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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid