Governor Kassim Shettima of Borno State has said there is a likelihood that the over 200 girls, kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State in April, 2014, are being held in bunkers, inside the Sambisa Forest.
He therefore asked the military to fish out members of the Boko Haram sect and liberate the girls.
According to him, insurgency had claimed over 300,000 lives in the North-East, contrary to the 13,000 figure being reported in the media, with Borno State alone, losing over 70,000 people.
The Governor spoke on Tuesday in Abuja while presenting a paper, entitled ‘Holistic approach for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the North-East Nigeria region ravaged by terrorism and insurgency: The national and international policy options/perspectives’, at a two-day post-election conference on security and governance.
The programme was organised by an NGO, Savannah Centre, established by a former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
The governor, who was represented on the occasion by the Secretary, Borno Elders Forum, Dr. Bulama Gubio, said the insurgents, having operated in the large expanse of the forest for so many years unchallenged, were able to build a bunker, large enough to accommodate many people in the area.
He said, “We are suspecting that Chibok girls are living with the insurgents in bunkers. I think the military must carry out its operations beyond the surface earth. They (Boko Haram) were also known to have dug tunnels to enable them to move from house to house. So, having been left unchallenged for such a long time, such possibilities cannot be ruled out which poses serious obstacles within the forest.
“The insurgents used their bases in the Sambisa Forest to launch deadly attacks and make quick retreat to their base which enabled them to capture and take over control of all the LGAs in the Nigeria/Cameroon, Chad and Niger borders, thus effectively cutting off the three neighbouring countries, thereby declaring what they assumed was their independent territory (caliphate).”
Shettima also warned that unless Sambisa Forest was completely and effectively rid of the terrorists by the military, any reconstruction and rehabilitation carried out in the North-East would be an exercise in futility.