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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.