News / Africa

Boko Haram’s Funding Remains 'Elusive'

A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria, May 13, 2013.
A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno, Nigeria, May 13, 2013.
Heather Murdock
Nigerian militants known as Boko Haram are well-armed and presumably well-funded.  But as thousands of Nigerian troops battle the Islamist group, analysts say the actual source of the funding is as elusive as the militants themselves.  The question is: who or what might be paying for the militancy.

When the Nigerian military announces its victories against Boko Haram, it usually includes a list of the weapons that soldiers have recovered.  It used to be mostly AK-47s, ammunition and bombs.  More recently the list has included machine guns mounted on trucks, anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns.

Solid financial support

Political analyst Nkwachukwu Orji says there is no doubt the group is well-funded.

"If not, they would have fizzled out a long time ago.  But for them to have continually been able to recruit, to train, to acquire their equipment and resources - that means there’s a sustainable way of funding that organization," he said.

Boko Haram Facts

  • Based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri
  • Began in 2002 as a non-violent Islamist splinter group
  • Launched uprising in 2009; leader was subsequently killed in police custody
  • Has killed hundreds in bombings and shootings since 2010
  • Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful"
  • Wants Nigeria to adopt strict Islamic law
  • Says it will kidnap women and children as part of its campaign
  • Has taken over parts of northeastern Nigeria
Orji wouldn’t even speculate as to exactly who is paying the bills, as very little is known about the group or its funding.  If Nigeria’s intelligence agencies know who is sponsoring the insurgency, they aren’t saying.

What is known, however, is that Boko Haram operations are far more sophisticated than they were when the group began its uprising in 2009 and since then, thousands of people have been killed.

Part of a regional trend?

Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, says funding for Boko Haram could be part of a larger regional push by radical Islamist militant groups seeking to acquire territory in West Africa.

"I think there must be some funding coming from extremist groups, coming from some extremist groups who want perhaps to create a base in northern Nigeria," he said.

His theory is supported by recent events in Mali, where militant groups took over much of the country’s north last year.  The militants were beaten back in January with the help of the French military.

While Boko Haram has long been known as a shadowy group that melts into society, Nwankwo says it now appears to have more in common with the Mali rebels than was previously thought.

"It would appear that they have established bases in certain parts of the northeast that nobody can even penetrate or go to, and they’ve excluded every symbol of authority in those areas," he said. "Some even say they are in control of various local governments in the northeast and are collecting taxes and running the show in those places."

A Nigerian soldier, part of the "Operation Flush" patrolling the remote northeast town of Baga, Borno State, April 30, 2013.A Nigerian soldier, part of the "Operation Flush" patrolling the remote northeast town of Baga, Borno State, April 30, 2013.
x
A Nigerian soldier, part of the "Operation Flush" patrolling the remote northeast town of Baga, Borno State, April 30, 2013.
A Nigerian soldier, part of the "Operation Flush" patrolling the remote northeast town of Baga, Borno State, April 30, 2013.
Last week, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan announced a state of emergency in three northeastern states and sent thousands of troops to take back areas he said had been occupied by Boko Haram.  Since then the military says it has captured more than 200 Boko Haram fighters, killed dozens more, and taken at least five districts back from insurgents in Borno State, the heart of the insurgency. 

So far, no journalists or independent observers have found a way to verify the military’s claims and Boko Haram has said nothing since the northern offensive began.

Retired army captain and security consultant Aliyu Umar says the new offensive is still in its beginning stages.  He calls Boko Haram funding “elusive” and says the military needs better intelligence figure it out.

"Funding of Boko Haram is quite a very crucial question.  If we can get to the bottom of that then we can cut off the source of the funds," he said. 

Kidnapping, a major source of income

Boko Haram does have one source of income we know about, Nwankwo says, albeit relatively new.  Kidnapping may not have created Boko Haram’s strength but it is now helping it get stronger.

"I have seen news stories now saying that they are embarking on kidnapping to supplement their funding," said Nwankwo. "In that case it means it’s affecting the revenues that are coming in, that’s one.  Or two it means they have so many more people to pay that they need extra money in addition to what they’re already getting."

Last year, Boko Haram promised to start kidnapping civilians in retaliation their members' families being imprisoned.  This year several prominent Nigerians have been reportedly kidnapped for ransom and the Reuters news agency says it saw documents showing Boko Haram making over $3 million for releasing a kidnapped French family.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid