Nigeria has improved by moving two places up to rank sixth in the 2022 global terrorism index (GTI), from the initial fourth position it was since 2017.
An independent and non-profit think tank, Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) published the GTI to reveal that Nigeria, Syria and Somalia were the only countries among the 10 most impacted by terrorism to record an improvement in score from 2020 to 2021.
“Total deaths from terrorism in Nigeria fell to 448 in 2021, the lowest level since 2011,” the report said.
The report noted that “terror-related casualties dropped by almost half compared with the previous year.
“However, the number of terrorist attacks increased by 49 per cent between 2020 and 2021. 36 percent of attacks were claimed by ISWA, Boko Haram being responsible for eight per cent and 44 percent not attributed to any group.”
The report linked terror attacks in Nigeria from 2020 to the deadly Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP).
“The decline of Boko Haram continued into 2021, with Boko Haram responsible for only 69 deaths, a decrease of 77 percent from the previous year. This is the lowest number of deaths by the group for a decade,” the report said.
“Boko Haram’s decline has resulted in a substantial improvement in terrorism in Borno State, which experienced a decrease of 71 percent in terrorism deaths when compared with the prior year.
It explained that “attacks in the (Borno) state also decreased from 121 to 86 respectively, a decrease of 30 per cent.”
However, the report said Borno State remains the hardest-hit region in Nigeria for terrorism, accounting for half of all terror-related deaths in 2021.
It specified that Boko Haram’s decline coincides with a number of factors, most significantly the death of the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. Shekau, who committed suicide by detonating an explosives vest during a confrontation with ISWA in May 2021.
“Given the demise of their leader, Shekau’s followers were faced with the decision to either continue Shekau’s ideology or join ISWA. It has been reported that as many as former Boko Haram commanders have joined ISWA after Shekau’s death,” the report said.
“Attacks by ISWA as well as counter-terrorism efforts by the Nigerian government and foreign military forces have significantly weakened Boko Haram’s impact in Nigeria.”
The terrorism index also disclosed that law enforcement, including police and prison officers, overtook both military and civilians as the most targeted group of 2021.
These attacks, the report said, were mostly driven by a rise in clashes between law enforcement and separatist groups, such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman, IEP said, terrorism is becoming more centered in conflict zones, underpinned by weak governments and political instability, while in Europe and the US politically-motivated terrorism has overtaken religiously motivated attacks.
“As conflict in the Ukraine dominates global attention it is crucial that the global fight against terrorism is not sidelined. Terrorist activity in the Sahel is increasing substantially, and is driven by Islamic militias,” Killelea said.
“The decline of terrorism in the West coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions on freedom of movement, travel and the immediate threat to personal health may explain some of the fall. Once the emergency measures are removed there is the possibility of an uptick in terrorism activity.”