Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State on Tuesday said there was general suspicion that Boko Haram insurgents were hiding abducted Chibok girls in bunkers in Sambisa forest.
The governor, who was represented by Secretary of Borno Elders Forum, Dr Gubio Bulama, stated this while presenting a paper at a Post-2015 Election Conference organised by the Savanah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Democracy in Abuja.
He said that the genuine fear in Borno was that the insurgents had built bunkers in the vast forest, where they may be hiding the girls.
He urged the military to view that possibility with seriousness in its ongoing assault on the insurgents in that enclave.
He said, “The genuine fear which needs to be viewed seriously is whether bunkers might have been built within the vast forest.
“It should not be forgotten that at the initial stage, the insurgents were able to build bunkers large enough to accommodate up to 500 people right inside Maiduguri, at Bulabulin Ngarannan Ward.
“If they were able to do that in Maiduguri, when they find themselves in the forest without any disturbance, they can build bunkers and this is our genuine fear.
“We are calling on the military to look into the possibility of the Boko Haram having serious bunkers, and we are even suspecting that the Chibok girls are living in bunkers”.
You may recall that no less than 219 girls were abducted from their hostels at the Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok, Borno, on April 14, 2014.
Over one year later, the whereabouts of the girls remains a mystery as they have not been identified among the hundreds of female hostages recently rescued by Nigerian troops from Boko Haram’s stronghold in the past few weeks.
Bulama said it was unfortunate that the insurgents were allowed to occupy the forest for a long time, which provided them the opportunity to study and master its entire terrain.
He added that the terrorists were also known to have dug tunnels to enable them move from house to house.
“So, having been left unchallenged for such a long time, such possibilities cannot be ruled out, and this poses serious obstacles within the forest.
“The insurgents use their bases in the Sambisa forest to launch deadly attacks and make quick retreat to their base.
“This enabled them to capture and take over control of local government areas bordering Nigeria and Cameroun, Chad and Niger”, he said.
The Borno elder said that Boko Haram almost succeeded in achieving their aim of encircling Maiduguri, the Borno capital, by cutting it off from all direction.
According to him, they were within 20 kilometres to Maiduguri from all directions except the Maiduguri-Kano axis, “which they infested and unleashed horrendous ambushes from time to time”.
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.