Plateau-Ibadan and the Impact of Explosives and Firearms on the Environment
I don’t think the majority of Nigerians don’t know about the killings happening in Plateau state. So incessant that within the last twenty-four hours, international, national, and local media have reported that at least thirty people have been killed in renewed violence despite a 24-hour curfew imposed on Tuesday in one of the local districts in the state. Some media put the death toll at fifty. All these death numbers exclude the 140 that were killed last December. Millions of Nigerians are still asking the question – “what is happening in Plateau?” In the recent explosion in Ibadan, five lives have already been lost with many injured. Personally, I have consciously stayed away from Nigeria news for almost four months now because it was draining me mentally. But it’s almost impossible to be unaware of the major things happening in our nation because if you don’t go to the news, the news will surely come to you.
While I thought about the barbaric killings in Plateau, the explosion in Ibadan, and the general unauthorised use of firearms around the country, I couldn’t imagine the look and feel of the atmosphere in the communities in Plateau and residential areas of Ibadan. It’s hard to quantify the number of firearms and explosives that have been expended in both locations. I have seen pictures of the aftermath of the Ibadan explosion and the scenes are not pretty for the eyes. Amidst all these, my environmental lens couldn’t ignore the collateral damage that extends far beyond the immediate human toll, which firearms and explosives leave behind. The use of explosives and firearms leaves a lasting imprint on the environment and while we attend to the human victims, we must also remember the extent of environmental damage such activities have caused. So, what kind of impacts do firearms and explosives have on the environment?
First, it’s important to note that explosive weapons, including bombs, missiles, and artillery shells, are designed for maximum destructive impact. To simply put, explosives and firearms have nothing good to offer to any warring party or handler other than destruction. While the primary goal is often military, a case far different from these two incidents in question, the collateral damage to the environment can be severe and enduring. One of the key environmental consequences is the release of toxic substances into the air, soil, and water, leading to long-term ecological damage – and most times these devastations are overlooked. You might say the lives of people are far more important than plants and animals, I partially agreed. But it would be near foolishness to resettle scattered people back to their former place where everything left to interact with is now contaminated.
In Nigeria, the use of explosive weapons has been particularly prevalent in conflict zones, such as the insurgency in the northeast region. The destruction caused by bombings not only results in immediate loss of life and infrastructure but also inflicts lasting harm on the environment. For instance, the bombing of oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta, often linked to militant activities, has led to oil spills with devastating effects on aquatic ecosystems and local communities dependent on fishing.
Beyond Nigeria, the global impact of explosive weapons on the environment is evident in conflicts across the world. In the Middle East, the use of explosive weapons has led to desertification, soil contamination, and air pollution. In Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes have targeted vital infrastructure, resulting in widespread environmental damage, and posing long-term health risks for the population. Thinking about Africa, the impact of explosive weapons is evident in regions affected by conflicts, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Unexploded ordnance and landmines further exacerbate environmental degradation, limiting agricultural activities and posing threats to biodiversity.
The explosion in Ibadan was said to have been caused by stored explosives by illegal miners. Let me not bother expounding on that, however, it reminds me of the Amazon rainforest, where illegal mining activities and armed conflicts contributed to deforestation and ecological imbalance. Another detrimental effect of these kinds of mining-related explosives on the environment is the blast and shockwaves its use contributes to deforestation and habitat destruction.
In conflict zones, where explosives are often used to clear areas or target forested regions, the loss of biodiversity and disruption to ecosystems are profound. The way human lives are lost in armed conflict and anywhere firearms and explosives are used, is almost the same way functioning parts of the environment in these areas are lost. The environmental harm caused by explosive weapons can persist long after the cessation of hostilities. Unexploded ordnance poses a continued threat to communities and inhibits post-conflict reconstruction. In Cambodia, for example, remnants of explosive devices from past conflicts still contaminate agricultural land, limiting its productive use and endangering the lives of civilians.
We must not focus only on the people in these affected communities but also on the devastation the environment has suffered. Humans have a symbiotic relationship with the environment. Resettling people in an environment that has been ravaged by bullets and explosives is dangerous to health and livelihood.
Addressing the environmental impact of explosive weapons requires international cooperation and concerted efforts. The most popular solution is through the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the international treaty that regulates the international trade of conventional weapons to prevent their diversion to illicit markets and unauthorized use, reducing the overall impact on the environment. Weapons capable of taking people’s lives should only be in the hands of authorised personnel.
Additionally, increased awareness and advocacy for the protection of the environment during armed conflicts are essential. Environmental considerations should be integrated into military planning and decision-making processes to minimize the ecological footprint of military operations. In terms of the killings in Plateau state, the Nigerian government must be bold enough to take decisive action to eliminate the individuals or groups of people behind these evil acts.
The links between environmental harm and the use of explosive weapons are undeniable. The global impact of explosive weapons on the environment demands urgent attention and concerted efforts to mitigate the long-term ecological damage. As the international community grapples with the complexities of armed conflicts, acknowledging and addressing the environmental toll of explosive weapons must be an integral part of the discourse surrounding peace, security, and sustainable development.
Olamide is a communications professional currently based in London, United Kingdom. He can be reached across social media platforms @olamidefrancis and via firstname.lastname@example.org