Mines Planted by Boko Haram and Other Groups Endangers Millions of People in Nigeria

Mines planted by Boko Haram and other groups leave a large number of people at risk, particularly in the state of Borno, where the most severe insurgency occurs.

In the first three months of the year 2020, more than 100 people were reportedly killed and many more wounded by landmines across north-east Nigeria, according to Mines Advisory Group (MAG) research.

In north-east Nigeria, hundreds of civilians have been killed or maimed by landmines, the data reveals.

According to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a landmine clearing charity, mines laid by Boko Haram, the terrorist group that waged a deadly insurgency in the Lake Chad region, killed 162 people in two years and injured 277 more.

Casualties soared from 12 per month in 2016 to 19 per month in 2017 and 2018, making the casualty rate of mines in Nigeria the eighth highest in the country as of then.

Between January 2016 and August 2020, mines laid during the war between Boko Haram, other militant groups, and the Nigerian army left 408 people dead and 644 wounded, the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) confirmed.

The country has reported an average of five landmine casualties a week since March 2018.

Owing to underreporting, the real figures are believed to be higher. This year’s first 15 weeks saw one casualty a day.

Nigeria’s landmine death rates now ranked fifth in the world. Most of the fatalities occurred in the state of Borno, where the influence of the young teenage jihadist insurgency of Boko Haram has been most deeply felt.

People outside an IDP camp in Maiduguri waiting to head out to the fields to farm. Every day they cross the trench, leaving the safety of the city or camp, and are at risk of kidnap, murder and landmines. Photo Credit: TheGuardian

Throughout the mostly agricultural north-east, locally created landmines, unexploded explosives and homemade explosive devices are now dispersed.

For millions of internally displaced people struggling to survive, forage for food, or till their farmlands, the mines pose a special danger.

“All around here people are dying. Just looking for firewood is very risky,” said Saleh Ibrahim, the deputy leader of a camp in Ngala, in Borno state, that shelters more than 100,000 people.

“Many Nigerians who are displaced are in unfamiliar territory and are unaware of the risks,” Zainab Waziri of MAG said. “In landmine-contaminated areas with devastating consequences, they go out to forage or search for firewood or scrap metal.”

Kids that often confuse them for household objects or toys when playing outdoors pose an especially deadly threat to the units.

A resident familiar with the issue recount that, “Five girls between the ages of eight and 17 find a metal ring on the field last November. Two were my sister’s young daughters. It could be jewelry, they thought. One of them picked it up, but it was attached to a bomb. They all died there.”

In another event, Mustapha, 9, and Bakura, his 14-year-old relative, discovered a metal object near their Borno refugee camp. Both of them and their families fled the Boko Haram assaults.

The boys thought it was possible to exchange the metal item for scrap, but it exploded, killing Mustapha and wounding Bakura and a neighbor seriously.

In rural areas and near army bases, mines are sometimes laid. The Nigerian military is seeking to clear them, but it does not report details on its work, nor does it release data to clearance groups in the region.

Nigeria vowed to become mine-free by 2025 last year and declared that it will re-establish a National Action Committee, but has yet to do so.

The lack of an organization to organize the work, the study said, was hindering attempts to save lives.

Zara Abubakar, a mother of eight, who lives in Maiduguri. She was badly injured in a landmine explosion.

“We were fleeing, we were running as we were attacked in Baga, Borno state. Someone set off a landmine and we were all blasted. Many died,” she says. Her husband was killed in a previous landmine explosion.

Zara Abubakar, a mother of eight, who lives in Maiduguri. Photo Credit: TheGuardian

In 2016 Nigerian Army through the Defense Headquarters alerted members of the public to the new tricks of the Boko Haram to unleash terror on the innocent citizenry in the North East.

The army said in statement made by Brig. Gen. Rabe Abubakar that the insurgents fleeing the operational area were laying land mines on farmlands in the area.

Consciousness among the populace remains a concern. A landmine or unexploded ordnance can only be detected by 22 percent of persons in conflict-affected communities, MAG found.

Prior to being encouraged to return home, displaced families must be confident that their homes and land are safe. Mine intervention must also be included in the return plans of the government, the organization stated.

Militants use pipes, pots, and other objects to make their own ammunition and collect explosives from undetonated ordnance, according to a police officer in Borno province.

One officer said that the militants preferred to plant explosives in places where they thought the army might come, and they even mined in isolated areas near their bases.

Relentless attacks by Boko Haram and the West Africa Province of the Islamic State, which broke from the party in 2016, seem to be growing.

As they tended to their rice fields in Borno state last month at least 110 farmers were killed.

Residents told local media that the jihadists were a big presence in the region, frequently demanding individuals to help them bring supplies to their hiding places.

Reports have grown of jihadists pressuring individuals to pay taxes and to provide them food.

The government has consistently asserted that it has crushed the militias, carrying out attacks on civilians and the military, and encouraged millions of refugees to return to their cities.

But the countryside and transport roads have been vulnerable to attack as a tactic to fortify urban areas.

Over 10 million individuals in the states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, and more than half of the population of the country, require humanitarian assistance, with one in four under the age of five.

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