycles, motor vehicles, communication
equipment, food stuff and kitchen utensils (TV360 Nigeria, 2014). During
this raid by the security forces at the forest a senior member of the group
believed to the “chief butcher” was arrested while fleeing from the intensive
counter insurgency operations. There were also widely circulated reports that
the security forces captured foreign mercenaries in the forest which to some
extent goes to confirm the belief of some people of collaboration with other
countries to cause insecurity in northern Nigeria.
Falgore forest in Kano State has over the years been sued by
robbers to launch attack on travelers and traders who are travelling to or
from Jos to the commercial city of Kano. In 2007, a gang of 14 robbers who
specialize in cow theft along the Kano-Falgore road were paraded at the
Emir’s palace in Kano as they came to hand over themselves and repent. In
2010, Kano traders staged a protest against the withdrawal of army from the
Falgore forest due to security concerns over the cases of armed robbery
along the road (Musa, 2010). In 2012, armed gunmen attempted to rob a
filling station at Tudun Wada of the sum of N2.65 million. The gunmen
were later arrested in the Falgore forest with the assistance of local hunters at
Kwanar Dangora (Madu-West, 2012).
Idu and Gwagwa Forest Reserves in Abuja FCT are fast becoming
haven for criminal activities. May residents who lived around these reserves
feel insecure as the reserves have become places where criminals
occasionally come through the forest to attack residents of the area,
especially at night (Aduge-Ani, 2014). Even people who pass-by are also
not left out of these attacks as they are frequently waylaid by criminals who
have turned the reserves into their abode. It has now become risky to live in
residential areas around the reserves due to fear of been attacked by
criminals who have taken over the forest from where they come and attack
the people. Even when the police were called, the criminals always escape
through the forest without being caught (Aduge-Ani, 2014).
Kabakawa forest in Katsina, the capital of Katsina state is the only
forest reserve that is located within the residential quarters. Part of this
reserve along Kano road posed security threat as thieves that attempted to
steal belongings of residents around the reserve quickly ran into the reserve
to hide after been chased. There are also other cases of drug addicts and
criminals engaging in consumption of drugs and raping in the forest. One of
the respondents interviewed in the metropolis narrated the case of a girl who
was carried on a commercial motorcycle along a road that passes through the
reserve and was then stabbed with a knife, with the attacker trying to alert his
gang to come and cut part of her body probably for ritual purposes. The
Katsina State Government in December 2009 decided to de-gazetted the
Kano road section of the reserve for security reasons (Ladan, 2013).
The area is presently occupied by political party offices and commercial
buildings. This is the only forest reserve sampled for the study whose section
was degazetted and is vegetation cleared. However a small section is still
found relatively intact along Dutsinma road near Ulul-Albab Science
Secondary School Katsina which can be seen below.
Plate No. 1: Remnant of Kabakawa Forest Reserve, Katsina metropolis
Kagoro forest is southern Kaduna state, precisely along Kaduna-
Kagoro-Jos road in Kaura local government. The forest posed security threat
as it is the place where gunmen camped and launch their attacks from there.
For example gunmen numbering over 40 armed with dangerous knives, guns
and other sophisticated weapons invaded three villages in Kaura local
government on 21st March 2014 shooting and setting houses ablaze. The
gunmen reportedly killed 119 persons including women and children (Bashir
and Suwo, 2014). Again on 23rd June 2014 gunmen suspected to be Fulani
herdsmen camping in the Kagoro forest attack several communities in the
neighbouring Sanga local government reportedly killing more than 150
people in 12 villages (Buhari, 2014). Most of the gunmen wear camouflage
uniforms that enable them to move through the forest without been detected
easily as they more to carry out these attacks on innocent people.
Kamuku forest in eastern Kaduna State posed security threat
particularly to the people who travel along the Funtua-Birnin Gwari-Kagara
road. This is due to armed robbery attack on defenseless travelers which
resulted that many people fear to travel through the road. The gang of armed
robbers occasionally set up road blocks to rob and terrorize unfortunate
travelers along this federal highway as they have ample cover to hide in the
forest. According to one of the respondents who travelled from Minna to
Katsina along the road, they were attacked by a group of armed robbers in
broad day light around 10.00 a.m. They were robbed, beaten and the robbers
then escaped into the forest with no security personnel in sight to chase them.
It is to bring under control the robbery attacks, teams of mobile police
personnel and the army was occasionally deployed along the road, who also
camp in the forest in a move to capture or kill the robbers.
Rumah/Kukar Jangarai forest reserve in Katsina state has for
many years become a camp for thieves, armed robbers and cattle rustlers that
attack nearby villages or travelers that pass through the forest along the
Safana-Batsari road. According to one of the residents of the villages
Chambala that is around the forest, thieves and armed robbers used to stay in
the forest and launch attack on nearby village settlements such as Ruma,
Runka, Wagini, Batsari up to Safana. The robbers also attack travelers along
the Runka-Batsari road especially on Thursdays which are market days for
Batsari and along Batsari-Kurfi road on Saturdays for those travelling to
Yargamji market. The traders and buyers were robbed of their money or
items they are carrying to sell or have bought at the market such as goats,
sheep, fowls, food stuffs etc.
The State Forest Officer in charge of Dutsin-ma zone that covers the
forest reserve in an interview confirmed the security threats arising from the
activities of criminals in the forest which has limited their forest protection
and conservation efforts. Inspire of the provision of one number brand new
Toyota Hilux vehicle and eleven number motor cycles to carry out their
assigned duties. Fuel wood collectors from the reserve also face serious
threats from the criminals as they also rob them of their money, cooked food
and cell phones. On 17th November, 2014 the criminals fought and burn the
lorries and trucks of the fuel wood collectors as they realize that cutting the
trees expose them.
Additional interview conducted with residents bordering the forest
reserve from Batsari, Runka and Safana reveal that the motives of the attacks
are economic gains due to unemployment and abject poverty, perceived
injustice on Fulani herdsmen and sinister plans aimed at perpetuating
insecurity in northern Nigeria for political manipulations during 2015
general elections. The attacks are carried out in various locations such as
along the roads, at the markets on market days and even at homes in the
towns and villages. The frequency of attacks is every week and the valuables
lost include money, domestic animals such as cattle and sometimes food
stuffs, stored grains were burnt or destroyed and young women were taken
away. In the attacks people also loss their lives when they attempt to defend
themselves or their properties as the attackers are well armed. There is
security presence in form of Divisional Police Office at Safana and Batsari
which are Local Government Headquarters. But according to the respondents
the presence of security personnel in the areas is not adequate enough to
combat the incessant attacks this despite the permanent stationing of Special
Security Task Force comprising Mobile Police, Army and Civil Defense at
Runka which is the closest settlement to the forest reserve. Below is a Table
showing the interview questions with the summary of the responses with the
group of people who participated in the interview.
Table 3: Result of Interview with Respondents from Settlements Bordering Ruma/Kukar
Jangarai Forest Reserve in Katsina State
1 Are you aware of the security threats posed
by the forest reserve in your area, if yes
what do you think are the motives?
Yes, am aware. The motives are for
economic gains due to
unemployment and abject poverty.
Sinister plants to cause insecurity in
2 Where are the attacks being carried?
Along roads at the market especially
on market days and at homes.
3. What is the frequency of the attacks?
Every week at least one attack will
be carried out.
4 What are the valuables that are lost to the
Money in cash, domestic animals
especially cattle, food stuffs, stored
grains and young women.
5 Is there any security presence around the
Yes, there is in front of Divisional
Police Office and Special Security
Task Force at Runka but they are
inadequate and not well armed.
Source: Data Analysis, 2014.
Sambisa Forest/Forest Reserve since February 2013 has become the
strongest base of the Boko Haram insurgents. The forest is believed to be
the main base of the insurgents as they have well fortified camps with their
food supplies, weapons, motor vehicles and motorcycles that they use to
launch attack on settlements in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states. Indeed
the forest has become a notorious den of the insurgents that people dread
coming close to it. Most of the villagers around the forest have left the area
to neighbouring Cameroun and Niger Republic due to the high rate of
insecurity. It is believed that there is a bunker and an underground detention
hole used by the insurgent to terrorize captured victims. One of the
respondents from Maiduguri Borno State described the Sambisa forest as a
war zone where bullet shells, ammunition waste and burnt vehicles used by
insurgents could be sighted (See Plate No.2 below). Furthermore, Boko
Haram kept abducted Chibok girls inside this forest. The over 200 girls were
kept in three different camps in the forest and the camps were large enough
to accommodate the abducted girls (Frestgist, 2014). The fact that the
insurgents created different make shift camps in the forest which they use
and later abandoned means those parts of the forest is partially degraded.
Plate No. 2: Nigerian troops in Sambisa Forest
The way out of the situation
Based on the discussions on the security threat posed by forest and
forest reserves, the study recommends the way out of the present situation.
• The Nigerian security forces should launch an attack on all the
forest/forest reserves to ensure that the insurgents, armed robbers,
thieves, unknown gunmen and any other criminals are dislodged and
their make shift camps destroyed so that none of them ever return to
• Once the forests and forest reserves are cleared completely of any
criminal, the forests should be adequately protected through effective
legislations, fencing and use of forest guards that are trained and
adequately equipped to deal with any armed threat from any group.
Furthermore, it was recently suggested that forest guards should be
integrated into the Nigerian security system.
• There should be effective measures that will ensure the reversal of
the present status of the forests and forest reserves. In line with this
there is the urgent need to carry out reforestation of the degraded
sections or parts of the forests and forest reserves throughout northern
• Afforestation programmes should be further carried out in the areas
that surround the forests and forest reserves. This afforestation
should be armed properly to provide additional protection to the
forests and can result in the successful regeneration of deforested
areas thereby creating ecologically stable resource use.
• The forest reserves should be reverted to game reserves with facilities
for accommodation, transport and entertainment provided for
domestic and foreign tourists. The Sambisa game reserve should be
reactivated, the Kamuku forest should be fully integrated into the
wider Kamuku National Park which can be further developed into a
full pledge national park. In fact, not only Sambisa all the other forest
reserves too need to be rehabilitated
• Also the other forests such as Balmo forest, Falgore forest, and
Kagoro forest have natural attractions such as rivers/streams, wildlife
and rock formations which could be harnessed and developed for
recreational purposes through establishing recreational parks for the
use of Nigerians particularly during weekends, ceremonies and
• State governments in the northern region should rise up and solve
problems of forest reserves are facing such as lack of regular
maintenance, encroachment into the reserves and bush burning. In
line with this adequate forest officers and forest guards should be
employed and equip with modern means of communications and
weapons to maintain the reserves, stop encroachment and bush
burning in and around the reserves.
• Adequate funds should be allocated to the forestry sector in order to
allow the sector to perform its duties and ensure that criminals and
insurgents do not ever attempt to take over the forests and forest
• Local communities around forests and forest reserves should be
actively involved in the efforts towards reforestation and
conservation efforts. This is important so that they do not feel
alienated which will make them develop favourable attitudes towards
the forests and forests reserves. They should also be adequately
empowered to curtail cutting down of trees as fuel wood for home
• There is the need to set up air surveillance to periodically carry out
surveillance of the reserves to enable the detection of encroachers in
the forests. After which prompt action should be taken to halt the
encroachment. The air surveillance can also assist to detect the
movements and other activities of the criminals in the forests with a
view of taking action against them.
• The Federal Government of Nigeria should establish a well equipped
military barracks around the forests that posed security threats with
the military regularly carrying out combing operations of the forests
with full force to flush out the criminals and destroy their bases and
hideouts. The military from their barracks should be always ready for
action to intervene when the criminals attack any road, market or
settlement bordering the forests. The mere stationing of Security Task
Force as is the case at Runka in Katsina State has not being effective
in stopping the incessant attacks. This is the position of indigenous
people inhabiting areas bordering these forest reserves on how best to
make the forests safer.
The forestry association of Nigeria (FAN) has recently lamented that
insecurity in the country as one of the challenges confronting the forestry
sector as no management activities can take place and forestry activities have
been stalled in most of the northern region (Orondo, 2014). It is a
manifestation of the insecurity that many forests and forest reserves have
been taken over by criminals and insurgents. The way out of this situation is
not through clearing these forests and forest reserves but through carrying
out operations by security personnel to dislodge these criminals and
insurgents and then effectively taking control of the forest and forest
reserves. These forests and forest reserves with their potentials and
resources need to be properly harnessed and developed into recreational
parks and tourist resorts that will yield revenue to the State governments of
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