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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid