Nigeria ranks third on 2020 Global Terrorism Index despite drop in deaths – Report

Nigeria has been ranked third on the 2020 Global Terrorism Index, a report that measures the impact of terrorism on countries across the world.

Tribune Online reports that Nigeria was third behind Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2020 report released on Wednesday. The country was also ranked third by the index in 2019.

The report says “Nigeria recorded the second-largest reduction in deaths from terrorism in 2019, with the number falling from 2,043 to 1,245, a 39.1 per cent reduction, which was mainly due to a fall in terrorism deaths attributed to Fulani extremists.

“This reduction occurred despite a small increase in deaths attributed to Boko Haram, which has been the most active terrorist group in the country over the past decade. Deaths from terrorism in Nigeria are now 83 per cent lower than at their peak in 2014.”

It also added that “ISIL’s shift to sub-Saharan Africa meant that the region recorded the second-highest number of terrorism deaths, even after accounting for the substantial fall in Nigeria. Deaths attributed to ISIL affiliates in the region were recorded as far south as Mozambique and 41 per cent of all ISIL-related attacks in 2019 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.”

It also added that: “Deaths from terrorism are now 59 per cent lower than their peak in 2014. The fall in deaths has been largest in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria.

“Nigeria had the second largest fall in total deaths, owing largely to a 72 per cent reduction in fatalities attributed to Fulani extremists. Despite this decrease, the number of deaths attributed to Boko Haram increased by 25 per cent from 2018 to 2019. Renewed activity by Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighbouring countries, including Cameroon, Chad and Niger, remains a substantial threat to the region.

“The past decade has seen the largest surge in terrorist activity in the past fifty years. However, of the four deadliest groups in 2019 only Boko Haram, which operates in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, recorded an increase in the level of terrorism over the prior year.”

The 2020 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) also found that deaths from terrorism fell for the fifth consecutive year since peaking in 2014. The number of deaths has now decreased by 59 per cent since 2014 to 13,826. Conflict remains the primary driver of terrorism, with over 96 per cent of deaths from terrorism in 2019 occurring in countries already in conflict.

The annual Global Terrorism Index, now in its eighth year, is developed by leading think tank the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) and provides the most comprehensive resource on global terrorism trends.

The largest decreases in deaths occurred in Afghanistan and Nigeria, however, they are still the only two countries to have experienced more than 1,000 deaths from terrorism. The fall in deaths was also reflected in country scores, with 103 improving compared to 35 that deteriorated. This is the highest number of countries to record a year-on-year improvement since the inception of the index.

Despite the overall fall in the global impact of terrorism, it remains a significant and serious threat in many countries. There were 63 countries in 2019 that recorded at least one death from a terrorist attack, and the largest increase in terrorism occurred in Burkina Faso – where deaths rose by 590 per cent. Other countries to deteriorate substantially are Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Mali and Niger.

Some of the other key findings:

  • The ten countries with the highest impact from terrorism are: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, India, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines
  • For the second year in a row South Asia is the region most impacted by terrorism, while Central America and the Caribbean region recorded the lowest impact
  • MENA recorded the largest regional improvement in terrorism for the second consecutive year, recording the lowest number of deaths since 2003

Steve Killelea, Executive Chairman of IEP said: “As we enter a new decade we are seeing new threats of terrorism emerge. The rise of the far-right in the West and the deteriorations in the Sahel are prime examples. Additionally, as seen in the recent attacks in France and Austria, many smaller groups sympathetic to ISIL philosophies are still active. To break these influences three major initiatives are needed – to break their media coverage and online social networks, disrupt their funding and lessen the number of sympathisers.”

The GTI uses a number of factors to calculate its score, including the number of incidences, fatalities, injuries and property damage. The Taliban remained the world’s deadliest terrorist group in 2019; however, terrorist deaths attributed to the group declined by 18 per cent. ISIL’s strength and influence also continued to decline, for the first time since the group became active it was responsible for less than a thousand deaths in any one year.

Despite the decrease in activity from ISIL in the Middle East and North Africa, ISIL’s affiliate groups remain active across the world, with 27 countries recording an attack by ISIL or its affiliates. Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit the hardest, with seven of the ten countries with the largest increases in terrorism deaths residing in the region. ISIL affiliates are mainly responsible for the increase with 41 per cent of all ISIL related deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

For North America, Western Europe, and Oceania, the threat of far-right political terrorism has been rising over the past five years. In these regions far-right incidents increased by 250 per cent between 2014 and 2019. There were 89 deaths attributed to far-right terrorists in 2019. Over the past decade measures of societal resilience have been falling in many of the economically advanced economies. This trend is likely to continue because of the extended economic downturn caused by COVID-19, which is likely to increase political instability and violence.

Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020, preliminary data suggests a decline in both incidents and deaths from terrorism in most regions in the world. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to present new and distinct counter-terrorism challenges. It is important that counter-terrorism initiatives are not curtailed because of decreases in government expenditure due to the economic downturn. Reductions in international assistance for counter-terrorism operations in MENA and sub-Saharan Africa could prove to be counter-productive.

Thomas Morgan, Senior Research Fellow at IEP, explains the findings: “Between 2011 and 2019, riots and violent demonstrations in the West increased by 277 per cent. There are serious concerns that the deteriorating economic conditions will lead to more people becoming alienated and susceptible to extremist propaganda.”

The fall in terrorism has also been accompanied by a reduction in the global economic impact of terrorism, decreasing by 25 per cent to US$16.4 billion in 2019. Compared to other forms of violence such as homicide, armed conflict, and military expenditure, terrorism is a small percentage of the total global cost of violence, which was equal to US$14.5 trillion in 2019. However, the true economic impact of terrorism is much higher as these figures do not account for the indirect impact on business, investment, and the costs associated with security agencies in countering terrorism.

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