* A file photo of the JTF
Many of the insurgents are believed to use routes cutting through forests in states like Borno, Yobe, Taraba and Adamawa to smuggle arms into the country from Cameroun and a number of neighbouring countries.
The Conservator-General of National Park Service, Mr. Haruna Abubakar, told the House of Representatives Committee on Environment on Monday that the guards would help the JTF to comb the forests for hideouts of insurgents.
Abubakar had appeared before the committee in Abuja to defend the 2014 budget of the agency.
The NPS had been classified as a para-military agency in January this year by government.
According to Abubakar, the agency will rely on its knowledge of the country’s forest terrain to conduct security sweeps with the military.
He informed the committee that the agency controlled seven national parks in the country, covering about 24,000 square kilometres of land.
Abubakar said, “The National Park Service has been playing a crucial role in intelligence gathering for the country’s military in the North-East and the forest bordering Chad and Cameroun.”
The committee, which is chaired by Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, heard that insurgents operated camps in forests like Sambisa, Mafa, Wulgo and Kirenowa, all in Borno State.
Sambisa forest camp, said to have been first discovered during a military raid in 2013, covers an area of about 300 square kilometres.
The forest extends up to Damboa, Gwoza, Bama and the Cameroon border, where insurgents have attacked villagers lately.
The chairman of the committee expressed concern that besides the loss of human lives and property, Nigeria was losing revenue from tourism due to the activities of insurgents.
She observed that tourists avoided the forests and major parks like the Gashaka Gumti National Park for fear of being attacked by insurgents.
“We have to look inwards to find a way to protect our forests.
“It is regrettable that our forests have been turned into havens for insurgents,” she said.