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Northeast Nigeria Facing Severe Landmine Emergency – MAG

Mines deployed in Nigeria’s Northeast region  left 408 people dead and 644 injured between January 2016 and August, 2020,   according to a new report from Mines Advisory Group (MAG).

The Hidden Scars – The Landmine Crisis in Northeast Nigeria report by MAG landmine clearance and advocacy organisation, revealed that there were  1,052 casualties from 697 accidents involving landmines and unexploded bombs between January 2016 and August – although this number is thought to be even higher due to underreporting.

“The crisis hit a peak of one casualty everyday for the first 15 weeks of 2020,” the report stated.

Unexploded bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) deployed by the military and terror groups continue to pose a significant threat to millions of people in the Northeast region of Nigeria, with farmers, returnees and internally displaced persons at greater risk, it noted.

The organisation said “Explosive ordnance posed a dangerous threat to the many internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and returnees transition throughout the region. As IDPs and refugees migrate or return home – often through unfamiliar terrain – they are at significant risk of entering areas contaminated by landmines and other explosive ordinances.

“Likewise, returning to villages that are contaminated by explosive ordnance puts communities at risk, as well as limiting the degree to which they can begin rebuilding homes and livelihoods,” the report said.

Pierluigi Candier, MAG’s Country Director in Nigeria, in a statement highlighted that “Many displaced Nigerians are in unfamiliar territory and are unaware of the risks.

“They go out to forage or search for firewood or scrap metal in landmine-contaminated areas with devastating consequences. Children might find something shiny in the ground and take it home to play with their siblings, not knowing it is an unexploded bomb.”

A MAG data analysis of 412 civilians who were killed or injured noted that 72 victims were under the age of 18.

A few days ago HumAngle reported the killing of passengers travelling to the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, after their commercial vehicles stepped on IEDs planted by Boko Haram.

In June, a boy in the Farm Centre of Internally Displaced Persons camp in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State  accidentally detonated an explosive device while playing with it, killing himself and injuring members of his family.

The Nigeria Police Command in Yobe in July issued an advisory warning farmers in the state to beware of landmines while cultivating on their farms.  The  police said the caution became necessary against the background of an explosion that injured a farmer in Gujiba.

The Boko Haram conflict has caused an estimated  30,000 deaths and displaced over 2.3 million people in the Northeast.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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