Mine Action

Last updated: 23 November 2016

Contaminated by: antipersonnel mines (extent unknown), antivehicle mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). May be contaminated by cluster munition remnants.

Recommendations for action 

  • The Federal Republic of Nigeria should urgently clear any antipersonnel mines, including victim-activated IEDs on its territory on the basis of humanitarian needs and priorities. It should also take immediate steps to minimize harm to civilian populations, including the provision of risk education.
  • Nigeria should inform Mine Ban Treaty States Parties of the discovery of any contamination from antipersonnel mines, including victim-activated IEDs, and report on the location of all suspected or confirmed mined areas under its jurisdiction or control and on the status of programs for their destruction.
  • As soon as security conditions permit, non-technical survey should commence in Nigeria’s three most conflict-affected provinces, Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states.
  • Where appropriate, Nigeria should encourage and facilitate the provision of assistance and expertise from humanitarian demining organizations. 


In 2015 and 2016, numerous incidents involving both civilian and military casualties from “landmines” and a range of IEDs planted by Boko Haram have been reported in the northeast of Nigeria. The majority of the reports appear to describe victim-activated IEDs made by Boko Haram, which function as antipersonnel mines and antivehicle mines.[1] (See the Mine Ban country profile for further details.)

The extent of possible contamination from mines and explosive devices is not known. Incidents involving mines and IEDs have been reported in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states, with Borno state the most heavily affected. According to the Nigerian military, the Sambisa forest in Borno state, Boko Haram’s stronghold, has been heavily mined, along with “extensive” mine use by Boko Haram around military positions.[2] 

According to an assessment carried out in Adamawa and Borno states in November 2015 by Danish Demining Group (DDG), local community members reported a number of areas as suspected to be contaminated with explosive devices requiring clearance including: Dikwa, Marte, Kukawa, Ngala, Bama, Gwoza, and Kala-Balge local government areas in Borno state.[3] 

DDG reported that interviewees, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), community informants such as teachers, religious leaders, and medical personnel, local and national government officials, military and police personnel, and UN and civil society actors, identified contamination as including antipersonnel and antivehicle mines and cluster munition remnants, as well as various mortars and projectiles, rockets and rocket-propelled grenades, grenades, Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), small arms ammunition, and a variety of person-borne, vehicle-borne, and remotely-controlled IEDs.[4]

One interviewee identified mines resembling Chinese No. 4 antipersonnel mines and Chinese Type 72 antivehicle mines based on photographs, but stated that she did not witness the emplacement of these mines, but saw Boko Haram fighters transporting them. Another IDP reported seeing a device similar to a Chinese Type 72 antivehicle mine along the Madagali-Gwoza road.[5]

In October 2015, the Nigerian army warned civilians of the possibility of encountering IEDs fabricated from submunitions and reported the discovery of caches of cluster munitions in Adamawa state. These were later identified as French-made air-delivered BLG-66 “Beluga” cluster munitions, alleged to have been taken from stockpiles of the Nigerian armed forces or smuggled from Libyan arms depots.[6]

Contamination from mines and IEDs has had a serious humanitarian impact by preventing the return of IDPs and exacerbating a crisis that saw over two million persons displaced in 2015.[7] Roads were closed to civilian traffic by the military due to the presence of mines or IEDs and there were numerous reports of civilian casualties and farmers who feared returning to work their fields due to the presence of mines.[8] This contributed to sharply worsening food shortages. (See the Casualties and Victim Assistance country profile for further details.)

Program Management

Both Nigeria’s armed forces and police carry out explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) activities and ERW clearance. The state police have EOD units that support the army in clearing unexploded ordinance (UXO) and IEDs. The army’s ERW clearance is primarily focused on military operations and clearing roads and areas to facilitate access for troops to carry out attacks and keeping military supply routes open.[9]

In March 2015, the Nigerian Defense Headquarters stated that 24 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) had been provided by the United States (US) to the Nigerian army and were being used in clearance operations in the northeast with “much success.” However, it was also reported that most of the vehicles were not in serviceable condition when delivered, and as such had been unable to be put to use.[10]

Deminer safety

Military casualties have been reported among soldiers clearing mines. In May 2015, two soldiers were killed and two others seriously wounded while clearing landmines in Gudumbali town.[11] Their unit had been clearing mines along the Gwoza-Yamteke road and seized a bomb-making facility in what was formerly a chemistry laboratory at the Dikwa School of Agriculture.[12]

Land Release

It is not known how much mine or EOD clearance has been carried out by the Nigerian military. In August 2016, a military commander was quoted in the media saying that a “massive” demining effort was underway across Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states, following the purchase and delivery of demining equipment, as farmland around the Sambisa forest required clearance of explosive devices before it could be accessed by returning farmers.[13]

In February 2015, the military claimed to have cleared more than 1,500 landmines laid by Boko Haram around the town of Baga and in the Sambisa forest, using armored personnel vehicles and tanks with mine-sweeping capabilities.[14] In April 2015, the Nigerian military was reportedly using mechanized demining equipment to clear roads and paths for military operations against Boko Haram in the Sambisa forest.[15] Another report affirmed that the army had deployed mechanical demining equipment, but said “the available machines are insufficient for the vast area of the Sambisa forest.”[16] The military was also reported to have been clearing some roads, including in July 2015 when it announced that the Damaturu-Biu road had been cleared of mines and explosive devices by Special Forces EOD troops, with support from the police and local “vigilantes.”[17] In December 2015, a local governor in Adamawa state reported that the military was working to clear mines from recaptured areas, focusing on roads, schools, and clinics, but farms were not considered a high priority despite many casualties having occurred when civilians returned to their fields.[18] In another media report, the Nigerian police EOD unit was reported to have neutralized 67 landmines buried by Boko Harm around military barracks in Bama in September 2016.[19]

Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 Compliance

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty, Nigeria was required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 March 2012. At the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties in November 2011, Nigeria declared it had cleared all known antipersonnel mines from its territory.[20]

Under the treaty’s agreed framework, in the event a mined area is discovered after the expiry of a State Party’s Article 5 clearance deadline, it should immediately inform all other States Parties of this discovery and undertake to destroy or ensure the destruction of all antipersonnel mines as soon as possible. Nigeria has not submitted an Article 7 transparency report since 2012.

If Nigeria is unable to destroy the contamination before the next Mine Ban Treaty meeting of States Parties (in Santiago in late November 2016), it should request for a new extended Article 5 deadline, which should be as short as possible and not more than 10 years. It also must continue to fulfil its reporting obligations under the treaty, including the obligation to report on the location of all suspected or confirmed mined areas under their jurisdiction or control and on the status of programs for their destruction.[21] As of October 2016, Nigeria had not made a public declaration of any newly discovered antipersonnel mine contamination to Mine Ban Treaty States Parties. 

In a joint motion tabled in November 2015, Nigerian legislators called on the military high command to prioritize clearance of landmines and explosive devices to enable the return of IDPs, as well as called for assistance to victims of landmines.[22] In July 2015, Nigeria’s Vice-President, Yemi Osinbaio, stated that demining efforts would be an “utmost priority of the government” and pledged that it was “absolutely important for us that farmlands are swept clean of mines and explosives.”[23]

Following its November 2015 assessment mission, DDG concluded that it was not yet feasible to conduct non-technical survey or initiate humanitarian clearance in Borno state due to levels on insecurity and inaccessibility from the ongoing conflict.[24]


The Monitor gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the Mine Action Review supported and published by Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), which conducted mine action research in 2016 and shared it with the Monitor. The Monitor is responsible for the findings presented online and in its print publications.

[1] M.P. Moore, “This Month in Mines, February 2015,” Landmines in Africa blog, 12 March 2015.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6]Boko Haram has cluster bombs: Nigeria’s DHQ,” The News Nigeria, 8 October 2015; “Nigeria: Boko Haram Cluster Bomb May Come from Nigerian Military,” AllAfrica, 14 October 2015; and P. Hazlewood, “‘Boko Haram cluster bombs’ may come from Nigerian military,” AFP, 13 October 2015.

[7] H. Idris and I. Sawab, “Nigeria: Liberated Areas – Why IDPs Can’t Return Home,” AllAfrica, 7 March 2015; I. Sawab and H. K. Matazu, “Nigeria: Boko Haram – Plying Borno Roads Still a Nightmare,” AllAfrica, 9 May 2015; and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, “Nigeria IDP Figures Analysis,” 31 December 2015.

[8] I. Sawab and H. K. Matazu, “Nigeria: Boko Haram – Plying Borno Roads Still a Nightmare,” AllAfrica, 9 May 2015; and H. Idris and I. Sawab, “Nigeria: Liberated Areas – Why IDPs Can’t Return Home,” AllAfrica, 7 March 2015.

[9] DDG, “Mine Action Assessment: Northeastern Nigeria (Adamawa and Borno States) 1–15 November 2015,” undated.

[11] I. Sawab and H. K. Matazu, “Nigeria: Boko Haram – Plying Borno Roads Still a Nightmare,” AllAfrica, 9 May 2015.

[12] P. Clottey, “Nigerian Army Disables Boko Haram Explosives,” Voice of America News, 5 August 2015.

[13] N. Marama, “Military to clear off landmines, IEDs in North East,” Vanguard, 19 August 2016.

[14] M.P. Moore, “This Month in Mines - February 2015,” Landmines in Africa blog, 12 March 2015; and “Nigeria: Boko Haram – Why Military Offensive is Yielding Results – Dasuki,” AllAfrica, 21 February 2015.

[17]Nigerian soldiers remove bombs from Damaturu-Biu road,” Premium Times, 19 July 2015.

[18]How Boko Haram is killing off farms,” IRIN, 17 December 2015.

[20] Statement of Nigeria, Mine Ban Treaty Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, Phnom Penh, 29 November 2011.

[21] Final Report of the Mine Ban Treaty Twelfth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 21 January 2013, p. 10.

[22] I. K. Sule, “Nigeria: Reps Want Landmines Cleared in Captured Territory,” AllAfrica, 4 November 2015.

[24] DDG, “Mine Action Assessment: Northeastern Nigeria (Adamawa and Borno States) 1–15 November 2015,” undated.