The storyline is that Nigeria is today the fifth highest of personnel landmine casualty rate in the world. And the question is how could that be?
The question has nothing to do with ignorance that both terrorists and/or sundry conflict entrepreneurs are bound to resort to planting landmines as part of war. The question is rather about how could there still be so much personnel landmines after over two decades of the banning of the production of landmines?
Is it possible that conflict merchants had so much in stock before the ban that nobody, law or mechanisms could stop them from circulating the stock? If that is the case, why have we not heard loud enough screams from the United Nations, the global civil society coalition that led the campaign for the banning of landmines and the guardians of the Ottawa Treaty – the protocol banning landmines?
It is not just that Nigeria is the fifth highest, it is about an international law that might not be working as it should. But who is to be held to account?
The struggle to get personnel landmines banned was so intense and involving that it caught all the powers off guard – the global media, arms manufacturers and some of the great powers who, understandably, opposed it. But so imaginative were the tireless campaigners that, according to one of them, the CNN, for instance, was using their press statements without cross-checking the claims. Much of the global media bought into the powerfully persuasive ethical grounding of the campaign and gave their backing. It was the first major signal that the global civil society had transformed into an actor in international security politics, taking and accomplishing what conventional international relations could never have been able to achieve. That was the reason why Jody Williams who led the campaign as it were said they had calibrated diplomacy in the speech where she collected the Nobel Peace prize in 1997.
So, what might have happened to the ban? Is it being observed in breach or the ban is working but too slowly?
According to the story – Landmine Casualty Rates in Nigeria Now Fifth Highest in the World – more than 100 people were killed or injured by landmines across north-east of Nigeria in the first three months of 2020. And that is coming from a new report. The statistics given by the paper showed that 408 people died while 644 were injured between January 2016 and August 2020. That is, within the context of the Boko Haram insurgency, its protagonists and antagonists.
The landmine clearance charity – The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) which authored the report put it that since March 2018, Nigeria recorded an average of five landmine casualties a week, an estimation which thinks that actual numbers could be much higher because it is not all cases that are reported. Stepping on a landmine could lead to the person being blown up instantly. Or the limbs destroyed. There are rare narrow escapes from well hidden landmines.
If we follow the report, Borno State where this is concentrated has locally manufactured landmines, unexploded bombs and improvised explosive devices scattered across what the paper calls “the largely rural north-east”.
That is actually the catch – the point that landmines can only be more easily or successfully planted in rural spaces rather than in well planned urban centres. That brings up the underdevelopment dimension of the insecurity crisis in Nigeria.