As part of the collaboration involving the Park Service and the military and paramilitary agencies in the fight against insurgency, particularly in the border areas of the North Eastern part of the country, 2,500 personnel of the Nigerian Park Service are to undergo military arms training.
They are originally trained for conservation duties to protect the nation’s wildlife and forests.
Conservator General of the agency, Mr. Haruna Tanko Abubakar, told members of the Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Environment that the move was to add fillip to the campaign against the insurgency ravaging Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States which are under emergency rule.
Mr. Abubakar said that as a first step in the move, 150 personnel have already undergone various weapons training at some military institutions in the country in order to carry out the additional responsibility.
According to Abubakar, “the National Parks are located in the rural areas and mostly in the borders between Nigeria and some other African countries. And in most cases, you find that when there are cases of insecurity, especially coming from those areas, there is always collaboration between us and the security organisations, especially in terms of patrolling the areas.
'It is difficult for the military to have access to these areas and so they work hand in hand with our staff (National Parks Rangers) who are more familiar with the terrain. This will give us an opportunity of being trained as far as intelligence gathering is concerned. And by so doing, the National Parks will help in the tackling the insecurity in the areas.
'Now, we are exposing our staff to real military training so that at least they can better handle sophisticated weapons because initially we were just using shot guns and double barrels which are small.
'But by the time we receive training, we may begin to use arms such as AK-47 rifles, among others.
'At the moment, we are about 2,500 in terms of staff strength. And beginning from next week, some of our staff will be embarking on military training in batches at the military cantonment in Kainji, Gashaka Gumti (in North Central Nigeria). And at the end of the year, we will be able to train the entire number of the staff that we have.
'With this additional responsibility, we need to have more personnel and we are looking at additional 150 persons. Because if you look at the size of the national park, it is about 24,000 square kilometres and it will be difficult for our staff to man the area and give it adequate protection that it deserves.
'That is why we are trying to see that we increase the number of our personnel so that we can meet up with the challenge that we have ahead of us.”