National Park Service (NPS) Conservator-General, Haruna Tanko Abubakar, yesterday told members of the House of Representatives that Forests Guards in his service have begun to comb the forests in the North East region to identify the hide-outs of the Boko Haram insurgents for raid b men of the Join Military Task Force (JTF).
The Conservator General made the disclosure while defending his service’s 2014 budget before the House committee on environment chaired by Rep Uche Ekwunife.
Abubakar said the development came in view of the NPS knowledge of the country’s forest terrain. He told the House Committee that the service currently operates seven national parks across the country and it covers a total land area of 24, 000 square kilometers.
“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 bothering Chad and Cameroun,” NPS Controller General said.
Ekwunife lamented that the insecurity in the North East has frustrated tourism efforts in the surrounding forests which has been routinely used by insurgents to launch guerrilla style attacks.
“We have to look inwards to find a way to protect our forests. It is regrettable that our forest have been turned into havens for insurgents.
On the 2013 budget allocation and releases, Controller General of the service, Abubakar said the agency was allocated N3.7 billion, out of which N1.7 billion was for personnel and N1.3 billion for capital project with N619 million for overhead.
However, he said the personnel allocation was released complete with staff getting their salaries as at when due, regretting that only about N400 million, representing 38 percent, was released for the capital expenditure.
Besides, he said, there were delays in the release of the funds as a result of hitches encountered during funds transfer between from the Budget Office to the service.
He said the over N400 million was duly expended with contracts given based on due process.
Ekwunife and other members expressed displeasure over the poor funds release to the service by finance ministry.
“The committee frowns at constantly under-funding of the ministry of environment and its agencies. We appropriate funds every year, but they don’t release them to you. We’re going to take that up with the finance ministry,” Ekwenufe assured.